Best Practices for Speaking To Call Center Customers
Updated February 2, 2023
A call center representative speaks to a customer over the phone while looking at their computer.
Learning how to speak with customers in a call center is helpful to ensure you're doing your job effectively. A skilled customer service agent knows how to speak to every customer professionally while also building rapport and using empathy.
In this article, we explain how to talk to customers on the phone.
Why is learning how to speak to customers important?
When you work at a call center, speaking to customers is something you do every day—often all day long. With this being such a large part of your job, you should approach each call professionally with the intent to help resolve any issues the customer may be having. Some parts of how you should speak with customers, however, may not be how you speak to people in your everyday life, so it's helpful to research and understand the best way to provide phone customer service. This can make your calls more effective and minimize conflict.
Read more: 31 Tips for Working in a Call Center
Tips on how to speak with customers in a call center
Here are some best practices you can use when speaking with customers while working at a call center:
Many call centers have complex phone menus and may have long waits to get through to an agent. When a customer reaches that point, they typically want to begin a conversation immediately. Answering promptly starts the call with the right level of eagerness to help.
Avoid chewing sounds
Avoid chewing or eating anything during your call to ensure you can speak clearly and enunciate your words. This practice can also help you better hear customers and their requests.
Introduce your company and yourself
Most companies have a script for your introduction, and those scripts include the name of the company and your name so the customer knows right away who they're speaking with. Try to follow that script for each call to immediately tell customers that they've reached the right company and person.
Follow any necessary scripts
Some call centers only provide scripts for small parts of the conversation, such as the introduction and closing. If legal information needs to be disclosed, there may also be a script for that. Other call centers, however, may provide a script for most of the call. It's best to follow what your employers recommend, as they have the benefit of experience.
Ask for identifying information
Most of the time when a customer calls a call center, it's because they have an account with the company. Your employer will tell you what information is required to identify the customer. Be sure you're clear on what you need to find their account quickly. For instance, some companies might need a customer's full name and Social Security number. Others might need a full name, account number and address.
Keep private information secure
Most companies protect account information somehow, like verifying who the caller is and if they're authorized to speak about the account. Get the information you need while still being polite and kind to the caller to make sure you're keeping all data secure.
Define the issue
One of the best ways to resolve a problem for a customer quickly is to let them explain the issue they're calling about and then ask them questions to clarify as needed. It's helpful to paraphrase what you've heard to be sure you are understanding what the issue is.
When you're a call center agent, be sure a broad range of people can understand you. Not all callers may be native speakers of your language, or the technology they're calling on may distort your words. Enunciating your words can help customers understand what you're saying, and be ready to repeat information so the customer fully understands you.
Use a positive and helpful tone
A general tone of positivity and helpfulness is a good way to keep the conversation agreeable. Keeping your voice light and affirmative makes the customer feel that you want to help them.
Related: Guide To Customer Service
Ask permission before holds and transfers
Always ask a customer if it's OK if you put them on hold or transfer them somewhere else. It's also good to let them know what to expect. For instance, you could say, "Is it fine if I put you on hold for two to three minutes while I look into this problem?"
Use positive language
It's effective to frame anything you say positively rather than using language that could seem negative to the customer. For instance, instead of saying, "Your account doesn't include that," say, "If you upgrade your account to this package, it includes that functionality."
Use company policy on transfers
Some companies instruct their customer service agents to do warm transfers (where the agent stays on the line to introduce the customer to the new agent), while others use cold transfers (transferring the call blindly). There may be exceptions to the rule, particularly for complex situations, but in general, it's best to follow company policy.
Mirror the customer's formality
If the customer you're speaking to is using formal language, try to match their tone. However, if a customer is casual, you can also use more informal language as long as you stay professional.
Most call centers exist to help customers with various issues or resolve any complaints. Being empathetic toward customers' challenges can help you better understand them and solve their issues.
Smile while you speak
If you're struggling to get the right tone while answering calls, try smiling while you speak. Your tone could actually change when you're smiling and talking.
Offer a sincere apology
Customers who are calling to resolve an issue they're having with your company generally appreciate a sincere apology. It doesn't mean you're saying that it's your fault something happened—it's just a way of trying to make a problem right.
Keep adequate notes
Call centers usually require their customer service agents to take notes in the customer's account. If the customer calls back or management needs to know what occurred, they can see the agent's written details.
Don't interrupt the customer
Some customers may speak at length because they are trying to explain an issue to you, but even if you know what they're explaining and how to resolve it, let them finish speaking before you start to talk. It's polite and your customers are more likely to feel heard.
Use the customer's name
You don't need to use the customer's name excessively, but saying it a few times throughout the call can make the customer feel you are focused on them.
Establish a relationship
Many calls don't allow for a lot of extraneous conversation, but if there are ways that you can relate to your customer, it can help you both see each other as human and increase empathy. For instance, if you hear a pet in the background, you can ask about it and explain your interest in that type of animal.
Be honest when you need to consult an expert
Customers are more likely to respect you if you let them know that you need to consult someone else on a particular product or feature. You must reflect professionalism and capability elsewhere in the call, but you can tell the customer, "I need to verify that product is available with our warehouse manager. Do you mind holding while I do so?"
Advise the customer that certain language may have consequences
Sometimes customers are angry, and they are looking to you to resolve the problem that has angered them. Most call centers advise their agents to disconnect or transfer a call if a customer is using language that they're not comfortable with. If you can't de-escalate a call, be confident in your decision to end the call or transfer it.
Speak calmly and evenly
Remaining calm during all calls can help you project a soothing atmosphere that makes customers feel more at ease. Speak with an even tone and be polite and calm.
Angry customers are seldom angry at the person they're speaking with at a call center, so it's important to not take that anger personally. Do your best to assist them, and you may turn an angry customer into a happy customer.
Find the best solution possible
Some calls you receive will be straightforward and easy to resolve. Others will be more complex and take work on your behalf to correct the issue or explain what you can do. While achieving your required metrics is important, it's most important to help the customer, even if it takes longer.
Let the customer express themselves
Some customers just want to feel heard, and calling a company's call center is the best way for them to do so. Let your customers say what they need to say and listen to how you might be able to help.
Use a brief hold to calm yourself
If the call is difficult and you need a moment to step away or even just take a deep breath, you can ask the customer to hold briefly.
Do your best to assist even if it's not your job
Some callers might need help with an issue that isn't technically your responsibility, but the best customer service agents do whatever they can to help any customer they speak with. If you can quickly resolve the issue, try to do so to avoid transferring the customer to another department.
Find out if the customer needs anything else
Before disconnecting the call, check in with the customer to see if there is anything else you can help them with. Ensuring you have met all of the customer's needs can increase their satisfaction with you and the company you represent.
End the call with positivity
Always thank a customer for calling and tell them to have a nice day. It's polite to end the call on a positive note.
Phrases to use to talk with a customer in a call center
Here are some sample phrases you can use when speaking with customers:
"Thank you for confirming your identity, Jane. How can I help you today?"
"I'm sorry to hear that. Let me see how I can help."
"I would recommend this option for you."
"I appreciate your patience while I researched this issue."
"Is there anything else I can help you with, or is it alright if I transfer you?"
Dos and don'ts of customer service
Some dos and don'ts of speaking with a customer in a call center are:
Do remain polite and professional throughout the call.
Don't take customers' anger personally.
Do your best to resolve the caller's issues, even if it requires spending extra time with them.
Don't rush a customer off the phone to meet performance metrics.
Do always ask a customer if it's OK if you put them on hold or transfer them.
Don't obscure what you're doing to resolve an issue for a customer.
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