Frustration on the customer service frontline

20th Dec 2019

Today's frontline employees are facing a Catch-22 as their organisations continue to push them to their limits to improve customer experience without giving them the tools to do so. When a customer calls up customer service, they are seeking a one-stop solution: they expect their agent to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the product, the services provided and the company policies. However, the reality is that only 35% of agents say this is possible, as the majority don’t have the AI tools required, and more than half (53%) don’t have access to a suitable knowledge base.

According to a new survey conducted by LogMeIn and Ovum, there is a direct correlation between agent frustration and customer discontent with 85% of customer-facing employees expressing a high degree of frustration because they can’t meet customer expectations. Employees want to step up but are being hindered by mediocre training and outdated tools. If businesses don’t take action, they risk losing customer loyalty and revenue will ultimately suffer.

Customer demands & eroding agent morale

For a customer there is nothing worse than calling up customer service and being passed from pillar to post in a bid to get their query answered. The frustration associated with this experience more often than not results in a complaint, hence why the ultimate objective for customer service agents is first contact resolution (FCR). Despite this goal, many employees are still reliant on colleagues for help (29%). In fact, agents report that one in five interactions require a call back while 13% of calls get transferred, both of which only increase customer frustration. Combine this with high agent churn rates that are largely driven by poor management support and which often exceed 100% per year, according to Ovum research, and the result is a highly negative customer service experience for all involved.

So, what can businesses do to make for a more pleasant one?

Equipping agents with the tools for success

In order to deliver exceptional customer service, agents need to be confident in their ability to apply the proper tools and knowledge, source the correct information and deliver it in a timely manner. Automated next-best actions (NBA) can be a complex, resource-heavy process to develop, so it is understandable that many companies are not using true NBA. What is worrying, though, is that many are not using technology of any sort to enable consistency in agent instructions and guidance.

Too often, businesses are short-sighted – insisting on finding short-term solutions to long-term problems. Rather than encouraging employees to seek advice from colleagues/supervisors which often results in inconsistencies, businesses should be investing in knowledge databases and AI-driven, automated systems to provide in-process guidance. These highly accurate technology solutions offer vital short-cuts which can improve productivity and, more importantly, agent and customer satisfaction.

Unlocking AI potential

Most enterprises are still at an early stage when it comes to AI strategy and implementation. The majority of managers are either in the process of formulating their AI strategy (38%) or have an early phase strategy in place (28%). And yet whilst most managers are seemingly clued up on AI, most of their teams remain in the dark. Although it makes little sense to give employees AI tools without showing them how to get the most from them, dedicated AI training is in short supply. In fact, only a quarter of customer-facing employees having this type of program available to them. Moreover, the provision of high-quality AI training can be a means to opening new career paths for employees, keeping talent and knowledge in-house while at the same time squashing concerns that staff may have over job losses.

Once basic AI training has been implemented correctly the possibilities are endless and so is the potential to have wide-spread business impact. The current top AI deployments are for automating routine tasks (60%) and assisting agents in real time (50%), followed by customer journey mapping. The focus on these AI use cases is understandable as they present benefits that are easy to understand, which in turn makes it easier to justify the investment. But this is just the beginning. Many forward-thinking businesses are already looking at robotic process automation and self-service solutions with conversational AI.

With all this talk of robots, AI and automation, it’s easy to get carried away and assume that businesses are out to replace human customer service agents with robot counterparts - this is far from the truth. By equipping agents on the frontline, businesses are providing the tools to make their human workforce more successful – freeing up time spent on mundane tasks and instead giving their agents more time to add true value and a human touch.

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