The power of listening

22nd Aug 2022

The contact centre is the beating heart of consumer-to-brand communication. Agents naturally have a great deal of weight on their shoulders, which in the past resulted in a stressful and uncomfortable work environment.  

Historically, contact centres became the Big Brother houses of communications. Someone was watching your every move throughout the day. From time spent on the phone, to time spent in the bathroom, everything was logged. Progress was driven by statistics, such as how many calls had been taken or how many calls were dropped in the queue. But in such a rigid environment, the very essence of the contact centre was lost, and agents very quickly got burnt out.  

At the very heart of the problem, it comes down to this: centre managers are not listening to their agents. The solution to evolving and improving operations is sat right in front of them (physically or figuratively), so it’s up to the managers to take that next step in the right direction and champion their agents, to benefit both the workforce and the business.  

Each agent is different 

Each contact centre agent has unique past experiences and skillsets, having worked in different contact centres with varying priorities and ways of working – especially over the past few years. As an example, the rise of omnichannel has introduced new forms of communication between contact centre and customer, ranging from traditional phone, to email, social media, and video engagement.  

A dilemma arises however, when contact centres begin pushing their agents to work with channels to which they’re less accustomed. Imagine working on email contacts your entire career, to then suddenly be forced to interact with customers over the phone. Naturally, this is likely to cause unnecessary amounts of stress. Plus, this will inevitably have a knock-on effect on the business, as these individuals may not work as effectively with unfamiliar channels, therefore leading to a drop in productivity.  

While developments like omnichannel facilitate greater customer service and a wider selection of accessible platforms, not all agents are comfortable using them all equally, and perhaps do not feel sufficiently supported by their managers to do so. We’re embracing a progressively digital world, which is encouraging contact centres to change how they interact with customers, but not necessarily how they operationally work. So, managers, it’s all about listening to what your agents are telling you.  

Championing agents  

More recently, businesses have been on the lookout for ‘SuperAgents’ – the ones who can immediately jump through every hoop, solving customer problems left, right and centre, whilst also keeping up with the latest internal process. What these organisations fail to appreciate is that the ‘SuperAgent’ process is a journey that takes time, backed up by a supportive environment where the employer takes into consideration the unique skillset of the individuals.  

There are so many layers to a contact centre, but at the heart of it all is delivering quality customer service. Organisations therefore need to help agents provide this service by making the process as simple as possible so the individual can focus on the one task of addressing the caller’s needs. They need to facilitate and champion the contact centre agent role, which means empowering individuals with the right technology. 

Using technology effectively 

Within contact centres, technology can filter out the mundane and leave agents with the more strategic, value-add requests. Not only does it mean that customers are provided with the right support and solutions faster, but some of the pressure is taken off agents who previously would have been responsible for addressing all incoming queries. With this approach, agents can dedicate more time to the higher value tasks, complex interactions and building rapport with their customers. 

Technology can also help train agents and improve internal processes. AI engines that work in the background will soon allow supervisors to monitor calls in real-time and intervene should the agent need assistance at any stage.  

The most important factor when it comes to AI is not to jump in headfirst and try to do everything at once. This technology offers great value, but only when implemented correctly. Otherwise, businesses could end up with an inefficient process that is physically incapable of delivering good customer service – and subsequently fails to contribute to burnout alleviation. The tools that businesses immediately deploy outwards for customers, are often just as valuable internally.  

Implementing innovative solutions, such as AI, in an effort to shape the contact centre around the growing digital world, will ultimately help banish agent burnout from the centre. It essentially all comes down to managers asking their agents this very simple question: what do you need to better support you in your role?  

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