For many companies, the front line of customer experience—the contact centre—isn’t meeting customer expectations. And though brands are adopting all kinds of new technology to better interact with and understand what customers want and need, the answer to delivering the right experience may be simpler than they think. At the very core of customer experience is human interactions; to truly see return on customer experience investments, brands should invest in their most valuable assets: agents in the contact centre.
According to new research from Calabrio, customer demands are increasingly complex, the number of inquiries are swelling to new levels and agents are feeing ill-equipped to solve the ever-growing list of customer requests. There’s a lot riding on agent interactions, and the lack of support has many feeling stressed out, abandoned and stuck in a pressure cooker of expectation. The effects of a burned out contact centre workforce can be devastating—just consider that 82 percent of people have stopped doing business with companies due to poor customer experience.
Agents are in the precarious position of falling behind and are failing to meet customer expectations—to help them succeed, brands must take an employee-first approach. By taking the time to understand contact centre headaches and investing in the agent experience, organizations stand to gain far more than any customer behavior tracking technology can deliver. A stronger focus on agents helps brands keep up with customer experience demands, decrease employee attrition and capitalize on growth opportunities. Here’s where to start.
Measure what matters
Often, contact centre agents are measured on criteria such as average call handle time or first call resolution, but those metrics incentivise agents to get customers off the phone as quickly as possible. To drive desired behaviour, managers should focus on equipping agents with the right tools to do their jobs more efficiently. A full 34 percent of agents don’t believe they have the right data to adequately handle customer needs, and 21 percent want more training in their current roles. By collecting data on agent behaviour and measuring that against customer data and call outcomes, contact centre managers can learn what’s working (and what isn’t) to better inform and train agents to succeed.
Not only will agent performance data allow managers to give personalized feedback on a regular basis, it can also steer best practices across the department. For example, if a high-performing agent is experiencing high levels of success in solving customer problems, managers can analyse which resources were used and how that person approached the issue. Those techniques can be incorporated into training strategies for other agents.
Remove old stereotypes
Customer expectations and communication preferences are changing. Self-service and new communication channels are emerging all the time, giving customers faster, easier access to the answers they need. To keep up with these changes, it’s only natural that the role of contact centre agents evolves and changes, too—but that’s not always the case. Many contact centres rely on antiquated technologies and processes, reducing agents to stereotypical script-reading representatives.
Despite the emergence of self-service communication channels, call volume is increasing, indicating that customers are picking up the phones when self-service falls short, and forcing agents to handle more complex customer issues. Unfortunately, many agents don’t believe they can meet customer demands: 60 percent of agents feel that their technology is falling short. And with advanced technology—such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and integration with voice technology—becoming mainstream, brands like Uber and Dominos are already capitalizing by giving customers the ability to order a ride or a pizza using Amazon Alexa. This puts contact centres at risk of falling even further behind the tech tools curve. To be successful, brands must rethink the roles of contact centre agents by not only equipping them with the right tools and technology, but also treating (and training) them like high-level, customer experience specialists.
Overall, contact centre agents are stressed out—and for good reason. They’re inundated with a never-ending stream of customer problems and there’s no end in sight. A quarter of agents (25 percent) feel stressed multiple times per week, and over half (52 percent) don’t believe that their companies are doing enough to prevent agent burnout. If customers are speaking with agents who are disengaged and feel like they’re in a perpetual flood of customer problems, they’ll likely be on the receiving end of a poor customer experience–meaning they’ll take their business elsewhere. Not only that, agents experiencing burnout are likely to look for other jobs, and that attrition can cost brands dearly.
To combat burnout and turnover, many brands have looked for ways to give employees mobility and flexibility in order to promote work-life balance in an always-connected, digital world. Unfortunately, the contact centre hasn’t experienced the benefits of the changing workforce. For agents, a flexible work environment and better technology are at the top of their priority lists and, with new technology, it’s finally possible to give agents the flexibility and mobility they crave. The first step for brands is to listen to what agents want and learn about their process, struggles and successes. Only then can they implement solutions that help agents distress and deliver in a big way.
By taking a people-first approach in the contact centre, brands can move one large step closer to customer experience success. When companies implement new processes, tools and technology to better equip agents to do their increasingly-complex jobs, customers and agents reap the benefits.
Tom Goodmanson, President and CEO of Calabrio, has more than 20 years of experience leading fast growing dynamic software and technology companies. Since assuming the CEO position in 2009, Tom is credited with reinventing the company and its culture around a strategy to expand value and reach through new, innovative products, and remarkable customer experiences. Addressing the market need for simpler solutions to complex customer interaction challenges, Tom’s vision to redefine the standard for software ease-of-use has been instrumental in making Calabrio one of the fastest growing companies in the industry. Prior to his role at Calabrio, Tom was a senior leader in several successful technology-based companies, including Gelco Information Network and Magenic Technologies. Tom currently holds a board seat at Virteva. Tom has a B.S. degree in Accounting from St. Cloud State University.