In today’s world of cutthroat international competition, companies are always looking for an edge. First-class customer service, along with good products and services, makes you stand out from the rest.
Research says that empowering call center agents to make decisions in the moment is one of the best, most efficient ways to make your customer experience a good one. Agents are on your customer-relations front line. Their direct personal experience with your customers gives them valuable information and insight into how to create the best customer service.
Here are some tips on how to empower your call center agents.
Hire people with the right attitude
It takes a special kind of person to make the best of an empowered culture. Look for self-motivated people who will thrive in that atmosphere. You might consider giving applicants personality tests and conducting group interviews to see how people communicate and interact.
Start with small steps
You can’t just wake up one day and decide to have an empowered workforce, especially if your company has been running on more authoritarian lines. You need your people’s trust and full support. Empower your employees in small matters first. Let them pick the food in the office vending machines. Get their feedback on the office dress code. Show that you value their opinions on small matters and you’ll have their full buy-in when you move on to larger things.
Have a plan in place
Building an empowered workforce isn’t an impulsive decision─it will change your company dynamics at all levels. Set policy as to how your agents are empowered and to what extent. What happens if they go too far? Which customers call for the most leeway?
Create an empowerment culture
Respect your agents. Make sure that they have the support of all departments. For instance, can they easily call for assistance from Engineering? Empowering call center agents means that they need to able to get the necessary assistance to implement their decisions.
Train, train, train
Training people to make informed decisions is a much more complex and difficult task than training them to follow a set of rules.
You might need to change your training regimen altogether.
Make sure your people know what to expect before you let them loose in the wild.
Capture and share best practices
Don’t just talk about how not to do things wrong. Show your agents the times when everything went right. Let them listen to recordings of your top agents successfully dealing with difficult problems.
It’s a great idea to ask your best agents to help with training─it shows your appreciation and respect, and they will have invaluable insights to offer.
Don’t punish people for making mistakes
Empowering call center agents means allowing them to make decisions with consequences. If you punish someone for trying to implement one of your initiatives you’ll lose the trust of the entire team.
Involve your entire organizational structure
The roles of your managers and supervisors will change drastically under the new regime. With agents able to make decisions, managers will be acting more as coaches and advisors instead of monitoring rules compliance.
Get a great knowledge management system
Give your agents the best information you can. Integrate all customer information into a unified CRM. Logs from past calls, pending requests, social media, email (and everything else you can think of) should be easily accessible. Your agents need the complete picture to make the best decisions.
Give your agents a usable, unified interface
Don’t trap your agents in multi-tab hell. A unified, easily-searchable interface will help them find the right information at the right time.
Track the right metrics
You’ll need to figure out how to measure the behavior you want. Average handle time won’t tell you much about how good that customer experience was─in fact, if the customer feels the problem wasn’t solved, it might have been a terrible customer experience!
First call resolution percentages or metrics based on customer loyalty will tell you more about what you need to know to monitor and test your empowerment initiatives.
Reward the right stuff
It doesn’t do any good to empower your agents to go the extra mile if you’re still rewarding them based on how fast they get the customer off the phone. Set up your metrics to measure the excellence of the customer service and you’ll see who your best performers are.
Listen to your agents
Set up focus groups where your agents can discuss their frustrations and brainstorm ideas. They might be able to see opportunities invisible to people who don’t have their boots on the ground.
Give your agents input into schedules
Empowering your agents works best when you support initiatives in all ways. Let your agents pick their schedule preferences. You could put up a trade board where they can swap shifts, or even set up a system for them to set their own breaks.
Involve your team in the big decisions
Let your agents know the reasons behind management decisions. Get their feedback. You don’t need to follow every suggestion, but knowing that you value their opinions makes your employees feel more engaged─they’re valued team members, not just robots to do your bidding. If they know the company’s goals and plans for the future, they can make decisions to support them.
Empowering call center agents gives your company the flexibility to create the best possible customer service. The people who know the best action to take in the moment are usually the people who are there facing the situation.