Welcome to the final blog of our series “Managing the moments that matter in contact centre interactions”.

In this final instalment we discuss the critical role contact centre agents play in resolving customer issues.  

The resolution phase is arguably the most important part of any contact centre interaction. It’s the moment of truth, offering agents the chance to address problems and customers the opportunity to evaluate the agent’s effort and competence. Clearly, successfully resolving customer issues builds confidence in a company’s abilities and fosters trust and loyalty. 

So, what does it take to resolve issues for customers? Let’s examine two important behaviours that differentiate successful resolutions from failures: managing expectations and temperature checks. 

Managing Expectations

It’s no secret that customers have varying expectations, some reasonable and some completely unrealistic. While frontline agents may not be able to always meet expectations, they can strive to effectively manage them. Doing this routinely can help prevent callbacks, potential complaints and even defection. Unfortunately, CSBA’s research reveals a significant gap, with just under half of agents failing to appropriately set expectations amongst their customers 

Fortunately, setting realistic expectations involves essential skills and behaviours that agents can be taught and practice. We’ve partly covered these in our previous blog, but they’re worth recapping here:  

  • Active listening: Agents must give their full attention, show genuine interest, and confirm their own understanding of the issue. If appropriate, agents also need to demonstrate genuine empathy to acknowledge customers’ feelings and concerns.  
  • Clear communication: Agents must proactively communicate the steps and timelines required to resolve a customer’s enquiry. Agents often hesitate due to uncertainty or unknowns, but our experience suggests that addressing these directly is more preferable to avoiding them altogether. Even when a clear timeline is unavailable, agents are better off openly discussing this and explaining the reasons behind it. 
  • Honesty and Transparency: Agents must be honest about what can and cannot be achieved within a given timeframe or scope. This often requires inter-departmental communication and updates about current workloads and resourcing. 

Agents who demonstrate strong communication skills, empathy and transparency are much more likely to successfully manage customer expectations.  

It is true, however, that assessing a customer’s acceptance and understanding of proposed resolutions does demand additional skills, which we’ll delve into now. 

Taking Temperature Checks

An essential aspect related to setting expectations is ensuring customers understand and accept the information provided to them. These so called ‘temperature checks’ make customers feel involved and engaged, offering them an opportunity to seek clarification, if necessary. While this sounds straightforward, a staggering 94% of agents assessed by CSBA failed to do this effectively, or not at all. This failure not only points to failures in training and supervision but also emphasises an apparent gulf between agent performance and meeting customer needs. 

Neglecting ‘temperature checks’ during interactions can have severe consequences. Misunderstood information can compound issues, increase callbacks, and heighten customer frustration. So, how can agents gauge customer understanding and acceptance of solutions? 

Employing probing questions like “Does that make sense?” or “Would you like me to explain that again, or differently?” are effective methods to ensure comprehension and encourage customer participation in the interaction process. By soliciting customer feedback, agents can better assess comprehension and address any lingering concerns. 

Additionally, agents need to provide a clear summary of the query and resolution at the conclusion of the interaction. By doing this, the agent can provide reassurance that they understood the issue and provided the best resolution. Furthermore, it provides a clear pathway for customers to seek further assistance or raise other concerns if they need to.  

Thank you for joining us throughout this series focussing on delivering excellent contact centre customer service. We appreciate your readership and invite you to share your thoughts and feedback on our insights. If you’re interested in discussing agent training or quality assurance assessment needs, please get in touch with us.