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      Despite the surging popularity of social media and text messaging, traditional phone interactions are still occurring by the billions when it comes to B2C interactions. The number of phone calls made from a mobile device to a business each year has increased steadily. Last year, an estimated 77 billion calls were made to businesses from mobile devices. Projections show that number climbing to 162 billion by 2019.

      This increase in phone interactions is a result of growing customer impatience with inefficient services. More and more, customers desire first contact resolution when contacting businesses. When customers are on the phone with contact center agents, they want their issues solved as quickly as possible—that’s why they called in. If their problem is not time sensitive, they may email or post to social media. But when customers really need a solution fast, they call under the rationale that 1) they will interact with a real person and 2) that calling will solve their issue on the first try.

      When customers experience an extended period of silence, the purpose behind making a call is lost.  Similar to waiting for an email response, the customer has no idea what is happening on the agent end. While ten or twenty seconds may not feel long for a contact center agent who is busy solving customer issues, it feels like an eternity for customers, decreasing customer satisfaction. “Dead air” kills customer confidence and sucks the life out of customer satisfaction.

      To keep up with the shifting needs of customers, it is crucial that supervisors do not neglect traditional phone interaction training for their agents, and allow “dead air” to frustrate and scare off customers.

      Drawn from the wisdom of contact center veterans, here are six ways to avoid “dead air” during customer interactions.

      1. Have agents explain what they are doing.

      The simplest and most effective way to fill dead air is to have agents thoroughly explain the process and steps involved with solving a problem. It keeps the customer informed and shows them that the agent is actually working to fix the issue.

      1. Upsell promotions and incentives.

      Upselling is a great way to fill space.  But, it comes with risks.  For irate customers who already have issues with your service, often the last thing they want to hear is how they can spend more money or receive more services.  While discussing promotions and incentives can fill time, it must be done appropriately by experienced agents.

      1. Use gentle warnings to prepare the customer for upcoming dead air.

      Sometimes, customers do not mind dead air. Customers may use dead air to their advantage, attending to other tasks while waiting for the agent to respond.  But even multi-tasking customers need to know that agents are not ignoring their issues. Simply warning the customer that there will a minute or two of silence is enough to maintain their trust and confidence.

      1. Place customers on hold for extended waiting times.

      Putting a customer on hold is not ideal, but at least the customer is not experiencing complete silence.  This should be considered a final measure for inexperienced agents only.

      1. Find out more information about the customer.

      Reserved exclusively for your more experienced agents, sometimes the best strategy for dealing with awkward silences is to just talk.  An experienced agent can use this time to ask the customer about themselves, gaining further information to be used for customer profiles.  Of course, this should not be encouraged unless an agent is skilled enough to continue solving the customer issue while making appropriate, non-invasive small talk.

      1. Make your agents stand during dead air.

      This may sound silly, but contact center supervisors use it all the time to demonstrate to agents how long dead air feels to the customer.  Having your newer agents stand during instances of dead air is a great way to show them how exhausting dead air can be for the customer.

      For more tips and tricks to improve contact center practices, visit the AireContact blog. Try some of them out and tell us how it goes!