One of the best and most effective ways a contact center manager can get to know their agents is through the practice of transcript reviews. A manager can really only spend a very limited time observing any one agent on the floor, so reviewing transcripts will provide a massive amount of information about what the agents are doing in the trenches and afford the manager the opportunity to provide better coaching for all the agents.
Whether the contact center has 2 agents or 200 agents manning the floor, agents are the soldiers in the field working hard to provide the best service and make the big sales. And let’s face it, managers have to let the soldiers in the field do their job and really don’t have time to listen in on what each is saying every minute of the day to every customer. But that doesn’t allow the managers to relinquish their job to provide feedback and teaching moments to the team. Taking the time to review transcripts every month will provide valuable information allowing the manager to recognize those agents who stand out and do a stellar job, as well as provide feedback and assistance to those who need it, not to mention the team as a whole.
But it isn’t as simple as reading the words on the page and coming up with feedback on the fly. You really need to pay attention to not only what is being said but how the agents are saying it all the while keeping in mind that every agent is different and may communicate the same thing in a different way from another agent. Additionally, the agents are provided with tools to make their job easier and their communication efforts more effective, so you need to make sure they are utilizing those as well.
Here are 9 useful tips on what to look for:
1) Who is doing most of the talking?
Is it the agent, or is it the customer? Typically, an agent should not be doing the majority of the talking in a conversation or a chat. The conversation might be closer to half and half, but it should never be agent-focused.
2) Is the agent asking questions?
When an agent asks questions it forces the customer to do more of the talking, and the agent will quickly learn more about what the customer truly needs. If agents don’t ask questions the conversation will certainly be one-sided and the agent will not be an effective communicator. Keep in mind, you can’t learn much from the other person if you are doing all the talking.
3) Is the agent asking the RIGHT questions?
Questions need to be relevant. And conversation should consist of more open-ended questions to get the customer to provide more detail than just simple closed-ended questions that will provide a yes or no answer. Closed-ended questions do have their place, but they should mostly be used for confirmation.
4) How formal/casual is the agent’s communication?
Depending on what industry your company is in will dictate how formally or casually an agent should be communicating with the customer. For instance, a customer in the Finance/Banking industry is going to require a much more formal communication style from an agent than say a customer speaking to a customer service agent in a more casual retail establishment, or perhaps a student speaking to a customer service agent at a university. Of course, this all depends on your industry and your company policies and culture as well. But it is very important for the agent to follow those policies in order to represent your brand appropriately.
5) Is the agent polite and sympathetic/empathetic?
While this might seem obvious, think about how difficult it can sometimes be to engage with an uncompromising and irate customer. This can be a challenge for even the best agents. Pay close attention to the agent’s demeanor throughout the communication. Politeness should never wane. Furthermore, a little sympathy and, when relevant, empathy goes a very long way with an upset customer. Did the agent provide a sincere apology to the customer? And did she try to let the customer know that she understood their situation and how that situation made them feel? If she did, I would bet that upset customer backed down quickly and was outwardly very thankful to the agent for it.
6) (For chat agents) How consistent is the agent’s spelling/grammar?
An agent who consistently misspells words and uses improper grammar immediately comes across as unintelligent to the customer. Remember, in a chat program the agent is the virtual face/voice of your brand. The customer is not going to have a face or a voice to apply to the conversation, but they will always have your brand name. So you want to make sure it is represented appropriately. Even seasoned agents will make typos here and there. They should always address them appropriately by acknowledging the mistake and when necessary correcting the error to avoid a misunderstanding. Also, chat is not texting, nor is it social media. It is a professional business communication, albeit slightly more casual. Full sentences with appropriate capitalization and punctuation should be mandatory.
7) Was it necessary for the agent to acknowledge any limitations on his part, and did he give the customer an alternative solution?
Every agent is going to be asked for something he simply cannot provide at one time or another. It might be something that policy prevents him from providing or doing, or simply something not in his job description. While there is absolutely no harm in the agent letting the customer know his limitations, it is inexcusable to say something like, “That’s not my job.” Whether or not the answer to the customer’s request is dictated by the agent’s job description is irrelevant to the customer. They simply want their request addressed. A good agent will always acknowledge the customer’s request and politely let them know his limitations in handling it. A great agent will always provide them with some sort of alternative solution instead of just turning them away. For example, “I am very sorry, but I am restricted from accessing the information needed to help process your request. However, I can forward you to the right person to assist you. Additionally, I have attached the document you will need to fill out in order to start the process with that department.” Any disappointment the customer feels by not having their request handled immediately will likely be diffused by the little extra effort the agent provides to get them to someone who can, along with an additional simple gesture to help speed things along.
8) Are they using the tools provided to them?
All contact centers provide agents with some tools to help make communicating with visitors more effective, easier, and faster in some circumstances. Things like scripts and canned responses are provided for those very reasons and not only provide the agents with a world of benefit, they also help provide the company with the assurance that its brand is represented appropriately. Canned responses, for example, are pre-written responses that not only help agents provide the right message specific to the topic, they ensure consistent answers between agents keeping branding in place. It is good to always check that the agents are using these tools and using them effectively.
9) Is there anything in the transcript that can be taken away as a teaching moment for the entire team of agents?
When reviewing transcripts, it is important to take away information that will not only benefit the individual agent in a one-on-one scenario but also the team in a group environment. There may be something the individual agent said (or possibly something in the way she said it) that might be unusual, provocative, or she simply provided service above and beyond what is expected. The situation could be either a positive or a negative. If something is done really well, proudly acknowledge that agent! She deserves it! If it’s something that could or should have been done differently or better, certainly let her know that too – in a positive manner. Also, no matter which scenario, leave the agent’s name out and provide the details to the entire team. It will likely spark dialogue and be a teaching moment for everyone.
Transcript reviews should never be perceived as a necessary evil or a waste of time. They should be used as a tremendous resource to help the agents with their very tough and often thankless job, as well as to the managers to get to know those agents and how they perform. Take the time to dig deep into them, and you will find out more information about your agents in a shorter period of time than if you were to sit down and do several Q & A sessions with them individually.