A worker is only as good as their tools is not an excuse, it’s just true.
For most businesses these days, customer experience is a source of differentiation, and the contact centre is at the very heart of delivering this competitive edge.
To make a customer experience seamless, you need to be connecting the customer with the right team member rapidly and effortlessly, keeping those interactions as short as they need to be, answering queries correctly first time where possible, and taking the appropriate follow-up actions without delay. But far too often, contact centre agents are being expected to deliver great results with one hand tied behind their backs, as they are not given the tools that enable them to deliver a great experience to customers.
The most important people in your organisation
Given the increased popularity of digital channels and the reduced level of interaction a customer has with a brand, it is often the contact centre team that are the face (or voice) of your brand with your customers. This means your contact centre team are among your company’s most important team members.
However good automation gets, your customers are always going to value personal interactions with another human. In fact, as automation gets better, it means your contact centre team are only going to be dealing with the thorniest and emotionally charged customer queries.
Their job is likely to become more complex and involving, not less. In theory this should also make the job more interesting and rewarding, but without the right technology, the job will become more frustrating. Not only will your CX suffer, so will your staff and you will find it harder to recruit and retain increasingly valuable team members.
Technology should empower team members as well as customers
We read a lot about how contact centre and CX technology helps customers. Usually this focuses on self-service technologies like bots, and multi-channel technology such as webchat and messaging. We also read about cloud contact centre platforms, AI analytics that deliver business insight and customer intelligence, and workforce management tools that allow contact centre managers to plan and schedule more flexibly and profitably.
What’s less focused on, is the technology that empowers your most valuable asset – your people.
There are three key ways your contact centre operation can use technology to support and empower your frontline agents.
- Firstly, they need help finding the right information at the exact moment they need it.
- Secondly, they need to be able to focus on high-impact tasks that add value for customers.
- Thirdly they need day-to-day support to continuously improve, develop skills, and move forward in their careers.
If you provide your agents with means to accomplish those things, they will love you as an employer and they will want to work for you. The knock-on effect is they will treat your customers better, and your business will feel the benefits of that. Let’s look at each in turn.
Information and knowledge
The types of queries that automation cannot handle, no matter how good it gets, are the more complex ones. These require problem solving, empathy, and intuition to handle correctly – which are all human traits.
On the other hand, quickly recalling the right piece of information from among tens of thousands of data points or identifying the correct next step to take in a complex process, is something that computers can be programmed to do well.
It is important that agents can effectively obtain customer data, have confidence in the information they are passing on to customers and know what steps to take to resolve a customer’s issue. It is a natural outcome that average handling times are reduced, and first contact resolution rates are increased when agents can get the answers they need faster.
Helpdesk and knowledge management software can assist agents by giving them the means to search and track down information more quickly and be confident that it is accurate. An interactive helpdesk allows them to query a support team of their peers and supervisors in real-time. They can also query all previous questions and the best rated responses. A knowledge management system allows them to type in search queries using natural language and find answers from the knowledge base, which will include information on the company’s products, services, policies, and processes.
Ideally two-way feedback between agents and leaders is in place so that everyone can contribute, shape, and improve the knowledge base exponentially.
Handing off to automation
Let’s face it, some aspects of most jobs can be quite rote and tedious. For contact centre agents, when they get bogged down with paperwork, data entry, and compliance, their focus is being taken away from what’s important, which is building rapport with customers and achieving great outcomes for them.
As many tasks as possible that happen in wrap or during calls – such as copying data from one system to another, sending an email, letter or package, processing an order or payment – should be automated. This doesn’t require full-blown RPA (Robotic Process Automation), just a simple workflow that can be launched by the agent at the appropriate point.
We have also created a cloud-based terms and conditions engine, called Cerebro, which automates some of the more time-consuming compliance procedures, reading out lengthy terms and conditions to customers and having them agree to them. Not only does it save time for agents – who can get on with other work after handing over to the automated system – it’s more accurate as there’s no room for human error or misinterpretation.
Our frontline team report significantly improved satisfaction with the process, reducing both their stress and handling time with customers.
Supporting agent growth and development
Almost without exception, employees are happier and more effective when their efforts are recognised and rewarded, and they are given the opportunity to develop new skills and make progress within the company. What might have started out as a job can turn into a potential career, improving their engagement with their role and the organisation.
Targeted coaching and development provide agents with the sense that they are supported and taken care of. It reinforces the capabilities of the team and improves both the quality and efficiency of the customer experience.
This can be facilitated through solutions such as TSA’s Support Cell, which allows agents to send questions to a dedicated expert team that not only provides guidance to but also tracks the details of each question. Support Cell can be accessed during customer interactions, in between calls and in downtime to provide agents with on-the-job training and support at their desks.
Furthermore, as everything is recorded, it gives team leaders time to focus on higher value activities instead of answering the same questions over and over. Questions and responses are centralised and can also be used to provide insights for team leaders to tailor coaching plans for individuals.
Look after the people who look after your customers
Customers will always want to talk to a fellow human when they have a challenging query. It’s our view that automated self-service systems just aren’t equipped to handle these types of complex queries, and likely won’t be for a long time (if ever). It means the role of the agent in the contact centre will become more important than ever, as these types of complex queries are the ultimate test of your organisation’s commitment to excellence and to delivering a great customer experience.
Advances in AI, automation, analytics, and real-time communications technologies can be deployed to enhance the agent’s experience, and thereby improve the service they are able to offer your customers. The result is a win for the agent, a win for your customers, and a double win for your organisation as happier employees are going to stay with you and treat your customers better.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX consultancy and contact centre services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.