Build from the Inside-Out: 4 Guidelines for Increasing Adoption in the Contact Center
Customers expect a consistent experience across all levels of an organization. According to a Salesforce study, 75 percent of customers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage: social networks, in-person, online, or by phone. Forrester has shown that 89 percent of customers would leave a brand if their concerns are not addressed properly or there is poor user experience. And most will more than likely share their experience on social media, impacting a brand’s reputation in only 140 characters.
Knowing the importance of customer retention – and that more and more methods of contact are available to our customers – it is critical that organizations involve all departments and functions in strategies to improve customer experience. For instance, leading customer-centric brands are ensuring that all employees focus on the customer experience, regardless of the employee's position in the organization.
For many companies, the bulk of their customers’ interactions take place in support centers. Customers frequently interact with agents regarding transactions, inquiries, and issues. Mature support centers are focusing on an omnichannel experience; integrating technologies such as chat, email, and social media into the traditional “by phone” contact methods.
Arming your support center agents with the tools, training, and support is critical to ensuring the desired consistent experience. One way to do this is to build from the inside-out and consider the following four guiding principles:
- Create Change ‘Agents’
- Involve agents throughout the process
- Provide comprehensive training
- Provide support and continuous training
Create Change ‘Agents’
Consider your agents the voice of your customer. They hear it all and are oftentimes more than willing to share. Knowing that they have a voice in improving systems, tools, and processes helps to build internal champions. Focus on desired behaviors for agents that are related to customer experience rather than dictating a specific script and sequence of tasks.
Don’t forget – agents are customers too! Ask your agents to define values and behaviors that they find desirable in their interactions as customers and incorporate their feedback into the overall transformation. Of significant value is understanding what is important to your agents and what gives them satisfaction in their role. Emphasize and build upon those values and look for ways to strengthen them. A study on the correlation between values and employee retention revealed employees who fit well with their organization, coworkers, and supervisor had greater job satisfaction, were more likely to remain with their organization, and showed superior job performance.
Involve agents throughout the process
When considering any transformational initiatives, include your agents in the project lifecycle. Their input can help guide the design by giving voice to the concerns that result in changes to systems, tools, and processes. Have your agents assist with mapping out existing workflows to understand what works well and what causes the most concern for them and their customers. Make sure your agents identify the specific examples of when the system, process, and tools were not available or equipped to handle a customer-related touchpoint.
Be sure to ask questions such as:
- What are the most common types of interactions you have with your customers?
- What are one-off examples of interactions with your customers?
- What systems, tools, or databases do you use to meet the customer needs?
- Are there any inefficiencies or bottlenecks in your current process?
- What customer information could aid in more efficient resolution?
- What, at times, prevents you from meeting a customer's needs at the first point of contact?
- What insight do you have into the customer when he/she contacts the support center?
After the design process, involve agents in the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) phase. Let them trial new technologies or processes to see if the desired results are achieved and be flexible to modify the design to the greatest extent possible. Be prepared to train the agents involved in the UAT process, but to fully leverage those efforts, have the agents responsible for helping champion the change.
Customer experience is not a “module.” Train accordingly.
Training often focuses on the one thing that is changing, be it the tools or technology. Typically, agents are trained to understand what “buttons” to push, but not how the specific change relates to the overall goal of enhanced customer experience. When building a training strategy, focus comprehensively on the behaviors and skills required. Although most vendors will describe their products as intuitive and therefore discount the importance of training, agents must have an opportunity to learn to use new systems and workflows in a relevant context, with an opportunity to practice new functions.
Take advantage of the transformation as an opportunity to continue to develop the skill sets of your agents through on-going training programs. Providing effective communication, dealing with difficult customers, and proven sales techniques are among a list of topics relevant for today’s contact center agents. Utilize quality management tools to enable supervisors to provide real-time feedback to agents. Analytics can provide insights on keywords and customer tone-of-voice, further deepening your opportunities to collect feedback and learn from your customer experiences.
With the right tools and viewing our contact centers as a channel to engage with our customers, we can meet the rising expectations of those we serve.