Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Open-ended Questions Help Keep Agents at Their Best

December 23, 2013

Customer service agents are the first point of contact most customers have with a business, so it is important that these agents are professional and deliver the customer service experience that the company pays them to provide.

Humans are complex creatures, however, so it can be a challenge to keep every agent working their best and improving all the time. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution since there is not a single reason why an agent might fail. There are two sides to staying on top of this issue. First, bad habits must be discovered. Then they must be corrected.

The discovery phase is easy enough: The best way to discover problems is observation. That’s why call monitoring is essential, and the more efficient such call monitoring is the better the company will perform. There’s really no shortcut when it comes to keeping agents at their best—catching problems requires listening to agent interactions, and that’s the reason call monitoring is so important.

The second part of the equation is arguably trickier, however. Even if a problem with a particular agent is discovered, it often can be hard to uncover why it is happening and therein how to fix it.

“When observing center coaches in action, I find that some will ask an agent very few questions or often the wrong questions during their coaching sessions,” noted call center expert, Melissa Kovacevic. “Questions are not just conversation controllers and great service/sales skills to use during customer interactions.”

She recommends using open-ended questions to suss out the real reason for problems.

“Using open-ended questions that allow the agent to discuss what they think, feel and the ‘why’of a skill, are most effective,” she wrote in a recent blog post. “When the right questions are asked, we stop assuming and learn the real why an agent seems to be challenged by certain skills.”

For example, she found that a rep that was failing to empathize with callers was a former military personnel and was used to just sucking up emotions. This, of course, was an empathy block! Without an open-ended “why,” the reason would not be uncovered.

Likewise, an agent that is to the point and never chats with customers might feel that way because he has the opinion that all callers are calling for a reason and just want to get things done. If asked why he is so direct, this opinion can be learned and then addressed.

There’s no way to avoid agent problems, but there sure is a way to find them and tackle the problems that emerge. Businesses need to make sure they properly address these facts.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker