Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Assessing Contact Center Agents for Empathy Skills

January 30, 2019

If you run a contact center, you’re probably proud of your agent training program. (If you’re not, hopefully you’re figuring out a way to change it.) You can teach agents to speak on the phone. You can teach them to use a telephony solution, a headset, a CRM solution, workforce management and any number of other applications required for them to do their job. You can ask them to be empathetic and patient (easier said than done!) But it’s a much bigger challenge to assess and train them for unexpected situations in which customers are reaching out in a vulnerable emotional state.

Let’s talk about DNA test kits. While there are no exact numbers available, scientific studies have estimated that between one and 10 percent of people are not fathered by who they thought they were, which likely translates to thousands of people each year who are puzzled, then upset, by their test results. And who fields these emotionally-charged calls? Call center agents, that’s who, according to Aspect’s Maddy Hubbard in a recent blog post.

“Many agents are not just fielding calls about the status of results or other basic administrative tasks, but they are also being tasked with answering questions that require much more personal which reveal critically important answers,” wrote Hubbard. “A quick Google search reveals pages of articles about test-takers being taken by surprise when unknown relatives are found after results were not what quite what they expected.”

Essentially, for many contact center agents, being something of a therapist is becoming part of the job. But how on earth do you train people to be prepared for emotionally charged calls from someone who has just discovered they may not be who they think they are? It’s not easy. You CAN hire workers who display high levels of empathy, which is a necessity in a DNA testing contact center as well as other industries such as healthcare, financial services or corrections, to name just a few.

“These agents wear many hats throughout their day from strictly business inquires to displaying empathy when someone confirms new bombshell information,” wrote Hubbard. “These listening, understanding and empathy skills, while also managing standard requests are important traits that will help agents meet customer expectations — even when dealing with an uncomfortable situation.”

If your contact center agents are taking calls for any business that includes sensitive personal information, it’s critical that agents are assessed for their skills in managing difficult situations using call and screen recording technology. From here, you can help fill in the gaps and help them understand how best to handle emotionally charged calls. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle