What your customer service agents’ top priorities should be in 2019

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This is a guest post from Chris Ryba, Director of Professional Services at VHT.

With all the attention paid to the digital transformation and artificial intelligence, one important fact bears repeating: Your customers value ease and convenience in their customer service interactions, and they don’t much care about the technology your brand has invested in behind the scenes. In fact, CCW’s recent special report titled “Augmenting Contact Center Automation” found that 71 percent of customers, across all age demographics, still prefer phone/voice for customer service.

As the people who communicate directly with your customers, your agents are the human face of your brand. Their smiling voices are the real gauge by which your customers judge their experience. Therefore, as businesses recognize the importance of a valuable customer experience, they must also recognize the value of their own customer service agents – perhaps more than at any other time in the history of the contact center. So how can you and your agents make the most of the opportunities provided at this time?

Get to Know Your AI Tools

Considering the rate of recent investments in artificial intelligence, it’s likely your agents have (or will soon have) a new best friend at work. Whether it’s a chatbot to handle the most basic customer service interactions, an updated IVR with advanced speech recognition and routing, or a knowledge management system that provides real-time customer information, your agents must thoroughly understand the system’s benefits and limitations. Perhaps most importantly, your agents need to understand their role as the human voice of the business and how they can most efficiently work with these new tools to deliver the best customer service.

Diversify Your Channel Service

CCW has also reported in the “The Future of the Contact Center in 2019” that contact centers today serve an average of nine channels. Whichever channels your center serves, your agents need to be prepared to offer excellent service according to the needs of your customers and their own personal strengths. This could mean, for example, that some agents with good phone personalities and who think well on their feet focus more on the voice channel, while others who communicate well through the written word answer emails and texts, and still others who like to work a flexible schedule provide timely responses on social media. Another option for your center would be to train all your agents to be generalists who can offer good customer service through whatever channel a customer approaches.

Diversify Your Agents

The most exciting and potentially intimidating development in today’s contact center may be that your agents are asked to shift from the perspective of transactional order-takers to being expert consultants who should be prepared to offer the most proactive service through an intimate knowledge of your company and all its products, as well as upselling and cross-selling opportunities. Therefore, it’s no surprise that CCW reported that training is the top investment focus for 61 percent of organizations, followed closely by coaching at 60 percent.

The good news for your agents is that their jobs should become considerably more interesting, and they’ll likely have frequent opportunities to distinguish themselves. However, the devil is in the details of each contact. Since your customers are expecting more personal service and less scripted interaction, it is crucial that your agents regularly receive training in and consistently use new skills in active listening, relationship building, and problem solving, to name just a few avenues.

Leverage Feedback

As your contact center changes focus from transactions to relationship building, your key performance indicators will change as well — from basic statistics to metrics like NPS and first contact resolution. This means your agents could stop worrying about, say, average handle time and instead focus on providing the smoothest customer experience.

Today’s contact centers have access to additional customer data that good agents will note. “Voice of the customer” initiatives could be as simple as one-question automated surveys or as technical as voice analysis and emotion detection, but it’s important that agents take the data about their own activities and use it to improve their own skill sets, using the knowledge from any problem areas to inform and inspire a higher level of performance.

Leverage Yourselves

It’s been reported that contact center turnover rates have historically been as high as 45 percent. However, with better tools, more diversification, more in-depth training, and a more supportive work environment, is it possible the days of thinking about customer service as a static, entry-level job are over?

The systems are in place for your agents to take pride in their activities and to develop a sense of purpose at work. A few meaningful, practical goals can keep your whole team accountable to the organization’s overall goals; real success comes when these goals are used to prioritize how your agents’ time is spent most productively.

The companies and agents who work the hardest to improve the agents’ and customers’ shared experience will reap the most rewards in the future. Start with the “low-hanging fruit” that should provide the most striking improvement for your agents. As you work with them toward the goal of a truly customer-focused contact center, you’ll find you’re also cultivating empowered, productive agents who are proud to work for you.

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This is a guest post from Chris Ryba, Director of Professional Services at VHT.

About Chris

Chris RybaChris Ryba, PMP, is the Director of Professional Services at VHT, a leader in callback solutions. As a seasoned technology professional with over 20 years experience in the IT/Telecom industry, Ryba has been actively involved in formulating processes, procedures, and guidelines intended to streamline project lifecycles from post-sale integration kickoff through production deployment.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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