Raise Customer Loyalty with Agent Soft Skills
Most companies pay lip service to customer loyalty. After all, they know it’s desirable and leads to more sales. It’s an oft-cited truism that it costs five times as much and is 10 times more difficult to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer.
The efforts of most companies to raise customer loyalty amount to gimmicks similar to supermarket shopping cards. The only real way to raise customer loyalty is to provide top-notch customer support, which can’t be accomplished with a gimmick. In other words: it’s going to be difficult and expensive, and there are no shortcuts. The process will start with your agents, according to a recent blog post by Talkdesk’s Shauna Geraghty.
“A great way to enhance customer loyalty is to ensure that your customers have high quality interactions with each touch point within your company,” she wrote. “This requires that call center agents receive thorough training and monitoring of their effective use of soft skills when interacting with customers.”
Soft skills are personality-centered traits that don’t involve technology. They may be listening, empathy, even-temperedness, a caring voice tone and the ability to placate angry customers. While some people are better at soft skills than others, there are ways call center management can teach them to existing agents.
“Training your agent on developing these skills should include: how to remain calm when interacting with challenging customers, being honest when talking about deadlines or offers so as to avoid over promising and under delivering, and thanking the customer at the end of the call,” wrote Impact Learning System’s Jodi Beuder in a recent blog post.
For starters, you can train your existing agents to be good listeners. Contact center agents are often under pressure to keep calls short, so many simply don’t have time to listen to customers. If your company is mandating maximum average handle time, you’re not doing your agents – or your customers – any favors.
“When agents actively listen, they are better able to identify the source of the customer’s frustration and seek to find a quick and appropriate resolution,” wrote Beuder. “When customers feel that they are truly being heard they feel more trust with the agent and tend to articulate their needs more clearly. Some of the attributes of active listening include attentiveness, responsiveness and perceptiveness.”
Authenticity is another important soft skill that can improve customer loyalty. Fake friendliness does not play well in some parts of the country (or the world), so don’t overdo it on the manufactured intimacy. (Using the customer’s name too often can actually freak people out). Consider trimming the scripted language and allow agents to interact more naturally with customers. It will simply feel more authentic.
In some cases, companies have discovered that by improving employee engagement with agents, customer engagement and loyalty was a bonus side benefit. This makes sense: happy and interested agents will put customers at ease and solve their problems more quickly. You may not be able to delight every customer every day, but the goal is a long-term one.
“You don’t have to do a dog and pony show to satisfy customers, you simply must ensure you’re not providing them with negative customer experiences and giving them reasons to defect,” wrote Beuder.
Edited by Alicia Young