As companies adopt a more customer-centric approach to conducting business, they are placing a larger emphasis on enhancing the quality of service their customer support, technical support and sales agents provide. Thus, sticking to the script simply won’t do anymore.
In order to be successful in a customer-centric company, call center agents must be skilled at resolving both the routine issues as well as finding effective solutions to more complex problems.
Problem solving may seem like a pretty straight-forward process at first glance. However, in order to be skilled at problem solving, call center agents must receive proper training and be allowed a certain degree of autonomy; as more autonomous agents are often more capable of effectively resolving customers’ issues by being flexible, responsive and personal (Oldham, 1996).
This blog post will describe the 10 steps to effectively problem solve. It’s a great resource for any call center agent looking to be the best on their team, call center manager seeking to enhance the skills of their agents, or call center executive aiming to enhance the quality of service they provide their customers.
Request a demo of Talkdesk's Enterprise Contact Center Platform
1. Identify the problem
The first step in problem solving is to identify the problem. This may seem simple, but as any seasoned call center agent knows, sometimes isn’t so straightforward.
To help with this first step, ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the customer calling about?
- Is there another issue that is causing the problem that they are not aware of?
- What would the customer like us to improve?
- Is their issue being compounded by a known bug?
- Is this issue specific to this customer, or have other customers called in about the same issue?
Once you have clearly identified the problem, summarize the problem to the customer and get verbal confirmation that they agree that the problem you identified is the problem they called in about. This will make your job much more efficient and will also go a long way to improving the quality of service you provide.
2. Find out why the problem exists
Once you have identified the problem and confirmed this with the customer, find out why the problem exists. To accomplish this, you should:
- Understand how this customer perceives the problem and try to gain a better understanding of their needs.
- Ask them what they have already tried to resolve the issue.
- Check your systems, ask other agents if they have fielded calls about the same issue and analyze your data to see if the problem really exists.
- Decide whether or not the benefits of solving the problem will be worth the effort that you’ll put into solving it (to adequately accomplish this, you must move on to step 3).
3. Find out how the problem impacts the customer
As a call center agent aiming to provide top-notch service, you must have an understanding of how the issue impacts the customer. For example, if a bug in your software is causing your customer to manually enter information after hours, you might feel sorry for them and say so (e.g., “I am really sorry for all of the extra effort. I can understand that you are frustrated.”), and tag their issue as normal priority. However, if that same bug is causing them to miss a work event and their job is on the line, their frustration with the bug should clearly be addressed and their ticket priority set to urgent. Understanding how the issue impacts the customer will help you to prioritize tasks and also connect better with your customers.
4. Clearly define the problem
Once you have completed steps 1-3, it is time to not only clearly define the problem but also to define what the customer wants or needs. At this stage you should already have a comprehensive understanding of both, but you should check in with the customer to make sure you are on the same page as them. If the problem they would like solved is still too broad (i.e., “better product”), it might take some more effort on your part to whittle it down to a concrete problem that you can work towards resolving.
5. Generate possible solutions
Once you have identified a concrete problem, it is time to brainstorm possible solutions. To help with this, ask yourself the following:
- What have other agents done to solve similar problems?
- What have our competitors done to resolve similar problems?
- Can someone from another department (i.e., tech, marketing, sales, support) help me resolve this issue?
- Does management have insight that might be helpful?
While going through this brainstorming process, generate a list of possible solutions.
6. Evaluate each solution and select the most appropriate
Once you have identified possible solutions, evaluate each one. Ask yourself the following:
- Do we have the resources to attack the problem from this angle?
- How much is this going to cost to implement?
- How long is this going to take to implement?
- Is there a cheaper, quicker, more effective way to do this?
- Will resolving the issue using this method adequately address the customer’s needs?
- Is this solution in-line with our company policy, culture and ethics?
- Would management agree with this solution?
- What could go wrong by implementing this solution?
- What would be the impact on other customers, the company, other agents and my team if we implement this solution?
Once you have evaluated each possible solution, select the most appropriate and move on to the next steps.
7. Plan the implementation of the solution
Some solutions are very straightforward to implement. For those that are not, think about the following:
- Who – who from our team will implement the solution?
- What – what will the implementation entail, cost, etc.?
- When – when will we start the implementation process and when should it be completed?
- Where – are we going to the customer to implement the solution or can we do it remotely?
- Why – why are we implementing this solution, what are the benefits of doing so, how is this going to impact the customer?
- How – how are we going to execute?
8. Pitch the solution to the customer
Once you have nailed out the details of the implementation process, you must pitch your plan to the customer. You should walk through the details of your solution and be open to their feedback. It is important to go into the pitch with an open mind, ready to make adjustments to your well-thought out plan. After all, the customer comes first!
9. Implement the solution
Once you, your customer and your team are all on the same page about the solution, it is time to execute. During this time it is important to continually check in on your progress to ensure that you are meeting your deadlines and are within your budget. If you need to re-work you plan, make sure that you appropriately manage the expectations of all parties involved.
10. Analyze the results
Once you have finished the implementation process, you should analyze the results. Do this by collecting quantitative and qualitative data. Ask the customer how they feel about the solution, if it met their expectations, if it has improved the way they use your product or service, etc. Analyze the metrics pre- and post-implementation to see if there has been a significant improvement. If there is room for improvement, start from step one with an open mind and an eager attitude.
At first glance, the 10 aforementioned steps may seem like a bit much for a call center agent to tackle. However, when properly trained in effective problem solving techniques, they will be more prepared to adequately address customer’s issues. With practice and continual feedback from management, call center agents will implement these steps with relative ease. Doing so will go a long way to providing top-notch customer-centric customer support.