“We’re in the mode of just needing bodies on the other end of the phones.”
As those words escaped my client’s mouth, I knew what was coming next.
“Attrition is high, efficiency is low, and we’ll do anything to stop the bleeding.”
Yep, there it was, the all too common contact center conundrum. What keeps many leaders up at night, prevents organizations from achieving their customer experience goals, and paves the way for the belief that AI is better suited for this work.
There are many ways to assign blame and just as many stop-gap measures to be implemented. Neither offers a sustainable solution to the problem: a lack of meaningful impact from the knowledge worker, customer service representative, or whatever it is you call the people who sit at the intersection of your business and its customers.
Overcoming this obstacle doesn’t happen overnight, but with the right approach, any organization can spend less time in reactive recovery and more in proactive strategy.
In this blog post, I’m offering a few ways to implement a plan to increase the impact of your contact center’s frontline employees and ultimately elevate your strategic value to the business.
The path toward building a high-impact, future-ready contact center isn’t paved overnight. It requires a profound understanding of the essence of your operation and a robust, action-oriented strategy that aligns with this understanding. This understanding is built upon the five fundamental tenets: value proposition clarity, resource inventory, supervisor activation, employee insights, and meaningful measurement. Let’s delve deeper into each of these pillars.
Get Clear on Your Value Proposition
The perception of contact center agents as mere “bodies at the other end of the phones” is erroneous and detrimental. The reality? Your agents are the backbone of customer relationships, the gatekeepers of loyalty, and the miners of invaluable customer insights. Their purpose transcends the mundane task of ticket resolution, venturing into the realm of strategic value creation.
The key to harnessing this potential lies in defining and communicating your value proposition to all levels of the organization. Explain explicitly the value agents bring to the table; depict the broader context of their roles to enhance customer relationships and gather critical insights. This enhanced understanding fosters a sense of purpose and self-worth among agents and naturally amplifies their enthusiasm and dedication, ultimately improving customer interaction.
Inventory Your Resources
Much like an iceberg, a significant portion of your contact center’s resources remain hidden beneath the surface. These tangible and intangible resources must be acknowledged, evaluated, and effectively utilized. Tangible resources encompass your technological arsenal and physical environment, ideally current, user-friendly, and conducive to efficient work. Conversely, intangible resources include agents’ skills, knowledge, and morale – elements that directly impact productivity and quality of service.
Evaluate your team’s skill set and provide adequate training to ensure they are well-equipped for their roles. Furthermore, gauge employee morale regularly and strive to create an environment where employees feel valued, seen, and appreciated. This dual inventory will help uncover areas of strength and those needing investment, allowing for more targeted, efficient resource allocation.
Put Supervisors Into Action
Often perceived merely as middle management, supervisors have an undeniably pivotal role in your contact center. They are the sculptors who shape super-agents and the catalysts who propel the center forward. As they model and drive desirable behaviors, they also function as the bridge between management and agents, relaying strategy and feedback in both directions.
Involve your supervisors in mentorship programs, performance discussions, and real-time coaching. Provide them with the necessary tools, authority, and encouragement to become the superheroes your agents need. When supervisors actively shape the agent journey, it elevates the center’s overall performance and contributes to a more coherent and resilient operation.
Capture (and Act-On) Employee Insights
Your agents are the custodians of customer understanding. They deal with customer pain points, expectations, and preferences daily. You open a treasure trove of potential service improvements by fostering an environment encouraging agents to share their insights and ideas.
Encourage this sharing culture through regular feedback sessions and by incentivizing idea generation. However, simply gathering these insights isn’t enough. For transformation to occur, action must follow. Make an effort to implement changes based on these insights. Ground-up transformations tend to be more robust and impactful because they directly address the challenges faced on the front lines.
Measure What Matters Most
Lastly, but far from least, is focusing on the right metrics. In the age of elevated customer expectations, traditional metrics may not suffice. While Average Handle Time (AHT) and First Call Resolution (FCR) provide a snapshot of operational efficiency, they don’t necessarily provide a comprehensive picture of customer satisfaction.
This is where predictive metrics enter the picture, offering a forward-thinking approach that complements traditional, reactive measures. These are the indicators that, if acted upon, can positively impact customer satisfaction and reduce customer effort—ultimately putting the agent back in control.
Consider a few examples.
- Let’s start with ‘First Contact Resolution Proactive Attempts‘—a metric that quantifies an agent’s initiative to resolve an issue during the first interaction, thus preventing future calls and reducing customer effort. An agent might anticipate common follow-up questions or concerns and address them proactively.
- Next is ‘Empathy Demonstrated,‘ a metric measuring the degree to which agents display understanding and compassion in customer interactions. Research suggests that customers who feel their emotions are acknowledged during a service interaction report higher satisfaction. An agent could improve this by using empathetic language, expressing understanding, and validating the customer’s feelings.
- Another predictive metric is ‘Active Listening Indicators,’ which may involve summarizing the customer’s issue to ensure understanding, asking relevant questions for clarification, or providing appropriate responses that show the agent is fully engaged in the conversation.
- Lastly, consider ‘Personalization Efforts,’ reflecting how well an agent uses available customer data to tailor the service interaction. This could include referencing past interactions, acknowledging customer preferences, or offering personalized solutions.
These predictive measures, centered around customer satisfaction and reduced effort, emphasize what agents can control directly. By focusing on these metrics, you empower your agents with the tools they need to proactively drive customer satisfaction. This approach turns the agents into active contributors to customer happiness rather than passive participants merely reacting to established conditions.
While these measures might not replace traditional ones, they certainly enhance the narrative around performance and impact. After all, a contact center that cultivates this predictive, proactive mindset among agents is likely to witness transformative results.
Implementing these five tenets of an agent impact strategy is no small feat—it will require time, commitment, and hard work. But the payoff will be immense. By providing clarity, leveraging resources, activating supervisors, utilizing agent insights, and measuring what counts, you are setting the stage for a high-impact, future-ready contact center. A center that’s less about just “needing bodies on the other end of the phones” and more about delivering strategic value daily.
Here’s to your journey toward that vision!
This blog post was created as part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective.