Published: December 18, 2018 | Comments
“The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is
all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.”
- Tony Dungy, NFL Coach
We hire them. We ask them to do a job. A very, very important job. But the
core responsibilities of frontline Contact Center Sales and Service roles
have become increasingly more involved, the number of applications and
subsequent need for multi-tasking has continued to deepen, and the volume
and level of skills required to successfully manage customer interactions
have drastically expanded.
As we struggle to keep up with customers’ communication and service
demands, contact center technologies and evolving operations processes, our
Agents struggle to adapt and grow as well.
Understanding how these changes are impacting our frontline employees’
jobs and expectations is essential to proactively providing what they
need in order to learn and perform the tasks we’ve hired them to
As leaders, we not only affect their practical and cognitive capabilities,
in terms of tools and training but also their psychological willingness,
desires, and confidence!
5 Trends Changing the Contact Center
Looking at our industry, there are five clear trends that have, and
continue to evolve our operational realities. We have to acknowledge and
plan for how they affect our frontline Customer Service and Sales teams’
ability to engage, learn and perform. If you’re already aware and on top of
these things, terrific and well done! If not, start some conversations
around how you can integrate planning for these trends into your 2019
strategies for frontline performance management!
1. Hiring Growth, Not Decline
First of all, it’s important to note that frontline Customer Service jobs
have been on the rise for the last six years, AND, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics projects that growth to continue by another 5% over the next 10
years. AI isn’t eliminating customer service roles, it’s simply changing
them, evolving what is handled by machine, and what is handled by humans,
and what is handled through a blend of Human+AI.
Live Agents still drive CSAT
2018 Contact Center Satisfaction Index
report states that live Agents still drive customer satisfaction because
Voice is still 79% of channel volume. Furthermore, the survey results
clearly show that the faster the call is handled, by the first agent, on the first call, the
higher the customer satisfaction ratings.
With ongoing job growth and customers’ reigning preference for voice
channels, we need highly-skilled, empathetic, articulate, and efficient
AND, we have to equip them with tools and resources that are easy to
access, easy to use, and that give them the data and answers they need,
3. Increasing Job Complexity
With all the new tools and resources that have come available in the last
decade – from cloud-based CRM and Contact Center Applications to
Intelligent IVR’s, Chatbots, and Omni-channel Communications Platforms –
technology is playing a HUGE part in modernizing our operations and
improving the insight available to our teams, and the service available to
New tools and technologies also continue to increase the number of
applications and processes Agents must integrate into their daily
As a result, we have to specifically consider the effects of new tools and
processes on Agent workflow during the planning, rollout and training
phases. Consider asking:
1. What Agent-level processes will be affected?
2. What Supervisor-level processes will be affected?
3. Who will redesign the process(es) to align with the new
4. Who will communicate and train the revised/new workflow?
5. Who will inspect use of the revised/new workflow and tools?
6. How will you collect input on the accuracy and effectiveness of the
workflow once in use?
7. Who will communicate and train any adjustments to the workflow?
These considerations are important to ensure Agents are equipped to use the
new tools and procedures in ways that add value to customer interactions,
CFI Group states;
“The challenge is not with making the tools available; it is with
making access to those tools effortless and simple for the
I add, even more importantly, effortless and simple for our Agents!
4. Automation Elevates Skill Requirements
Beyond new tools, emerging tech like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine
Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Robotic Process
Automation (RPA) and IA (Intelligent Automation) are driving
semi-automation of certain functions with the Contact Center – from finding
trends in WFM data, to profiling customer history and providing
cross-selling suggestions, to analyzing customer sentiment, to answering
basic customer inquiries, to pushing personalized learning content directly
to Agents, to telling supervisors who to coach or recognize.
These automations are taking on the simple, the rote, and the
repetitious – all with the intent of freeing up Agents to perform the
more complex and uniquely ‘human’ work.
They’re making possible a smart divination of duties between man and
machine, and in some scenarios a blended-handling or co-facilitation of the
customer experience. Either way, the new normal is that Agents need to tap
into a broader interpersonal skill set, and a deeper knowledge of product
and service portfolios and problem-solving. To that end, we have to
reimagine the learner experience – integrate new customer use cases, tool,
and workflow examples in onboarding and training, along with leveraging new
methods for training transfer and practice.
Expectations for Consumer-like Learning
The Information Age and subsequent Digital Transformation of everything have made a substantial impact on personal learning –
nearly all of us consume content on-demand, in-the-moment, from any number
of devices, and across multiple media outlets. In a few clicks, we have
access to an article or a video that demonstrates how to do most anything!
Now look at our organizational learning; while we are evolving
into less formal, more digital, and more flexible learning opportunities,
there is still a great majority of learning that must be done off work,
offline (away from or outside of our natural workflow), and that is largely
generic, i.e., applicable to a target role and its common skill
Where and how we access content, as well as the style and length of that
content, determines whether that learning is engaging, relevant and useful
for modern learners. (And while perhaps initially driven by Millennials and
Work-At-Home Agents (W@HAs), ‘modern learner’ now includes anyone using
smart-device technology in their personal lives!)
The digital-consumer Agent appreciates and expects the efficiency and
engagement of shorter, more individually relevant, and more readily
available self-learning, self-coaching, and self-development opportunities.
So, as we are deploying new technologies and processes for improving
customer experiences, we also need to look at learning and performance
management platforms that are driving improved employee experiences!
The Future of Success in Contact Centers
I love this quote from Shep Hyken because I believe it holds the same
truth for Agents:
"True loyalty doesn’t come because of an app. It doesn’t come because
you have a punch card where after ten punches you get a free sandwich.
It is about the relationship. Take away those ‘perks’ and would the
customer still be loyal?”
So, no, it isn’t pizza or gift-cards.
The key to success in the contact center of the future is to engage
and empower in ways that are enabled by technology but driven and
supported by humans.
It’s making it easy to access tools and training, do work, see performance,
learn and build skills, compare to peers, optimize incentives, plan career
development, and share learnings and experiences!