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6 Call Behaviors that Frustrate Customers Most; and How to Avoid Them

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Joel Makhluf

When it comes to customer experience, emotion is what sets brands apart and its impact is significant. In a nutshell, call behaviors that frustrate customers drive poor CX and call behaviors that make customers feel happy, appreciated and valued are the recipe for success.

Forrester’s CX Index is designed to close the loop between CX measures and growth, connecting quality and loyalty measures to specific revenue drivers, giving you unprecedented ability to guide investments that produce the greatest revenue return. The CX index looks at 3 primary measures for CX quality that are known as the three E’s – Ease, Effectiveness and Emotion. These CX quality measures are leading indicators of customer loyalty which they measure through retention, enrichment and advocacy. In the end, the equation is quite simple: high levels of CX quality drive high levels of customer loyalty and vice versa, low levels of CX quality produce the inverse effect. According to this industry North Star formula, what is the top driver of CX quality? Which of the three E’s is the most essential aspect of your overall customer experience? Consistently that E is emotion. Forrester found that in 90% of industries customers judged their experience with a brand mostly by the way in which they felt about dealing with them, or said another way, how they appealed to their emotion.

So how a customer feels about their dealings with your company is critical. There are some specific call behaviors that call center agents display quite often that truly irk customers and significantly impact customer experience. Let’s take a look at the top 6 call behaviors customers find most frustrating.

Call Behaviors that Frustrate Customers

1. Long Periods of Silence

Long moments of silence in conversation leave customers with the impression that the agent is not engaged. Also known as “dead air,” these long periods of silence during the call or significant delays in response to customer questions typically happen when agents are looking up information to try to actively solve the customer’s issue and they forget to check in or acknowledge they are working to find the information. The result is a customer thinking, “is this person engaged?” And at a certain point the customer finally works up the nerve to ask the agent the dreaded “Are you still there?” question. If the conversation gets to that point, it’s hard to recover.

You always want your customer to know you are an active participant in the conversation. Take the time to check in often even when you are deep in detective mode trying to solve the problem at hand.

2. Inappropriate Speaking Pace

Have you ever been in a conversation with a customer service agent and they are speaking to you at a painfully slow pace? You are thinking, “are they trying to lull me to sleep?” Or how about the opposite when you have someone who tries to plow through the call at warp speed, speaking so quickly your head starts spinning?

Having a conversation with someone is like a dance, it needs to be in sync. If you have one person slow dancing while the other one is doing the Quickstep are they going to appear like they are in sync? Of course not.

3. Monologuing

When I was a kid I used to think it would be amazing to have the job of a late night TV host. Go on with joke after joke and the audience eats up the one-way conversation. Sometimes I think customer service agents I speak to share those same ambitions and are auditioning for, albeit a much less funny, version of the Tonight Show. When agents start talking for extremely long periods of time without stopping and engaging with the customer it’s very easy to tune them out causing you to not really absorb what they are saying. Put it this way, if the agent drones on and on I’m already planning for the next call back I’ll have to make and praying this agent isn’t at the front of the queue when I do, I’m going to score this call quite low on the next survey you send me.

4. Frequent interruptions

A customer service call should not be a debate. Sometimes when both parties are keen to get their point across they start talking over each other and to an outsider listening into the conversation it sounds like gobbledygook, which of course is the technical term. A customer wants to be heard and wants to be given the floor when they need it to get their point across. It’s critical for call center agents to have productive conversations where there’s give and take in the conversation, not two parties battling for the microphone.

5. Low Energy

Ben Stein famously spoke the words “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller” in a low monotone voice devoid of any emotion in what became an iconic movie scene from the 1980’s. So let’s say Ben Stein’s character from Ferris Bueller’s Day off was the call center agent you were dealing with. You are emotionally invested in this call and are looking for a satisfactory outcome. Ben comes in and hits you with that painfully low energy and you’re feeling like “can someone get this guy an espresso?” Energy and enthusiasm are signs of engagement level and if you are lacking gusto in your voice when speaking to customers they aren’t going to laugh like they did at the scene in the movie, they are going to be annoyed and genuinely frustrated with your service level.

6. Lack of Empathy

And we’ve saved the best for last. Remember back to the Forrester Index and how emotional connections are the top driver of customer experiences? What happens if they miss the most critical piece of the equation? As they say in Scorsese movies, “Fahget About It”. When a customer is in need of empathy, you have one shot to deliver in that moment of truth. When agents don’t pick up on these conversational cues and miss the opportunity to connect with the customer, that customer feels unacknowledged, uncomfortable, and just plain bad. Not the feeling that will drive long term customer loyalty, I can promise you that.

Positive Vibes: What Your Customers Want

It’s not surprising that when customers feel good about your brand, they remain loyal to you longer, but happiness is not the only emotion that matters. There are 6 feelings that customers say can help boost their loyalty:

  • Appreciation
  • Confidence
  • Gratefulness
  • Happiness
  • Respected
  • Valued

Companies that can consistently deliver experiences that make customers feel these ways, also have more to gain than simply satisfaction. When customers associate positive emotions with a brand they are more likely to forgive an experience miscue, refer the brand to others, and in some cases even pay a premium for better service. This is truly enduring customer loyalty.

Negative Emotions: A Fast Track to Poor Service

Forrester cites the following negative emotions that are indicative of poor customer experiences:

  • Annoyance
  • Disappointment
  • Frustration

Think about the 6 call behaviors we discussed earlier. When you put yourself in the role of the customer you can see how these emotions are easily evoked. If there are long periods of silence in the conversation, I get annoyed, if the agent has low energy and enthusiasm in speaking with me, I’m frustrated and if an agent misses on delivering empathy in my time of need, I’m disappointed.

How to Avoid Negative Call Behaviors: Real-time AI Coaching

It’s crystal clear that we need our frontline call center agents to avoid these frustrating call behaviors so they don’t evoke the negative customer emotions that ruin CX. We want our agents to consistently WOW our customers with great conversation, chock full of human connection that makes customers feel appreciated, feel heard, and feel valued.

The reality is that this is hard to achieve with small teams and when you scale an organization to the size of a large Fortune 500 company with thousands of frontline call center agents, it’s near impossible without bringing in some reinforcements. Fortunately advancements in human aware AI have led to just the reinforcements companies need. Welcome to the future of the call center, welcome to the AI Coach.

Chatbots and automation are great for the easy mundane tasks, but the moments of truth that define authentic customer experience and appeal to customer emotion will continue to be delivered by agents via the voice channel. It would be near impossible for an agent to deliver consistently great conversation all the time without displaying call behaviors that frustrate customers without support. Cogito’s human aware AI coach instantly analyzes phone conversations between agents and customers and identifies the negative call behaviors agents display in the moments when they occur, then coaches the agent with reminders to change the behavior and save the customer experience. The solution is able to identify when customers display heightened emotional states and cues the agent in the moment to be emotionally intelligent and deliver an empathic response. This in-call coaching is what enables frontline call center agents to address negative call behaviors that pop up in conversations, self learn and lessen the frequency of negative behaviors over time and when used across call center organizations, scales great customer experience that appeals to positive customer emotions. And as Forrester says the impact of just 1 point improvement in CX for large enterprises results in millions of dollars of additional revenue. The AI Coach is your guide to the future of CX.

Want to learn more about these 6 behaviors and hear tips and tricks on how to avoid them? Watch our on demand webinar on the 6 most frustrating call behaviors featuring insights from our behavioral science team.

Interested in what real-time AI coaching can do in your call center? Request a no obligation demo today to start your exploration.

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