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The top 20 call center best practices

20 min read
Happy customers are the backbone of a successful business, and their experiences with your call center can be make-or-break when it comes to customer satisfaction and loyalty. We list our top 20 call center best practices to improve overall customer satisfaction and empower agents to give great service.


1.   Show empathy for increased customer satisfaction

Customers are looking for human experiences when they reach out to brands. Rather than feeling as though they’re interacting with a faceless corporation, they want to feel the connection between themselves and a representative of the brand. This is particularly true when they’re looking to solve a problem, a likely scenario when they’re getting in touch with your call centers.

In our research, we found that shorter waiting times weren’t what made the biggest difference for customers. Empathy and a strong human connection topped the list of customer wants when it comes to the call center experience. Of those we surveyed, 6.2% said helpful agents made them happy about their call center experience and 5.2% said agent empathy made a difference. To compare, only 2.7% valued low wait times when interacting with a brand.

But what is empathy when it comes to customer relations, and how can you train your call center agents in it? To start, you can train your agents to actively listen to customers. Waiting until the customer has finished speaking, asking questions to ensure it’s clear what result they’re looking for, and summarizing what the customer has said can go a long way to helping customers feel heard. Apologizing for a negative experience can also help customers to feel cared for.

You should try:

  • Providing training in active listening to your customer service agents.
  • Providing the right customer service channels at the right time – customers with more serious complaints will likely prefer human contact, so free up agents’ time by directing less serious customer inquiries to self-service channels.

2. Be positive, be friendly

Positivity is a powerful tool when it comes to customer relationship-building. With 89% of consumers being more likely to buy again after a positive customer service experience, it’s worth injecting some positivity into customer interactions.

Providing positive solutions – such as a refund or discount, product replacement, simple fixes or even pointing customers in the right direction for a self-solve can help customers to feel good about their call center experience. It’s not just about giving positive resolutions, either – even using positive language when interacting with customers can make a big difference.

You should try:

  • Sending out customer surveys post-call center contact to understand what approach makes the largest impact on customer satisfaction metrics, or adopting AI to uncover this insight automatically, without even needing to ask
  • Scoring agents based on how friendly and positive they are in each interaction, so agents know what they’re doing and where to improve

2. Train your customer service agents to provide a great experience and reap the rewards

Investing time, effort and resources into your customer service team is one of the top call center best practices. Your call center agents are the frontline of your business, representing your brand during every interaction with customers. Excellent customer service doesn’t come instantly – it is honed over time.

You should try:

  • Making sure agents are aligned with that constitutes great service, and how they can execute this repeatedly
  • Giving agents the tools and the time to work on their own development based on customer feedback

3. Collect and analyze customer feedback

Without collecting customer feedback at every stage of the customer journey, you won’t be able to find pain points and improve on what your team is doing right. Tracking this feedback against metrics – and making sure you’re acting on what you learn – will ensure your call center thrives. Your customer surveys should be delivered on a regular or ongoing basis to ensure that you’re getting the most current insights. And supplement this with always on omni-channel listening, which gives you even deeper insights to get the complete picture.

You should try:

  • Using call center software that can collect and collate feedback, turning it into useful insights.
  • Designing survey questions that not only ask about general customer experience, but specific agent interactions as well. Asking how knowledgeable, helpful and clear the agent was during an interaction can help with agent training in future.

4. Empower your call center team to make data-led change

The best way to empower your call center team is to provide them with data-led insights as fast as possible. Being able to access call analytics instantly, with suggestions on how to rectify problems and encourage customer loyalty, can make a huge difference in how your team progresses and improves.

You should try:

  • Utilizing call center software that works in real-time to get the right insights to the right team members instantly.

5. Invest in the right team additions

When you’re adding new team members to your call centers’ teams, you need to be sure you’re bringing good people into the mix. Center agents are critical for keeping customers happy and bringing them back on board when things go wrong, meaning that when you hire, you need to hire someone you’d be proud of as a representative of your brand.

You should try:

  • Looking for attitude as well as experience – sometimes it’s about how information is delivered, rather than just doing the right thing or following expected protocols.

6. Analyze emotion, sentiment and other key factors

When a customer reaches out to your call center, they’re looking for answers or help – but how they communicate when they get in touch can speak volumes about how to take the right action. The emotion they transmit in their messages, how hard they’ve tried to get in touch, how they feel about your brand (their sentiment), how often they’ve messaged and how intense the contact has been can influence how your team addresses the problem.

You should try:

  • Analyzing customer calls, messages and other inputs for the full scale of customer feedback
  • Using a call center software that can provide deeper analysis of your customers’ messages, from emotion to effort to sentiment. Giving you the what, and the why.

7. Define your KPIs to help your call centers thrive

With the right key performance indicators (KPIs), you can help your customer service process to become not only smooth, but the very reason why customers come to you in the first place. Call center metrics such as the number of customers your team has served and issues they’ve resolved, your brand’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) or customer satisfaction (CSAT) rating, positive referrals and issue resolution speed are just some examples. With this call center service data, you can create realistic KPIs that will drive better service.

You should try:

  • Analyzing what initiatives drive better scores on customer service metrics, such as customer satisfaction ratings, to replicate your results.
  • Ensuring your call center training highlights KPIs to be met and the reasons why they’re important.

8. Close the loop

It might seem that your work is done when customers have successfully resolved their issue or query through your call centers. However, one key element to call center best practices is to close the loop – even when it seems as though you’ve done all you need to do.

You should try:

  • Reaching out to the customer after they’ve resolved their problem to check that everything is still to their satisfaction. This can be done via email and can also solicit feedback on your call centers’ service.
  • Ask for positive reviews after a problem is solved, or offer additional solutions if there’s still work to be done to satisfy the customer.

9. Ensure your communication is clear, both internally and externally

Clarity is a hallmark of a great call center. Customers who find emails, instructions or interactions confusing won’t come back for another round – they’ll go somewhere where they can easily find what they need.

However, it’s not just about communicating clearly with your customers – it’s also about communicating clearly internally. Your call center representatives deserve clear and efficient information on a regular basis to help them improve and thrive, providing the best service they can to your audience.

You should try:

  • Sending employee experience surveys to your call center staff to understand if there are any issues with communication and taking steps to resolve any roadblocks.
  • Using plain English and easy-to-understand terms to ensure customers aren’t just getting in contact to clarify simple things. This reduces your cost to serve and improves the customer experience.

10. Make sure you don’t lose track of important customer information

When customers reach out, they don’t want to feel like just another number. Keeping important information on file by creating customer profiles can help your center agents to get familiar with customers quickly and create a more human connection.

You should try:

  • Collate all the useful information on customers (number of times they’ve been in contact, previous issues, purchase information, demographic details etc.) and create individual customer profiles. This means you don’t lose any important information and gives your call center agents better context.
  • Use call center technology that can easily build profiles over time as information is added, making it easier for your call center to keep track of data automatically.

11. Embrace automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automations can make your team’s job much easier, and help them to focus on what really matters: the customer service you provide. Rather than getting overwhelmed with small tasks such as entering in data post-call, automate the routine tasks and free up your agents’ time. This helps to reduce your cost to serve and keeps your call center representatives happy.

You should try:

  • Automate rote manual work, such as quality management efforts and post-call summaries.
  • Automate your team’s follow up actions to make closing the loop an effortless process.

12. Check in with your agents and reward progress

Taking care of your customers is only half the battle of good business – ensuring your team are also cared for is vital as well. Checking in regularly with your call center to see how agents are performing and feeling about their work is important, as is rewarding great progress with incentives to keep up with the good work. Employee engagement is a great way to improve customer service – as employees feel more engaged with their team, company and work, they’re more likely to transmit that engagement to your customers.

You should try:

  • Initiating an incentives/rewards program that shows how much you care about your call center representatives.
  • Ensuring team members can give their input and feedback to you and taking steps to implement suggested changes where appropriate.

13. Thank your customers

It’s easily forgotten, but thanking your customers is really important for fostering a long-term customer relationship. When a customer calls your team, gives their feedback or reaches out on social media, show them your gratitude – even if they reach out for negative reasons. After all, they’re the ones your brand is trying to please – whether they’re complimenting your work or complaining, they’re still making an effort to interact and taking time out of their day to do so.

You should try:

  • Automating a thank-you message whenever a customer reaches out to you, no matter the channel.
  • Ensure your call center training includes reminders to thank customers for their feedback.

14. Avoid the blame game

When you serve customers, appointing blame is unhelpful for progress. Whether it’s a user error or a problem on the part of your company, assigning blame doesn’t get the issue resolved. When your audience reaches out, they’re looking for you to solve customer problems – not tell them that it’s not your fault if they use your product incorrectly.

You should try:

  • Apologizing even when it’s not your fault. Your team member can express contrition that the customer has been inconvenienced without blaming them or the team.
  • Focusing on the resolution, not the problem – customers want action, not an explanation of why they’re the ones in the wrong. Offer them solutions quickly and avoid negative language in your call center scripts.

15. Explain what’s happening when it’s happening

Being put on hold is a pet peeve of customers who get in touch with your center’s service. Explaining what’s happening at each stage of the call, particularly when you’re putting customers on hold, is one of our call center best practices because customers feel respected.

Even if it’s as simple as “I’m just looking up your information and it will take a minute, bear with me” or “In a moment, I’ll be passing you along to my supervisor Tom, who is more experienced in this issue than I am”, explaining what’s happening when it’s happening keeps the dialogue open between your team member and your customer.

You should try:

  • Ensuring your call scripts include details on what to say when someone is being put on hold. Make it clear to the customer what to expect, e.g. “It will be about a 5 minute wait”.

16. Make quality assurance a priority

Your customer retention depends on providing a great quality customer experience every time they use your products or visit your website. But don’t forget – your call center’s service needs to provide a high-quality customer experience, too.

Analyzing agent performance is key to quality assurance, but it’s often done sparingly, with only a small sample of their work analyzed by call center leaders. Free up your management’s time and also provide a more fair analysis of call center reps’ performance by taking into account every interaction they have with your customers.

You should try:

  • Monitoring not only samples of agent performance, but 100% of customer interactions to get a clear view of agents’ abilities. This includes call monitoring and interactions on other channels.
  • Providing your call center reps with regular feedback, but also post-call feedback to help them improve all the time.

17. Give customers a thorough knowledge base to refer to

Your center management can often focus on balancing cost to serve with excellent center performance. Take the pressure off of your center operation and reduce agent calls by offering your customers self-serve customer support. A knowledge base, with FAQs, that customers can refer to can help reduce the number of calls to your center, freeing your agents’ time to deal with the customer issues that matter.

You should try:

  • Aiming for continuous improvement – as new customer issues are highlighted in call resolution efforts, you should add to the information provided so it’s continually up to date and relevant.
  • Asking your employees what common problems (and uncommon ones!) they encounter in their phone calls with customers. Sometimes call monitoring can miss important information or simple solutions – make sure you capture them in your knowledge base.

18. Organize customer queries and direct them appropriately

The customer journey through your call center operations is as important as the service you provide. What are customers actually looking for? Is it a solution, a refund, assurances for better service in future, or just a way to air customer complaints?

Organizing customer inquiries via a technical system can help you to drive customers to the right support. Flag each customer interaction with ticketing software to accurately direct customers and optimize the customer journey.

You should try:

  • Figuring out the main customer service goals of the customers you serve. Tailor your customer service journey accordingly.
  • Focusing on more than just call resolution – reduce the number of calls, call duration and other metrics simply by directing customers to the right place.

19. Create great (and compliant) customer service

Your customer service team is often required by law or regulatory guidance to follow certain procedures. As part of your employee evaluations and part of your quality assurance process, you should be mindful of compliance requirements – particularly if you’re a multinational company.

You should try:

  • Keeping up to date with the latest in legislation that might affect your customer service, and ensuring that your employees are also aware of anything that might impact how they deliver customer service.
  • Ensure compliance by listening to every interaction, so you can spot potential risk and implement fixes and necessary training right away

20. Invest in your call center technology for business growth

Your call center isn’t a cost center like so many say. It’s a hub of insights that can lead to innovation and improvement in the call center, and throughout the organization. But to harness that potential, you need to listen to customers in every interaction and implement what you learn – meaning agents are trained to deliver great service every time.

You should try:

  • Understanding the ROI of investing in your call center by judging not only the financial aspect of your investment, but how it impacts your customer service metrics.
  • Continually evaluate how your operations are serving you, and what can be improved. It’s not just for quality assurance purposes – it’s also for your team and your bottom line.

Improving your call centers with Qualtrics

Qualtrics’ Contact Center Experience Software uses omnichannel analytics, AI-powered automation and deep customer understanding tools to empower your call center and your team.

Understand your customers better with in-depth analysis of their emotions, effort and more, with automated suggestions on how to respond. Reduce your cost to serve and keep your employees onside with streamlined processes that integrate with existing systems.

Score 100% of your call center performance across all channels and get data-led insights into how to improve. Collate and process all your call center information in one place for a holistic view of how you’re meeting customer expectations.

Take your call center to the next level with Frontline Care by Qualtrics