Published: December 09, 2014 | Comments
To say that we live in an age of instant information would be an understatement. For most people, the answer is almost always literally at their fingertips as touch screens and mobile devices continue to change how consumers find and digest information. These technical innovations of our connected world have also permanently altered a number of traditional processes, including customer-facing support. Consumers expect timely, seamless issue resolution, and have no qualms about expressing their frustration with ineffective methods via social channels. To meet this high expectation for service delivery, contact centers must stay abreast of the evolving tech landscape and ensure their teams are equipped with the necessary skillset. They must also take into account a number of trends that will undoubtedly play a major role in shaping the contact center agent of tomorrow.
The pervasiveness of the internet and widespread adoption of social media means that customers are increasingly searching for answers and posting issues on public forums, rather than seeking assistance via traditional avenues. Businesses are already capitalizing on this self-service trend—after all, the best customer service call is the one that the customer ended up not needing to make. The benefits of self-help extend beyond enhancing the experience of individual consumers. By enabling customers to find their own answers to common problems, agents can focus on efficiently resolving more complex issues, thereby ensuring that the entire team operates more effectively.
As self-help processes continue to improve, contact centers will need to adjust their processes to meet the changing needs of consumers calling in. The key will be creating a seamless experience from self-service to support in order to get their issues resolved quickly. Web tickets are great if the customer includes enough information to resolve the issue, but in a lot of instances it still sits in a queue longer than needed which increases customer frustration. If the customer does not include enough information, it requires a call back either to or from the customer which wastes additional time and further escalates frustrations. The call center agent will also need to take into account all of the self-help steps the consumer has already taken. When consumers have to continually repeat themselves or get caught in an endless automated loop after they have already failed at solving the issue on their own, they tend to reach boiling point and the business stands to lose them forever.
As customer expectation for service delivery has evolved, so too has the variety and complexity of support requests. Contact centers need to ensure that customers get to the agent that can resolve their issue the first time, as fast as possible. Part of addressing this means improving the skillset amongst frontline agents. For example, changing recruitment practices to identify agents with particular capabilities or providing current staff with training on new requirements.
However, it’s also important that contact centers move beyond the frontline. Support technology has evolved to enable Level 1 agents to request assistance from a subject matter expert in real-time, rather than sending the customer back to the support queue to await for more specialized assistance. By removing the silos associated with the traditional escalation process, contact centers can improve first contact resolution and time to resolve. Cross-skilling across support teams will also help ensure that contact centers have the specialized, flexible team necessary to efficiently resolve issues without creating bottlenecks. All of which will contribute to a reduction in transactional volume.
The contact center agent of the future will also focus less on reactive issue resolution and more on proactively addressing issues before they occur. Advanced monitoring techniques and greater internal transparency will help organizations optimize support for many common, repetitive issues. Analyzing activity volume stemming from a prior software upgrade, for example, allows the contact center to devise a more strategic approach for a new roll-out.
A natural byproduct of this proactive approach is that agents’ time will again, increasingly focus on resolving more complex issues. This will impact the skills required to be successful in a support role, and also place more pressure on organizations to embrace collaboration tools.
As call centers continue to embrace these trends and make strategic moves to meet the increasing demands of consumers, the call center agent will be pulled in a multitude of directions. To compensate, they will need to be tech savvy with and ever-broadening skillset. This will ensure they remain efficient and relevant for the long term as technology continues to increase the speed of information.