Top 10 call handling tips
Call handling is a skilled craft. You’re representing an organisation, taking on board complex information, and providing answers – all while remaining cheerful and approachable.
At Connect Assist, we know just about everything there is to know about call handling – we provide specialist contact centre services for a wide range of clients and organisations.
Our inbound call handling services are tried and tested to produce results, time and time again. We can provide seamless call handling around the clock, or in those busy periods when you need help the most.
Not only can we alleviate some of the strain that a high number of callers often accumulates, but we also allow you to redistribute personnel to improve other aspects of your organisation.
We’ve asked around the office, and put together a list of 10 top call handling tips for advisers, call centre managers, and the clients who contract their services.
1. Be personable and positive
The last thing any caller wants is to be greeted by a grumpy or rude call handler!
At Connect Assist, we’re professionals, and we take our jobs seriously. So even if we’re having an off day (who doesn’t!), we’ll make sure we keep our tone light, polite, and friendly.
That human touch is so important – especially if a caller is in distress. Our advisers introduce themselves by name, stay respectful and empathic at all times, and strive to build a rapport with all callers.
And if advisers are under pressure, we offer them support before that starts to impact the way they talk to customers. We’re a close-knit team, with access to an employee assistance programme and other support too.
2. Communicate hold times
Nobody likes to wait – but what people really hate is not being warned that it could be a while.
So set customers’ expectations by letting them know the likely hold time. Be specific, e.g. three minutes. They can then put the call on speaker and go about their business.
Don’t test their patience too much though! According to Zendesk, 51% of customers expect a response within five minutes. And another survey found that for 60% of customers, even one minute is excessive.
Fortunately, there’s some great tech nowadays that cuts waiting times by routing calls effectively or offering customers call-backs.
3. Ditch the script
Advisers work according to our clients’ specifications, so it’s important we stick to their messages.
But we can’t overstate how essential it is to show a human side too.
So don’t follow a script word-for-word – treat it as a guideline, using language that feels natural to you. This will allow your own personality to shine through – which in turn encourages callers to open up.
Of course, we give all staff training in diversity and equality issues, as it’s important to choose your language with care.
4. Take notes
Sometimes, calls are complex, or customers don’t express themselves as clearly as they might.
Jotting down notes helps advisers build up a picture, and clarify certain aspects of a customer’s issue.
It’s important, though, that you don’t let your note-taking distract from your listening. It’s often better to wait until towards the end of the call, then write things down while the details are still fresh in your mind.
5. Acknowledge the issue
We all want validation. For marginalised people, or those under pressure for whatever reason, that’s even more crucial: they’re used to being disbelieved or ignored.
A simple statement that you understand their problem can go a long way to building up trust with a caller.
You can also use paraphrasing to demonstrate you’ve understood the problem. Paraphrasing is a great active listening technique – read our recent blog to find out more. In short, it means summarising the key points of what the customer has said, and inviting them to clarify if necessary.
6. Walk them through your solution
But don’t just stop at paraphrasing – callers need action!
Outline clearly the steps that must be taken to resolve the issue: e.g. filling in an application form, or referring to further services.
This is where you need good, in-depth knowledge of these services, and easy access to a list of FAQs. Otherwise, you’ll look unprofessional, and leave the customer lacking confidence in you.
7. Collect data – and use it!
For call centre managers: if you’re keen to boost the quality and efficiency of the service you offer, then data is your friend. There’s all sorts of information that call centres can be collecting and analysing.
Some of it is technical metrics which can be collated automatically by your software system: waiting times, call lengths, transfer rate, and agent idle time, to name just a few.
Some of it is qualitative, and involves monitoring agents as they handle calls. You could analyse advisers’ behaviour and manner, their knowledge and ability to resolve issues, and their compliance with the procedures set out by the call centre or their client.
Whatever metrics you choose, you need to have a plan to tackle any problems that your research highlights.
So if advisers seem ill-prepared, then extra training will be required. If hold times are too long, look into introducing smart tech such as chatbots to help customers self-serve. There are lots of options, and your data analysis will guide you to the right ones.
8. Don’t interrupt – engage in active listening
If you’ve been working on an account for a while, it can be tempting to think you’ve got the answer to a customer’s issues before they’ve finished explaining. After all, you know the score!
But it’s essential that you don’t jump the gun. If you interrupt, you’re failing to treat the customer as an individual. You could prompt a caller to clam up before they’d got to the crux of the matter. And you damage the rapport that you should be building up with them.
Instead, listen intently, and wait for the speaker to finish. Then summarise their key points, invite them to clarify, and ask any questions.
This is the practice of active listening – as we mentioned, we’ve just written a blog about it to explain why it’s crucial for combating unconscious biases.
9. Offer to follow up through a different channel
These days, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to communication channels. There’s something for everyone: phone, text, webchat, chatbot, video call… you name it, we offer it at Connect Assist!
So if you’re dealing with a customer through webchat, offer them the chance to switch to phone if they prefer, or vice versa.
One study found that 90% of customers want an omnichannel experience. That means that if they’ve explained their issue to a chatbot, then been redirected to a live adviser on the phone, that adviser has access to the initial conversation. It avoids repetition, creating a quicker, smoother, and far less annoying experience for everyone!
10. Don’t hesitate to escalate a call
Call handlers are an awesome bunch, capable of handling just about anything that’s thrown at them!
But it’s a tricky job, and one of the key skills is to know your limits.
So if you feel out of your depth on a call, there’s no shame in asking for help. You can escalate the call to your supervisor, or refer the caller on to another service that’s better placed to give them the support they need.
Signposting is absolutely key. It may feel frustrating that you can’t help directly yourself, but guiding a caller through all the charities, agencies and services out there is a really useful thing to do.
Plus, our software is ultra-secure. So you can, with the caller’s permission, share information with another provider, while keeping all customers’ records safe. That smooths the process for the customer, helping them reach a resolution more rapidly.
Connect Assist – your outsourcing partner
At Connect Assist, we’ve got teams of brilliant call handlers ready to help you reach more people, strengthen your links with customers, and get you the customer outcomes you want. We can provide call centre services 24/7/365, so give us a bell today to discuss working together.