By Guy Dilger
For many business leaders, branding means the company logo, website, sales material, direct marketing, social media, and online content. Devoting resources and marketing activities to these types of communications is important to creating brand awareness and sales opportunities.
However, it’s not just the company’s marketing that creates a brand. Every touch point in the customer journey becomes part of a buyer’s perception of the company’s brand.
Call Center as a Brand Experience
One department that may require a portion of the branding budget but is often overlooked is the inbound call center or customer service department. For many customers who purchase products or sign up for services online, the call center is the only human interaction with a company. This is especially true for online and e-commerce companies that don’t have a physical presence.
Consumers and decision-makers are more likely to judge and create an impression of businesses based on the over-the-phone service. That’s the reason it’s crucial for businesses to incorporate their branding into their customer service and call centers.
Companies make major investments to support call centers and customer service departments. This includes telecommunications technology, customer response management software, training, and scripts. But does the call center training cover the company’s brand standards and personality? Are the founder’s story and company mission part of the scripts? Can the team easily insert the company’s unique value proposition and point of differentiation for the products and services into customer conversations? All these key message points shape the buyer’s brand experience, which influences customer acquisition, retention, loyalty, and lifetime value.
Call Center Agents as Brand Ambassadors
When an insufficiently trained call center or customer service representative focuses more on ending a customer call rather than solving the issue, the company takes a hit.
First, this tarnishes the brand. That interaction had a greater impact on the customer’s perception than a scheduled message from the company’s CEO. Second, all the marketing, product development, and innovation were made ineffective because of a frustrated call center agent. Even worse, that unsatisfied or angry customer may choose to post a negative review or rant on social media.
Ensuring that your call center and customer service department are properly trained and engaged is the best way to avoid these types of interactions. An engaged call center pays for itself in improved productivity and reduced turnover of customers and employees.
Essential Training Elements
Key elements of the call center training include:
Empathy: Prospects and customers call because they need information or have an issue. Some call center agents and customer service representatives mistakenly use a falsely cheery phone voice. Call center agents and customer service representatives need to be sensitive to the fact that customers may be confused or upset. After the caller explains the reason for the call, the first response is sincere empathy. The company’s brand personality and brand voice should guide the tone of this initial interaction.
Ease Anxiety: Next, ease the caller’s anxiety by reassuring them that they have called the experts and solution providers. At this point, the call center agent should consider thanking the customer for calling. This communication allows an opportunity for a resolution, rather than seeing a complaint or negative review online. A calm, confident, and reassuring attitude will go a long way in easing communications and clearly understanding the issues.
Educate: Once the issue is defined, the call center agent can provide information and guidance for the next steps. Guidelines for various scenarios and scripts with key message points provide the greatest support for the agent and result in faster resolution. Some companies provide checklists, step-by-step instructions, links to the company website, and other resources to address their customers’ needs.
Enable Follow-Up: After the call, a brief online survey or follow-up email continues to improve the brand experience. Marketing and sales leaders may consider a follow-up phone call to make sure the issue was resolved and offer an additional customer touch point.
In some cases, business leaders “mystery shop” their own call center, take customer calls themselves, or listen to recorded conversations. Getting customer feedback and monitoring performance will ensure that the call center is part of the brand experience.
Guy Dilger is the vice president of product and marketing at Plain Green. With twelve years of experience designing marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies and financial technology brands, he is known for generating engaging content and compelling concepts that resonate with targeted consumers.