Adaptable Agents, Happy Customers

As tempting as it can be to cater customer service to some simplified, archetypal “average consumer,” the truth is that every customer is different and subsequently in need of very different approaches to technical support. Each comes to an agent with a unique combination of a specific communication style and level of technological know-how.

With the expansion of alternative tech support channels, we’ve noticed that fewer tech-savvy customers call us and instead explore self-help methods. And that’s great! But it also means that those that do call genuinely need our help. Consequently, effective modern technical support needs agents with better communication skills. After all, an agent’s job is ultimately to explain what the customer needs to know in a way the customer understands.

And it’s this philosophy that we address in Universal Truth #5, Jeopardizing your Tech Support Success: Poor Adaptability is hurting Customer Experience and Resolution Rates. Without adaptability, agents are significantly less able to effectively communicate with customers.

Recognizing the Situation

The biggest hallmark that Universal Truth #5 is hurting your organization is the following pattern: Multiple agents consistently hit average handle time goals, but customers are calling back with the same issue. When that happens, it’s likely that your agents aren’t recognizing or addressing these customer’s needs. While the current one-size-fits-all approach may successfully help a tech-savvy customer who describes an issue like “when I turn my device on I see this error,” the customer who may not understand the product and begins with a simple “my device won’t turn on” is getting left behind.

Another major cause of communication breakdown is a discrepancy in communication style. One analysis found that, while 65 percent of customers engaged technical support with a conversational tone, agents only reciprocated with a similar communication style half of the time. When we implemented a process that encouraged agents to tailor their communication styles to match that of their customers, our client was rewarded with an 18 percent increase in customer satisfaction. While the trade-off was a slight increase in average handling time — just 2 percent — our client was more than pleased with the overall results.

Coaching for Adaptability

The goal of developing an adaptable agent is this: Technical support agents need to be able to assess communication style and knowledge level within the first few seconds of a call and then tailor the support process to that individual caller instead of reading off a script. By mirroring communication styles and figuring out where the caller is coming from, your agents will display a high level of empathy that we’ve found results in greater customer satisfaction.

By focusing on cultivating active listening skills, agents are better equipped to reveal these customer attributes. These strategies teach agents to use their observational skills to gauge the caller’s communication style and tech knowledge. With some practice, they will soon be able to pick out small details with just a few sentences while the customer explains the problem. This method helps to smooth call flow, making it feel less stiff and more like a normal conversation.

An example of how adaptability streamlines workflow is the point where an agent begins troubleshooting. If a customer starts the conversation by explaining a number of self-support methods already attempted, an agent should start in a very different place than someone who may not even know that self-support channels are available. If the agent isn’t adaptable and instead treats both of these customers the same way, at least one of the two won’t have their issue successfully addressed in a satisfying manner.

Through rigorous analytics and decades of industry experience, we at SYKES are prepared to help give your customers a positive tech support experience tailored specifically to their own individual needs. To learn more about the other Universal Truths that we mention in this paper, click here to download the full white paper.