Call Center Agent Checklist: 18 Steps to a Great Customer Interaction

Brian Cantor

No party loves engaging in a customer service interaction.

One is forced to spend his own time addressing a problem that most likely should not have existed in the first place. The other is often asked to endure a troubling combination of hostility, frustration and aggression he had no direct role in causing.

One is forced to rest his entire hope of resolution on the shoulders of an individual that has no personal investment in the outcome. The other is expected to delight an angry, demanding individual while being given little or no leeway to do so by the one who signs his paycheck.

That no party is in position to optimize the interaction—let alone enjoy it—is sufficient proof of why customer service interactions are so stigmatized and difficult. The angry, frustrated customer resents facing a stiff roadblock in his effort to secure an outcome he believes he should have already received. The troubled, constricted agent resents needing to balance the needs of the customer subjecting him to intense, undesirable emotion and the needs of the supervisor who prevents him from giving the customer from what he probably deserves.

Customer service interactions do not have to be like this.

If the agent, empowered by his superiors to offer customers solutions of situational coherence, works to set and maintain a proper conversational tone with the customer, he can turn every interaction into a productive one.

No, not everything will be perfect. Yes, agents will still be saddled with the negativity of resolving customer problems. But the calls will at least function in the way they are meant to function. Customers will receive what they are expecting to receive. Businesses will develop customer relationships in the way they need to be developed.

Agents will play the role they are supposed to be playing.

To transform the customer service dynamic and ensure agents (and their businesses) create the right kinds of interactions, use this customer service interaction checklist.

(Disclaimer: 360 degree views of the customer, seamless links between channels and empowered agents are required for using this checklist, but they should be present in all contact centers anyway)

Checklist: Pre-Interaction Questions

Question: Who is the customer? What is his history with the organization?

Question: What is the history of this support inquiry (examples – did he get transferred from IVR, was he asked to escalate a live chat to the phone, has he called three times regarding this issue)

Question: Is this call in the customer’s preferred channel and on the customer’s preferred terms?

Checklist: Interaction

Establish instant rapport – demonstrate not only friendliness but proof that you know who the customer is and are going to deliver the resolution that matters

Gauge conversational expectations; adapt – determine if the customer is seeking a deep, engaging conversation or a quick one. Adapt.

Determine the customer’s emotional state; adapt – determine the mindset from which the customer is approaching the call (is he curious? Is he angry?). Adapt.

Understand the customer’s position on the era – transaction history can only get an agent so far; the agent must consider how the customer perceives a problem (what is the real reason he is calling, how did the issue affect his emotions and brand loyalty, what are the stakes of delivering the customer’s preferred resolution)

Share background where essential – ignore any inclination to focus on blame or responsibility (such a focus is irrelevant for a call that is about solving a problem), but do offer any background context that could prove valuable to the customer’s understanding of the issue and willingness to trust the brand going forward

Checklist: Moving to Resolution

Offer a solution tied directly to the customer’s perspective on the matter – do not blindly shy away from resolutions that are recommended in the script or knowledgebase, but do assure they are presented in the context of the customer’s issue, emotion and stakes; if there exists no precedent for the issue, recommend one that is both feasible for the organization and of clear, direct relevance to the customer’s issue

Work with the customer to mend the proposed solution – collaborate with the customer to turn the proposed solution into the perfect outcome

WHERE NECESSARY: Walk the customer through escalation or transfer – guide the customer through any transfer to preserve the customer’s faith in your effort and to offer the transfer agent the needed context for solving the problem

Sign-off on the solution – confirm the nature—and planned execution—of the resolution with the customer to assure the transaction is fully put to bed.

Checklist: Post-Resolution

Understand customer’s mindset – Determine whether the customer accepted the resolution begrudgingly or happily

Establish parameters for a follow-up – Provide the customer with your firm plan for managing the resolution and revisiting the issue should either be necessary

Make a personal connection – Express your willingness to take the customer’s future calls directly

Identify up-sell/renewal opportunities (depending on product) – Amplify the customer’s restored faith and loyalty (and leverage them) by suggesting new or upgraded products that could offer value specifically for the customers

Sign off on good terms - Assure, even if the resolution isn't perfect, that the customer leaves with the sense that the brand respects his needs and is committed to securing his satisfaction and winning his loyalty

Map all feedback – Assure all intelligence from the call is captured to drive future business strategy and maintain the 360 degree view of the customer