Harvard Business Review published an article on “Reinventing Customer Service,” and I believe they—and one of our customers—are onto something.
For years, I’ve been speaking and writing about the transformation of agents that needs to (and, in some cases, is) taking place in the contact center. This transformation is multi-pronged
On people: We really need to think about our models of hiring, training, and keeping our employees, especially in customer experience. If we’re losing 27% (which may be low) of these employees, we need to ask, “Why?” This is especially true considering these folks are our front line to our customers. Don’t you all want to keep them? Of course, you do—so we should look deeper into what’s happening.
First, let’s think about the customer landscape. What are they doing? They are trying to self-serve, and they’re doing so in a variety of ways: on the web, on your app, through social media. Please understand this is where they go first. They will almost always be on their mobile device.
They may chat on the app, or through the website (that’s probably next). They really hope they can solve their problem, but if not…
The dreaded phone call.
When it reaches that point, what is the experience?
Usually, it starts over with identifying the problem, authenticating, hearing disclaimers, and having to choose their path through the IVR. How many are pounding 0 at this time? More than you can count… and you may not be counting.
Now, I want you to shift to the environment the agents are in—and it may not be a traditional contact center at all, as we are hearing reports that at least 30% of agents will remain at home post-COVID.
- If your agents are in an actual center: Does it resemble a factory? Is it run like that, as well? Are there people roaming the aisles to make sure quality is the highest? Are people taken off the floor for a “quality talk”? Remember, this is the environment your customers are entering.
- If you are agents are working remotely: Have you established guidelines for how their “home offices” should be set up? Are your agents remaining professional, with minimal noises or distractions (think dogs or children) affecting customers’ experiences?
Working toward a better experience doesn’t have to be painful for your customers or your agents. Let’s look at a customer case study. ConvergeOne has worked with this customer for three years, and all their customer experience metrics are pointing in the right direction. How did they get there?
- They’ve beefed up self-service channels, helping customers navigate the systems themselves. They continue to look at the metrics as part of a continuous improvement program with analytics.
- The environment and culture have changed, turning employees into teams that deal with a specific geography (even if they aren’t there). The employees are co-located and work in pods to collaborate. Better headsets have been provided to them. Compensation has changed to reflect metrics that are both individual- and team-oriented. This has changed the dynamic of the operation into one where people help each other. The team must succeed.
- Employees are empowered to make choices. Gartner has even coined a new term for this: “control quotient.” Agents work within their teams and determine the best solution to a problem. Since they now manage a team P&L, they are finding they aren’t giving away the “store,” so to speak. Employees are more fiscally responsible.
- Since the employees are working in pods, they are coming up with innovative solutions to geographically driven concerns… military deployments, brush fires, weather events, fun events. They also tie closely with the local stores—so much so that the customer can walk in and say, “Sharon sent me,” and the store knows that Sharon did indeed send the customer. That level of continuity between channels, (walk-in and voice) is something to admire and perhaps emulate.
- Back-ups to the teams are dedicated outsourced teams that mirror what the internal teams are doing.
- Investments were made in the agents’ environment and tools used to help customers. The investment areas include digital assistants for the agents, better self-service options for the customers, and better analytics. Analytics not only for the health of the operation, but also to improve marketing, services, new promotions, and the like.
With all of the changes made to people, processes, and technology—as well as the executives allowing time to change—it is no surprise that our customer is heading in the right direction with regard to customer care in general. It all started with senior leadership declaring and acting with a customer-focused culture.
This begs the question of what we’re all trying to do to make changes within our companies. Checking in to see if you have leadership’s support—both verbally and financially—and the latitude to develop it over time will make for a winning combination.
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