You Had Me at Hello – Why Customer Service Tone Matters in Contact Center Communications

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A human’s tone of voice is unique in its ability to express a multitude of emotions. This offers opportunities, as well as risks, when it comes to your customer experience. Practically every consumer has had the unfortunate experience of dialing a company for assistance and being greeted by a less than enthusiastic voice. Yet, as the old adage goes, first impressions matter. In a mere second, a negative agent can dramatically increase the possibility of a customer defecting to the competition.

What callers hear on when they dial your company makes a world of difference when it comes to the quality of service you provide, as well as to your brand reputation. It only takes one agitated, dismissive, or less-than-enthusiastic agent to jeopardize an interaction – and a customer relationship.

Of course, few agents start their day hoping to irritate customers. The reality is contact center work can be grueling under the best of circumstances. Even those individuals who love their work can be pushed to the brink by circumstances beyond their control or one too many complaints.

And, the challenges of contact center employees are growing. As customers continue to choose digital channels over voice for basic service, the voice channel has become the go-to destination for escalated issues and complaints. This means that agents are fielding more challenging, complex issues while continuing to adapt to evolving customer expectations.

Attitude Issues
A person’s level of happiness or discontent is naturally conveyed loud and clear in their voice. It only takes one disgruntled agent to share their unhappiness with a steady stream of customers.

Among the most beneficial way to ensure your team consistently has the optimal customer service tone is to hire employees who take pride in their work and have a desire to help others. Then, you need to treat them well. Those who are just there to collect a paycheck and nothing else should be encouraged to look elsewhere for employment.

Poor Training
Your agents need more than just a good attitude and a desire to help others. They require comprehensive, ongoing training. It’s a big mistake to place employees on phone calls with customers before they have a sufficient understanding of your products, services and processes.

There’s an old familiar back-and-forth when it comes to employee training. “What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

Training is an investment that pays back again and again by giving you a team that is sufficiently skilled to help customers and to project a quality, professional image.

It’s worth the ongoing investment to regularly hold sessions with a sales or communication trainer who is aligned with your company’s values. Ongoing support can go a long way toward preventing communication skills from slipping.

A lack of variety can quickly lead to agent boredom. Agents who take call after call with little variation in their workload will inevitably begin to lack enthusiasm. This ultimately is conveyed in their tone.

Maintaining a positive, friendly voice requires both discipline and concentration. Few can consistently deliver upbeat interactions for eight straight hours. This is why it’s important to build variation into agents’ shifts. Giving a variety of tasks beyond answering calls can “mix it up” to maintain interest and enthusiasm. Encourage positive interactions further by running contests to recognize service excellence or by offering bonuses based on customer satisfaction.

Internal Problems
Are your agents getting bombarded with problems created by other teams or departments? Do you have one agent or manager who wreaks havoc on everyone else? It only takes one problematic team or individual to make life difficult for everyone else. Personnel and departmental issues should be dealt with quickly and efficiently to avoid becoming larger problems that impact customers.

Interestingly agents’ tone of voice is sometimes the result of lagging technology. Siloed channels, a lack of information, slow systems due to a lack of integration and frequent slow-downs or system-wide failures are all sources of agent frustration – as are long phone system queues, poor quality headsets and VoIP audio issues.

Your agents are the frontline employees of your business who hear the brunt of customer criticism if there is a problem. If a customer has to repeat their issue because you lack omnichannel capabilities, or a representative has taken five calls in a row while other representatives sit idle due to routing challenges, you could be generating some serious “’tone” issues that will ultimately translate into poor customer service.

A Lack of Freedom
All contact centers require guidelines for speaking with customers. Yet, when these guidelines turn into scripts that agents aren’t allowed to deviate from, you’re creating a robotic-sounding, disinterested team of employees who will ultimately deliver a less than desirable customer experience. With support, training and empowerment, agents should be able to be trusted with managing their conversations with customers.

Your customer service tone isn’t limited to live agents. Contact center recordings used in IVR systems can also make or break your customer experience. Take the time to closely listen to these recordings and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If the recordings sound terse, drab or unclear, they will to your customers, too. Investing in professional messages can be a quick, affordable way to refresh your sound and improve the quality of self-service interactions.

In your contact center, voice is a subtle, yet secret weapon, that can enable you to sustain a competitive edge. A welcoming, warm tone translates into good service much more than one that is flat and distant. By taking the time to focus on voice, you’ll be spending quality time that will improve the quality of your entire service organization

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