Contact Centers: Sharing Bad News the Right Way

This post has nothing to do with technology. However, it has everything to do with the success of the contact center. After all, the contact center’s value is based on the customer experience it is able to deliver. And often times, that experience comes down to the performance of the agent.

In a recent experience with a contact center agent, I asked her, "Can you tell me what my current interest rate is on the credit card." With an enthusiastic, cheery tone that would typically be used to tell someone that they had just won the lottery, she said, "It’s 26.99%!" Sparing you the details of the rest of the conversation, I went on to complain about the rate, and she went on trying to tell me why I should feel good about the rate. Clearly, this agent had been taught to "smile" while on the phone. She’d taken that advice to heart and nothing was going to deter her from it.

My point… if the news is bad, don’t try and sugar coat it. Tell it like it is. Apologize if need be. See what you can do to help the caller get resolution to the issue, but don’t pretend that something bad, isn’t really bad. The best practice here is that the agent’s tone should match the situation and that trying to mask something with an upbeat disposition doesn’t work, it aggravates.

A sizable portion of contact centers deal with customer problems. And these soft skills are extremely important in improving the customer experience.

Joe Staples
CMO and the guy who just transferred his credit card balance to a new provider with a lower rate