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18 call center tips for delivering exceptional customer service

Follow these call center tips to improve customer satisfaction, reduce agent burnout, and boost productivity.

Von Hannah Wren, Staff Writer

Zuletzt aktualisiert: June 21, 2024

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2024 reveals that despite the availability of digital support channels, many customers still prefer phone calls for resolving complex and nuanced issues. During customer service calls, teams must nail customer courtesy and call center etiquette to build rapport, trust, and loyalty.

By following phone customer service tips, teams can turn a problem into a positive experience by communicating with customers in a way that makes them feel supported and understood. Starting a successful call center relies on agents excelling in their roles and managers effectively overseeing operations and technology. To help with both, we compiled a list of 18 essential call center tips.

In this guide:

1. Keep the conversation positive

Using negative language or a poor customer service voice highlights limitations and what can’t be done for customers. However, by staying positive and upbeat, agents can reassure callers and effectively deal with angry customers.

To keep the conversation positive:

  • Share solutions to the customer’s problem.
  • Keep a calm tone of voice to build rapport and customer trust.
  • Use positive customer service phrases like, “I can certainly check on that for you” or “Let me find out” to show the customer you’re eager to help.

Remember that body language can also translate over the phone. Smiling while interacting with a customer can help you sound friendlier and maintain a positive mindset.

2. Use active listening

To fully understand an issue, inquiry, or complaint, agents must practice active listening and allow customers to express their needs. To practice active listening when interacting with customers:

  • Repeat back what a customer says.

  • Verify requests and confirm solutions.

  • Acknowledge what customers have already done to troubleshoot.

  • Follow up with open-ended questions that encourage customers to elaborate.

Customers want to feel heard. Whether dealing with difficult customers or answering a simple question, patience and active listening can build trust and help customers feel acknowledged.

3. Personalize your interactions

One of the best practices for chat etiquette is to be personal, and this approach extends to all forms of customer interactions. Whether you use customer names to open conversations or tailor language to a customer’s journey, personalization is necessary for creating meaningful experiences.

Arm agents with robust customer profiles so they can access critical customer context to personalize calls. According to our CX Trends Report, 62 percent of agents say that having access to data to personalize interactions would help them do their job better.

A CX statistic is next to a green thumbs-up behind a phone and a laptop sitting on a desk also showing thumbs-ups.

4. Have professional empathy

All too often, customers will lash out at call center agents. Effectively supporting these customers on calls—without escalating their frustration—requires call center skills like patience and empathy. Before responding to a frustrated customer, take a deep breath to reorient and remind yourself of the end goal.

Keep your conversation focused on potential solutions while acknowledging your customer’s frustration. Don’t over-promise—remind yourself that an angry response isn’t personal. While a caller’s tone of voice may be aggressive, keep yours positive and professional.

Remember to put yourself in their shoes while responding to their issue. Considering the customer’s frustration, time, and expectations can help you better understand their wants and needs.

5. Respect your customers’ time

Customers are busy, and callers expect agents to resolve support issues quickly and conveniently. Aim to answer every incoming call within two to three rings and keep the average handle time to around six minutes.

Give customers the option to receive a call or text back so they don’t have to wait on hold. Our CX Trends Report revealed that 60 percent of callers frequently experience transfers between agents or departments. To address this, ensure agents have the essential context to resolve every issue swiftly and effectively.

A CX statistic is next to an agent sitting at a desk with a large paper airplane.

6. Be conversational

While call center scripts are great tools for customer support, relying too heavily on them can make support agents sound robotic. Keep conversations natural and relatable by:

  • Adding a personal flair and using anecdotes

  • Pausing regularly to check in with your customer

  • Prioritizing two-way communication to avoid the customer feeling “talked at”

Use simple language and avoid complex phrases, jargon, and acronyms to help customers understand solutions.

7. Walk customers through your solution

Once you find a potential solution, communicate your plan of action. Be clear about what the solution is and how it’s going to solve the issue. Explain the reasoning behind your solution to establish a sense of expertise and trust with your customers. Your explanations should help set reasonable, attainable customer expectations.

Example scenario:

A customer calls and says they can’t access your software’s newest features. You explain that you need to access their account by saying, “I’m going to access your account to see if you have the most updated version of our software. Working off an outdated version can cause the problem you’re having for [x, y, and z] reasons. From there, I’ll run a diagnostic check to ensure the issue isn’t on our end.”

After walking the customer through your solution and finding they simply need a software update, you ask if they have any questions. Your customer says they understand, and you update the system and solve the problem.

8. Don’t be afraid to tag in help

If you need to escalate a support ticket or are dealing with an incredibly frustrated customer, ask for help. Involve a manager to address the situation quickly and effectively while maintaining your customer relations. Even if you are the best agent to solve the problem, you don’t need to handle everything angry customers throw your way on your own.

9. Apologize when needed

Customers highly value transparency. Apologize or admit when your business makes a mistake. Be okay with being human, own up to the issue, and provide actionable solutions. A customer apology letter can also prevent churn and build customer loyalty, even in the face of a mistake, quality issue, or other error.

10. Go above and beyond

How you handle customer calls reflects the values of your business, so go above and beyond in your service interactions. Prepare for calls by reviewing past interactions and considering customer sentiment.

Follow up by sending a customer thank you note, reaching out to see if they have questions, or asking for feedback to improve future experiences. You can also send customers self-service resources about products or services to reduce their need for further interactions.

Discover the latest CX trends

Download the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2024 to explore how innovation drives CX toward a smarter future.

11. Create an after-call summary for continued learning

Your work isn’t over once you hang up a customer service call. You must follow post-call best practices, such as writing a call summary and noting any next steps.

AI tools can streamline this process by automatically generating an after-call summary with a list of next steps, eliminating the need for manual note-taking. Before finalizing each summary, fact-check and add any personal or customer feedback other agents should know.

These summaries can highlight key moments from each call, providing insights to help you resolve similar issues more efficiently in the future and improve call center customer satisfaction. Managers can also reference the summaries during one-on-one coaching sessions to enhance agent performance.

12. Report consistent patterns and roadblocks to management

Team leads and agents must work together to deliver stellar customer service. If you notice recurring issues (internal or external), alert management to collaborate and identify solutions. Whether you’re dealing with a difficult customer, answering repeat questions about a service or product, or experiencing other patterns or roadblocks, leverage your management team for effective troubleshooting.

13. Take regular breaks

Employee well-being can impact business operations, so taking regular breaks and prioritizing self-care is critical to staying personally and professionally healthy. Consider using these breaks to stretch, practice yoga, take walks, drink water, or do something else you enjoy.

14. Leverage AI to boost productivity

Simplify interactions and streamline solutions by leveraging call center software with AI features and automation. AI in customer service can:

  • Intelligently route calls to the best, most qualified agents based on customer sentiment, intent, and language

  • Prepare after-call summaries and a list of next steps

  • Generate call transcripts automatically

  • Deflect calls to AI agents over digital channels

By handling previously manual tasks, AI frees up call center representatives to focus on other activities, increasing productivity.

A CX statistic is next to a three-panel image of a man and two women communicating on different channels.

15. Monitor call quality

Quality monitoring (QM) is the process of reviewing all interactions to optimize performance and reduce customer churn. Using AI-powered quality assurance tools, teams can consistently analyze conversations, identify problematic interactions, and provide coaching or training for agents, which can foster agent engagement.

QM involves tracking call center metrics like first contact resolution, average talk time, and call abandonment rate to evaluate a call center’s success and efficiency.

16. Spotlight great work

While call listening is a best practice for identifying problem areas, it’s also helpful for recognizing employees who exceed expectations. Use your findings to highlight good work, skill growth, and employee achievements. Public (or private) employee recognition can improve the agent experience and encourage other agents to go above and beyond for customers.

17. Use forecasting to schedule agents

Good customer service requires thoughtful staffing and accurate future planning. By analyzing historical data, workforce forecasting helps customer service call center managers predict staffing needs and reduce overtime or scheduling gaps. Meanwhile, AI workforce management tools can automatically schedule call center agents and personalize each team member’s shift, saving time for both managers and agents.

Forecasting is crucial for call center workforce management, as it helps streamline time tracking, optimize productivity, and mitigate risks associated with seasonality, business demand, and customer expectations.

A CX statistic sits next to a three-panel image of three people on laptops discussing graphs floating above their heads.

18. Choose the right call center software

Your call center is only as strong as the call center software that supports it. Invest in software that enhances the employee experience (EX) by choosing a solution that offers:

  • Omnichannel options to meet customers where they are
  • Integration capabilities with existing systems
  • Scalability to grow with a business
  • Security systems to enhance customer data privacy
  • Reporting and analytics to get a deeper look into performance

At Zendesk, we offer modern call center software options with advanced features, including AI agents, intelligent routing, and other AI capabilities that streamline customer interactions.

Frequently asked questions

Drive better customer experiences with proper call center etiquette

Whether you run an inbound or outbound call center, too many negative support experiences can lead to customer churn and harm your company’s reputation. By following our customer service tips for call centers and implementing proper etiquette and call center management best practices, you can prevent those issues and build a thriving call center.

To maintain the success of your call center, you must prioritize your agents’ well-being by encouraging breaks, mindfulness, and reasonable boundaries. This approach will enable them to provide innovative solutions without compromising their wellness.

Investing in a comprehensive, AI-powered customer service software solution like Zendesk will also empower you to develop better customer relationships and enhance the employee experience.

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