It’s not easy being a call center agent these days.
Customer demands have soared over the past year. Online buying is at an all-time high. Logistical delays and related issues have triggered high call volumes. Even the most patient customers are fed up with long wait times.
Even in “normal” times, customers do not appreciate being passed from one agent to the next, only to still not have their issue resolved. Add in the fact that they’re increasingly vocal about a bad customer experience and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Nobody likes a bad review.
Customers understand that the impact of COVID-19 is here to stay. Their patience is thin, and they expect contact centers to adapt to the crisis now. But truth be told, most contact centers were woefully unprepared for the pandemic. Many are still scrambling to cope with call volume – particularly those in health care, government, and financial services.
Customer expectations about contact centers have changed dramatically.
Customers prefer live interaction when they want answers to urgent and complex issues. According to a recent study, 55% of customers prefer speaking to a human customer service agent on the phone. Customers want opportunities to ask, explain, and negotiate with customer service. They like to solve urgent matters by talking to a person, not a bot.
The dramatic shift in customer expectations is all the more reason to ensure your agents are set up for success in 2021.
These are the three areas where contact center agents need to succeed in order for your business to succeed:
1. How You Train Your Contact Center Agents Matters
Businesses are investing in better contact center management tools as a way to improve the data, workflow, and analytics required to respond to customer needs quickly. With that, comes an even more pressing need for training.
Often, the go-to solution for addressing volumes is to either add more contact center agents or more digital channels. Digital channels such as self-service portals can help reduce call volumes, but never assume your customers will automatically migrate to a digital platform – especially in times of crisis. But simply adding agents is a bandaid solution.
Coaching your call center agents and offering training are obvious ways to support your people and ensure they are being trained to handle the complex issues that arise. It is important to provide your agents with empathy training, offering flexible work arrangements, or deliver lunch to their homes.
Some of the other ways to train call center agents include:
- Educate call center agents about your business to understand how your products and services work, the benefits, and how customers are using them.
- Provide tips to call center agents around best practices, answer common questions, deal with challenging situations, etc.
- Incorporate strong process documentation for your agents to refer back to.
- Stress the importance of good communication skills and etiquette excellence. Your people need to understand that knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it is essential when delivering a great customer experience.
- Make it easy for agents to find answers to a customer’s question. The last thing you want is a customer waiting on the line for an answer.
- Identify your best agents and train them to become advocates, evangelists, and leaders among their peers.
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2. Motivating and Rewarding Contact Center Agents Works
Reward and recognize your contact center agents. It is especially relevant when agents may be struggling with uncertainty and unique challenges in their personal lives.
You can drive contact center motivation by keeping morale up. Contact centers are typically busy hives of activity, bustling with energy. It’s important to find ways to connect the team, especially when agents are working remotely.
To succeed, contact centers need to embrace creative thinking, and new tools to effectively handle customer needs today and in the future. To respond to the evolving marketing conditions, it’s important to adopt new ways of working.
This has meant new infrastructures, new management systems, and new processes to support a remote workforce for many contact centers. A more agile approach to managing work and the workforce enables contact centers to meet customer demands most effectively in volatile environments.
Technology offers fun and cost-effective options. Integrate flexibility by offering a choice of rewards. Some agents might appreciate a grocery store gift card to help them buy essentials. Maintaining a positive culture, despite the current challenges, means recognizing agents for their contribution and shouldering the pressure of a situation that’s entirely out of their control.
Consider a virtual team building event to keep your remote team engaged. According to an Alfresco survey of more than 753 business professionals, it was found that nearly 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate.
Play bingo or trivia, run a scavenger hunt or engage your team in an escape room scenario. If games aren’t your thing, host a virtual experience with a compelling keynote speaker, offer a cooking class, or invite a yoga instructor to take your team through a yoga session.
Some agents may require stronger communication to offset the impact of the pandemic on their lives. These could include providing agents with the latest information, frequent communication of daily changes that have customer impacts, and making time every day to celebrate jobs well done.
Contact center agents and the customer service they deliver are the bloodline of your company. Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize the impact your agents have and your business and your brand.
3. Establish How to Rate Your Contact Center Agent Performance
A key part of contact center success is assessing the performance of your agents. The more you know about your people, the better you can determine how to make improvements in different areas.
Some of the key metrics include:
- Average call abandonment rate
- Average time in the queue
- Service level
- The average speed of answer
- Average handle time
- First call resolution
These performance metrics will allow you to effectively measure agency productivity and performance and provide insight into how well your customers are served and how well they are satisfied. It will also help you assess where your agents are falling short and how you can coach them up to improve and do better.
Listen to and support your contact center agents. Customers will notice.
It’s no surprise that agent experience equals customer experience. Agent optimization tools can offer critical insight in rapidly changing environments. Agent optimization tools help leaders access contact center agent feedback, gauge how customers feel, and measure how interactions are changing.
More successful contact center agents make your customers happy and loyal, reduce challenging situations, and drive more productive and efficient operations. It is important to invest in your people so they can do their jobs better every day.