BPA Featured Article

Help Your Contact Center Agents Boost Their Listening Skills

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor
August 29, 2012

Most call centers strive to keep their average handle time down. But while they do that, they also have a mandate to minimize errors, keep customer satisfaction high and maximize benefits from every transaction. So how do you do all these things? Isn't it counter-intuitive?

Perhaps the greatest skill a call center agent can possess is listening. Customers express a lot of information on the phone, some of it rather jumbled and out of chronological order. Good listening skills eliminates the need for customers to repeat themselves and, as a result, keeps average handle time down, minimizes errors and keeps customers happy. Few things annoy customers more than having to repeat themselves.

In a blog post this week, third-party call monitoring company BPA Quality offers “Ten Tips to Improve Listening Skills on the Telephone,” a list that could help call center agents and others who spend a lot of time on the telephone sharpen their skill sets.

The list covers the obvious (minimize background distractions, have a pen and paper ready and stay focused) and the not-so obvious. In the latter category, tips include focusing on the emotion in the customer's voice and asking yourself if the emotion matches the words, recapping key facts to be sure you got them right, avoiding creating the mental stereotypes many call center agents build by making assumptions about how you expect them to act and what you expect them to say, and eliminate barriers to listening: thinking you're right while the other person is wrong, or simply waiting for gaps in the other person's conversation into which to jump and speak.

These tips can lead to listening more effectively, extracting more pertinent information from conversations, helping angry or distressed callers remain calm so their problems can be solved and eliminating errors. These skills benefit agents, too, making their jobs easier, boosting their performance and preventing the kind of burnout that can come from repeated confrontational communications.  

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Edited by Rich Steeves