Call center workers take medical leave at three times the average rate. They have one of the highest employee churn rates, at 26% annually, for full time workers. Every day millions of agents report to work in call centers all around the world. Here they spend their working hours handling back-to-back customer calls, often upwards of 50 each day. It is not difficult to imagine why this occupation would be stressful. On each call agents must communicate effectively and build a connection to someone with whom they have no prior relationship. These customers are often frustrated and agitated before the agent even begins talking. The agent must manage to have productive and empathetic exchange with the customer all while the attempting to navigate systems, enter data and comply with company policies. This is a perfect recipe for angry customers and dissatisfied agents.
Those that can do well, or even thrive, in this position have a very particular skill set. Being a call center agent requires effective soft skills, such as strong communication, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence refers to one’s ability to understand the emotions of another person, and to then adjust one’s own behavior based on that information. An agent’s professional success, and the quality of customer interactions at a company, often depends on their ability to understand and utilize emotional information.
Analysts at Forrester name emotion as one of the three main pillars of customer experience. The three pillars are Ease, the difficulty one has in obtaining service, Effectiveness, the end result of an interaction, and Emotion, the way that an interaction leaves a customer feeling. Of these three components, the emotional experience is the most important factor in determining customer loyalty. According to Forrester’s research, when customers have positive emotional experiences with a company they become far more likely to recommend that company to a friend, to purchase from them again, and to forgive future mistakes. Agents with high EI (Emotional Intelligence) have the ability to create better emotional connections with customers. When agents are consistently able to connect well with customers they find that their job becomes less stressful and more fulfilling.
Unfortunately, very few individuals are born with top-notch conversational skills and high emotional intelligence. These are skills that must be cultivated. Companies must consider what strategies they can employ to foster and train emotional intelligence in their organization. Businesses who can capitalize on this skill, and integrate it into their call center teams, will have a substantial advantage over their competitors. It is no easy task, however, to effectively develop emotional intelligence across a large organization. Companies must find ways to identify, measure, and improve EI at a massive scale. This is a challenging task and one that, without recent advancements in technology, has been all but impossible.
Technology provides the means to measure and improve EI at a large scale. Software grounded in behavioral science can perform previously unachievable analysis on voice interactions. Our voices contain incredibly rich data, and the way in which we converse with one another provides a myriad of insights into how we are feeling about a given interaction. Software can now analyze and process voice signals through behavioral models. It can identify the patterns that show up in an interaction which are linked to positive or negative emotional outcomes. This allows businesses to effectively measure and improve the quality of their customer interactions, and their employees’ emotional skill set. It can even provide guidance to agents as an interaction is occurring.
Voice analysis software interprets conversational signals as they are emitted. These tools are sensitive to changes in an individual’s speaking pattern, and can alert agents to a change that they may not have picked up on. Unlike people, software does not become tired and distracted as the day wears on. A tired agent may fail to identify increasing tension or agitation in a customer’s voice. They will then fail to identify and mitigate the cause of the agitation, meaning that the customer becomes increasingly unhappy. Voice analysis software is sensitive to tension in a person’s voice, and can alert the agent to this change in behavior. The agent can then use their own conversational skills to adjust their speaking style and improve the outcome of the interaction.
Voice analysis can objectively evaluate the behaviors that result in better interactions. Not long ago it was impossible to accurately identify which behaviors did in fact improve the quality of a conversation. The simple step of identifying effective behaviors is crucial for ensuring continuous improvement of emotional intelligence at a large scale. The insights generated help organizations to focus their energy on the elements of interactions that will lead to the largest impact.
Focusing on and improving emotional intelligence across an organization will lead to a marked improvement in employee performance and customer experience. Companies that can successfully measure and improve EI will find they have a unique competitive advantage over their peers. Recent advancements in technology can play a key role in analyzing conversation patterns, determining the quality of an interaction, and providing real-time guidance to agents so that they can display empathy, build rapport, and create valuable emotional connections. With these latest tools companies can have superior interactions with their customers, they can measure and improve the conversational skills of their service team, and agents can find greater fulfillment and personal growth in a job well done.