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It’s the Holidays – and People are Stressed

This time of year can be overwhelming for many, creating extra pressure in their already stressful lives. Unfortunately, this stress can also bleed over when they interact with a contact center agent. Regardless of the type of transaction, terse conversations can occur via chat, email or good old telephone. When that happens, it is up to the agent to diffuse the situation and ensure a pleasant end to the transaction.

When diffusing tense situations, it is important to first be self-aware. High caliber agents naturally handle tough scenarios because of their innate ability to remain calm and focused. However, even the most practiced agent can have a tough transaction with a customer. To stay on track, remember to practice good transaction etiquette:

  1. Refrain from mentioning specific holiday greetings.  We must be respectful of everyone, so do not end transactions with a holiday greeting that is specific to a religion or country.
  2. Remain calm no matter what. It’s a stressful time for many people, so no matter how aggressive the transaction begins or gets, remain calm and focused on the issue that requires resolution.
  3. Keep smiling. Your attitude comes through on every transaction, so smile when you respond (even with chat or email).
  4. Build rapport. Engage the customer, ask pertinent questions and remain calm. Typically most people will calm down and engage with you in a respectful manner.
  5. Use active listening skills. Listen intently to the customer’s issue, repeat so they know you understood, and then engage in a solution. Often customers simply want to be heard.
  6. Slow down and breathe. You set the pace for the transaction so it is handled with ease and grace. Allowing the customer to remain in control when he is stressed will only escalate an issue that otherwise could have been resolved.
  7. Remember it’s not personal. One of the best ways to help a stressed-out customer is to remember that you are not the problem. The customer has an issue that requires resolution and you can help him. Step up and get the issue solved regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. The customer will be happy in the end.

These tips are call center 101, but during a particularly busy time of year, it is important to return to basics. All the high-end technology and sales tactics will not alleviate the customer’s stress. By focusing on that customer and taking control of the transaction, agents can easily resolve issues while giving the customer something to smile about during a hectic holiday season.

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