Call handling is a vital process in customer support. How you manage a call will make a difference in whether or not you will close a sale. It refers to the steps your organization takes when a call comes in or when placing an outgoing call. Good call handling can also spell the difference between a positive and negative customer experience.
Unfortunately, many businesses lack the resources to ensure high-quality call handling. This is essential in customer support and the sad truth is that many companies fall short on this. Only 26% of consumers had a positive response on the aspect of great customer support compared to 49% who did not.
Call handling can be difficult for some people. Over the phone, you don’t see the face of the customer so messages can become muddled and meanings misinterpreted. This is where the importance of learning how to improve call handling skills comes in. 61% of customers still prefer phone over other forms of support so properly handling them is a must. This article shall delve on the following topics:
- Importance of Good Call Handling Skills
- Types of Calls For Handling
- Call Handling Mistakes You Should Avoid
- Call Handling Phrases Do’s and Don’ts
- Tips For Properly Handling Calls
Importance of Good Call Handling Skills
How your agents or customer service team handle calls will create a first impression of your company. Call handlers are at the forefront of your business because they represent your brand. The conversations they have with customers will be a reflection of your brand. Given that call handling can be an effective channel for marketing your brand, it is imperative that they be equipped with the right call handling skills.
Whenever a customer calls to make an inquiry, it is your chance to win over the caller’s business and close the deal after the conversation. Customers call your business because they have a need so it is up to your call handling team to convince that customer that you are the company that can address their needs. Call handling skills includes the following aspects:
- Whether or not a call gets answered
- How the call was answered
- The way your call handler communicated to the caller
- How you deal with call traffic
- How calls are routed
- What calls are blocked
- How call issues are resolved
- What happens when callers are transferred or place on hold
- What information gets logged during and after a call
The success of these calls will depend on how they are handled. Taking these aspects into consideration, you need to work on improving call handling skills of your team.
Types of Calls To Be Handled
While phone calls may seem like an old-school customer service channel, they are as important today as ever. In reality, more people are calling businesses now than before. If you are wondering whether improved call handling skills can benefit your organization, consider the following numbers:
- 65% of potential customers prefer reaching brands over the phone
- 29% of calls lead to a purchase
- 80% of customers say user experience is as valuable as the company’s products and services
- 67% of customers are willing to pay more for better service and support experiences
Before learning the basics of how to improve call handling skills, it is worth noting the different types of calls that your team will receive and handle.
Inbound calls are calls made to a business. While they take up a majority of customer conversations, many businesses still leave them hanging around in their voicemail. These are calls from potential customers inquiring about products, asking for quotes, or wanting to schedule an appointment or consultation. Proper handling of inbound calls can lead to the following
- More calls answered
- More leads generated
- Issues are resolved more quickly
- Decreased customer service mixup and delays
- Less pressure on customer service team
- More satisfied customers
Outbound calls are calls made by agents and other business representatives. Examples of outbound calls are sales pitches, customer verifications, appointment reminders, telemarketing, subscription rewards, to name just a few. Good outbound call handling skills can lead to the following:
- Increased sales
- More customer information collected
- Less time spent on individual calls
Call Handling Mistakes You Should Avoid
Improving call handling skills entails identifying the common mistakes when answering calls. Customers have high expectations for customer service. Your call handling skills can affect whether or not the consumer will purchase from you. For this reason, call handling mistakes can prove costly to a potential sale. 60% of customers will consider taking their business elsewhere due to unfriendly service and 46% due to lack of knowledge. Here are common mistakes you should avoid to secure your customer’s business:
1. Putting a caller on hold for a long time
You may have experienced calling customer service at one point or another so you know how frustrating it can be to be placed on hold for a long time. This is one of the biggest mistakes you should avoid. Even if you have a valid reason to put them on hold, you should try to keep it to a minimum. If you have to consult a manager or retrieve data, it is best to call them back instead of putting them on hold.
If you can resolve the customer’s issue while keeping them on the line, then don’t put them on hold if possible. You can try talking to them while searching for information. It is frustrating but 32% of customers believe that they should never be put on hold.
2. Passing callers from one agent to another
Again put yourself in the shoes of the customer. How would you feel being passed from one agent to another? When customers call, they want to be connected to one individual who can resolve their issue with as little fuss as possible.
When they get constantly bounced around from one agent to another, it becomes irritating for a customer that they may be forced to take their business elsewhere. The most cringe-worthy phrase that a customer can hear is “We’re unable to answer your question.”
To prevent this from happening, you can train agents to handle specific issues or to answer a wide variety of questions. Also, you can consider investing in smarter software. Some systems come with a skills-based routing feature that routes callers to the most qualified agent to resolve their issue. These programs route your customers based on an agents department, skill, language, knowledge, or anything unique to the agent.
3. Lengthy call queues
Nothing can be as frustrating as being put on hold than waiting in a queue of calls for a long period of time. A survey by American Express revealed that two of the most annoying phrases to customers are “We’re sorry but we’re experiencing unusually heavy call volumes continue to hold or try back at another time” and “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.”
If your company is making callers wait in long queues, then stop it. It makes you appear that you don’t care about potentially losing customers because of this. People are busy and don’t want to waste their time for ten, twenty minutes, or longer.
Call queues are normal but you have to make sure to keep it as short as possible. Perhaps you need to hire more agents or shuffle their schedules around, especially during busier times. It could also mean hiring additional agents working remotely during periods of high call volumes.
4. Telling callers to head to your website instead
This is another common but annoying call handling mistake. The caller is already put on hold and then at some point during the call, an agent or automated recording tells the caller to head to the website for faster service. The customer called for a reason and had already been to your website. They probably have a unique question or simply prefer using the phone.
5. Expecting customers to repeat details
If your callers have already entered information or already provided them to agents, do not make customers repeat them. It will only show weaknesses and inefficiencies in your system. It will not only sacrifice efficiency but also makes calls longer than they should and need to be.
You can invest in call center software that will keep track of customers’ data and provide agents with the tools they need in order to deliver personalized and accurate service without having the customers repeat themselves.
6. Not making time for ongoing training
Ongoing training on how to improve call handling skills is necessary to avoid these common mistakes. It is essential to keep agents updated with the latest techniques, ideas, and goals. Training should be made part of their regular routine so that they can effectively deliver services in an effective and more personalized manner.
Call Handling Phrases To Avoid
To be able to be effective in call handling, you need to communicate the right words to your customer. You may be able to adjust to any type of customer that comes your way and can turn any situation into a positive one but if you cannot say the right words, all that can make all your efforts futile. Here are phrases to avoid when handling calls from a customer.
I don’t know
Customers are not looking for agents who know everything. They are more concerned with reps who listen to their needs and questions and quickly provide accurate information. Instead of “I don’t know,” you can respond with the following phrases:
- “Allow me to check with my supervisor to accurately handle/answer your concern”
- “Please give me a moment to check my reference tool for accurate information/price/reference”
- “Great question, please give me one moment to find the correct information.”
Was there a problem in the first place? It may have a negative impact on the mood of the call. Such responses could imply that the customer had an obscure question or created a problem, for you. Replace the phrase with any of the following:
- “Thank you for your call or question”
- “You’re welcome, thank you for your call”
- “Of course.” This implies commitment and certainty
- “My pleasure.”
“Um” or “Uh”
These phrases will make you unsure or doubtful. Customers expect some reliability or professionalism from you. These filler words will make you appear unintelligent and may give customers second thoughts that you will be able to address their concern. You can pause momentarily. After all, silence isn’t bad. It means you are actively listening and communicating with the caller.
Using this word to preface a statement or claim may lead the customer to think that you are providing a nonstandard answer or cause them to think that you lied at another point during the call. Your claim or statement will suffice as factual and useful.
Like is only good on social media but not in call handling. When used in communicating to a caller, you can lose your credibility and it can be distracting to customers. Replace like with words and phrases like “For example” and “Such as.”
“What Do You Need?”
Although your job is to address the needs of your caller, you don’t need to figure it out. You are trained to find out what the callers are calling for in an open-ended manner. To be the best, you should offer assistance above and beyond what the customer is looking for. Replace the phrase with these words:
- “How may I help you today?”
- “What may I assist you with today?”
Tips On Improving Call Handling Skills
Okay, you have an amazing sales campaign in place for customers. Now you must be ready to accept incoming inquiries from customers. Good call handling skills is vital in winning customers to buy your products and/or services. If your agents are not able to close a deal on the phone, you should work on improving call handling skills of your team. Here are some tips to help your agents earn the commitment of customers over the phone.
1. Have a positive tone
When answering the phone, you should be mindful of the tone of your voice. What do you think the customer would feel if you answer them in a negative, bored, or mundane tone? Right there and then, they will be turned off and take their business elsewhere.
According to a study, 7% of the message people receive in a conversation depends on the words you use. In addition, 38% is reflected in the tone of voice and 55% from facial expressions or body language. The latter wouldn’t be visible during a phone call so the tone of your voice becomes vital.
2. Give personalization
Once you have confidently answered the phone, it is important to make the caller feel important. Treat them as a different individual from the ones who regularly call. Give them your name and ask for theirs as well. After the greeting, ensure that the rest of the call feels genuine and flows easily. Don’t make them think that you are just ticking off the boxes. But, don’t overuse their name as it may sound disingenuous. Every call is different so treat them as such.
3. Keep control
Treat each caller with respect and friendliness but stay in control of the conversation. Don’t give the caller too much leeway. It is your job to lead the call and at the end get a commitment from the customer. You can provide information and answer questions while still in control of the conversation. You should be taking charge of the call but still leave a positive impression.
4. Overcome Objections
Chances are the caller may have some kind of objection during the call. Learning how to improve call handling skills entails being able to successfully overcome objections. They may come during the appointment setting. Objections like scheduling issues or wanting to call back may arise so be prepared for those. Have prepared spiels for handling different kinds of objections.
5. Summarize the Call
When the call is about to end, summarize the key points discussed during the call. If the customer requests a quotation, go over the terms and agree with a time frame to call them back or get in touch with them. Let the caller know what the next steps will be.
6. Be consistent
Make sure to follow the same process when handling calls. If you sound warm and comfortable all the time, the customer will feel comfortable and more likely to do business with you. The saying “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is very much applicable here. Make sure that you are able to devise a way you can accurately measure the responses.