The implications of public distrust for call centre employees
Call centres are often a company's primary interface with customers. They deal with enquiries and complaints and often have to handle difficult customers. New call centre staff receive some training from their employers but, even so, those first few weeks on the job can be daunting. The problem with working at a call centre is that call centres have a poor reputation among the public. This can make life difficult for supervisors trying to recruit new staff.
According to a recent survey, 10% of respondents were either dissatisfied with or distrustful of call centres. This means that one of the primary tasks of call centre staff is to allay customers' doubts and to provide a service that customers find useful. These front line customer service representatives must, therefore, have excellent communication and people skills and be able to empathise with customers without becoming emotionally involved.
Call centre staff must be able to deal with customers efficiently and sympathetically. They should understand that people calling the centre do so because they have a problem, which causes them to be anxious and worried. They might also be angry and frustrated, leading to an aggressive and uncompromising attitude or, at the other end of the scale, tears.
These emotional outbursts need careful handling if they are not to be aggravated further. A sympathetic ear offered without interruption often has a soothing effect that permits progression to a more rational conversation.
The best approach is to focus on what can be done to solve a particular problem rather than the difficulties it poses or what cannot be done. Callers want solutions, not excuses or apparent efforts to dodge the issue. Some will have long-standing problems that they have raised before. These customers will not want to have to repeat the history of the problem and will be even more eager for a resolution. They should be given clear, concise information to explain the situation and what steps can be taken to solve their problem.
Asking the correct questions
Asking the right questions is key to being a good call centre operative. It is likely that there are several aspects to a particular problem and that each can be dealt with separately. Handling them one at a time and solving the easiest first is a useful technique, as it gives customers a sense that someone is actually listening to them and that something is being done to help them; these are both crucial aspects in raising customer confidence.
By calming the emotions of customers, listening to their complaints and taking urgent, effective steps to resolve their problems, call centre staff increase customer satisfaction and faith in the centre. Happy customers will spread the news and life for call centre staff will become less traumatic. And, as the reputation for excellent customer service grows, so it will become easier to recruit staff into these front line positions that are so vital to fostering good customer relations.
My name is Richard Deeley and I am a PR consultant for Randstad UK. We believe that keeping job seekers and employees aware of the current marketplace is very important.