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Call center employees have a wealth of insights into where customer experiences go sour PHOTO: Eneas De Troya

Call center employees are the secret superheroes of every brand. 

These agents wield incredible power when it comes to customer experience, with the ability to build long-term brand loyalty and shape the customer journey. Positive outcomes for every customer interaction is critical. Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman’s landmark Harvard Business Review article "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers," noted customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal than loyal. 

Brands cannot afford for call center experiences to fall flat.

Despite their crucial role at the front-line, call center employees are often overlooked and don't have the tools they need to positively impact the customer experience. Instead, agents face pressure to resolve problems as quickly as possible, which often leads to poor service and lackluster experiences.

This must change. Call centers are an important part of the customer journey. Once we internalize that fact, brands can begin to leverage these centers as valuable assets. 

Here's how to equip your call center employees with the tools they need to build meaningful and lasting customer relationships:

1. Teach Employees That All Feedback Is Equal in Value  

Customers frequently experience a tale of two worlds when interacting with a brand. For example, if you tweet at an airline, you may get a reply within minutes, but if you submit feedback via a post-flight survey, you may never hear back. 

Companies must treat social, surveys, calls, emails and any other customer correspondences with the same level of attention.

To maintain cohesive service across platforms, make call center employees responsible for monitoring all types of feedback, not just calls. By consolidating the tracking, analyzing and reporting of customer data, call center employees can not only elevate their job effectiveness, but deliver a cohesive customer experience across channels.

2. Ensure Teams Are Tracking Data and Spotting Trends

While the massive amounts of data flowing through call centers can be overwhelming, this information is key to identifying opportunities, spotting trends and catching errors in process and approach. Management of this data is critical to understand where systems are failing and how call centers can better operate to meet customers needs. 

For example, one service provider for aging adults conducted research to uncover the most common reason customers were calling. In reviewing specific calls, the company discovered members who had passed away were mistakenly receiving marketing messages, and family members were forced to contact the call center to end correspondence. 

Now, the organization proactively sends sympathy cards instead of pestering loved ones with unwanted advertisements. The resolution not only reduced calls into the call center, but eased the angst around wrapping up a deceased loved ones affairs.

Not only can this data be used to improve call center performance, but the business can also use it to better understand the customer journey, identify common pain points and common questions. Your call center employees should share this data with the rest of the company so all departments have a clear understanding of customer feedback.

3. Shift Mindsets from Transactional First to Service First

Many of today’s call centers are handling each individual call or inquiry on a one-off basis. Rather than focusing on the efficiency of transactions, encourage employees to solve problems and take the time and resources necessary to do so. 

For example, Zappos call centers are breaking all call center conformities by encouraging employees to aim for call length minimums rather than maximums. This strategy has proven  invaluable as customer loyalty is directly linked to customer experience.

On top of solving problems retroactively, a fresh look at the role call centers play in this journey can illuminate forward-looking opportunities. Tesco Mobile uses call centers to provide proactive post-sale support. Employees begin reaching out to new customers via social media a few days after purchase. Customers enjoy personalized social engagement at little cost to the brand and the company, a method that builds brand loyalty.

4. Give Your Employees a Voice (Because They Know Best)

When you’re not sure where a problem lies, go to the source — ask your employees. 

As call center agents are at the company’s front-line, they know if marketing materials are confusing or if a product isn’t functioning as promised. They are a company’s best resource and will know not only what’s wrong, but will also likely have ideas on how to fix it. Give them a voice, a place to record their thoughts regularly, and monitor that space for ideas which are easy to push through with updated procedures, policy and products. 

Ultimately, the key to managing a multitude of customer inquiries lies in breaking down company and call center silos. Route questions to the appropriate employees, no matter what department they’re in — that way things get resolved quickly.

Don’t underestimate the power of the agents at the front-line of your company’s customer service hub. Give these individuals the resources they need to solve problems, leverage their knowledge and you just might dramatically impact the success of the company, improve the customer experience and build long-term brand loyalty.