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3 Pro Tips for Effective Phone Support

By Paul / May 02, 2016

As a follow-up to one of our most-read blog posts of all-time: 3 Pro Tips for Effective Live Chat Tech Support, we wanted to share some of our tips for providing phone support experiences that live up to the call of duty.

Customers clearly value a human element in their support experiences, as phone is still the most popular support channel being turned to, topping the likes of live chat, email, online customer support portals, and social media.

While it can’t be denied that online channels can be effective and convenient for certain support situations, the level of human interaction experienced over the phone simply cannot be replicated through chat or email.

These three tips will help you amaze your customers when they come calling!


Tip 1: Provide thorough agent training & incubation

Following a successful hire, in-depth training is critical to ensuring that the agent will be comfortable fielding calls on their own. During this period, it is important that the agent develops a solid understanding of the different products and service offerings of each company they’ll be representing as well as learn to embrace their core values and brand image.

When teaching phone support best practices and etiquette, it is useful to let new agents listen in on real-life calls from top agents to give them a better sense of what kind of situations they could find themselves in, and how to handle them best. At AppHelp this is called the agent’s incubation period. Including top-performing agents to act as mentors and experts during training and incubation will also go a long way in giving new hires valuable insight on what it will take to thrive in their position.

Once a new agent has gone through the initial training and incubation, their training has not come to an end.  In fact, it never will. This is because training is an ongoing process that keeps agents up-to-date with new products and technology, and continuously fosters the development of their skills.


Tip 2: Route incoming calls effectively

Studies have shown that what customers want the most when contacting support centers is for their problems to get solved quickly. One of the best ways support teams can address this need is by routing incoming calls effectively, minimizing customer effort within the telephony system, and simplifying their journey into the hands of an expert agent. There are a number of routing strategies that can be implemented, such as:

Skill-based: Directing calls to the agent with the most relevant skillset for the support issue in question. For example, a customer experiencing malware on their PC can get their call directed to an agent with an expertise in virus and malware removal with a properly configured IVR. This is a great method to drive both a positive and efficient customer experience, by directing the caller to the agent who is best-equipped to diagnose and solve their problem in a fast, effective manner.

Data-directed: Directing calls based off of customer data from databases or CRM systems.  For example, a customer who has experienced multiple issues in the past month will be routed to a top-performing agent to ensure they receive high-quality service that prevents them from churning, or a customer who has an open issue is routed straight to a support specialist rather than being prompted whether or not they want to speak with a technician or customer service representative.

Last-agent: Directing calls to the agent who the customer has most-previously dealt with. This often improves the experience for customers as they are more comfortable with the agent, however it can be difficult to implement as the same agent may not be available when they call in.

Ultimately, it is not uncommon for support teams to combine a number of these strategies in order to optimize the way in which they route incoming calls.


Tip 3: Monitor key performance indicators (KPIs)

Tracking the performance of phone support agents is a must in order to ensure the quality of support being delivered meets the required standards. When tracking performance, relevant metrics must be actively monitored so that trends are quickly surfaced and corrective actions can be taken when needed.

Industry standards, such as first call resolution (FCR) rate, average handling time (AHT), customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS) are each important to track at the program and agent level in order to actively measure the quality of support being delivered.

A more customer-centric KPI, which has gained popularity in recent years, is customer effort score (CES). This metric measures how much effort a customer had to exert in the handling of their request. Organizations who aim to reduce the level of effort needed by customers see higher loyalty rates, which increases customer lifetime value (CLV). In fact, an HBR study found that 94% of respondents who reported low effort expressed an intention to repurchase the product/service from that particular organization.

Organizations, however, must not forget that efforts undertaken to increase efficiency must not come at the expense of customer experience. For example, organizations that focus exclusively on finding the appropriate balance between meeting CSAT and AHT goals tend to overlook the cost of a repeat call, and the even higher cost of a reduced CLV resulting from a negative support experience.

Final Thoughts

Despite the proliferation of online support channels, phone is still the go-to channel for customers seeking technical support, and organizations still need to be prepared to answer these calls as effectively as possible.

Making sure that agents are properly trained, incoming calls are being routed effectively, and KPIs are being correctly monitored are all ways of guaranteeing the delivery of the highest quality customer experience that is necessary for an organization to differentiate itself in today’s competitive, subscription-based economy.

Want to deliver even better phone support to your customers? Contact us today to discuss how AppHelp white-label technical support services can help enhance your brand.