Published: August 27, 2014 | Comments
Your contact center agents’ most important job is to deliver an outstanding customer experience with every interaction. But today’s agents have more than just this to think about.
They have to know the products and services they are selling and supporting, as well as complete an increasing amount of off-phone activities – all while managing stretches of idle time accented by intense spikes in call volume. Transactions are more complex, customer expectations have changed, and time for development and coaching is scarce.
On top of all this, agents are constantly bombarded with metrics measuring both their effectiveness and efficiency.
These metrics are a major driving force in the contact center, but can some metrics actually conflict with your center’s overall vision or even negatively impact agent morale? What should you do with these metrics – should you share them with your agents or hold them back?
The state of the agent
Customers have come to expect more from agent interactions and have become more difficult to satisfy as a result. At the same time, there is often not enough time for agents to get the training and coaching they need to quickly and accurately answer customer inquiries and solve their problems.
This frustration – combined with a constant barrage of metrics – can leave agents feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated and burned out. All of this negatively impacts morale and increases the possibility of attrition, an expensive problem for any contact center.
“In the contact center today, managers share metrics like number of calls, average handle time and average speed of answer with agents as well as many more. Some organizations create scorecards with 10 to 15 different metrics. No one can focus on all of those,” said Jim Rembach, senior vice president for Customer Relationship Metrics, LLC. “This overcomplicates things and leaves agents with a lack of purpose, feeling confused about their impact.”
The irony, Rembach says, is that agents are hired to take care of customers – not hurry their interactions with them. “No company ever says you’re being hired to do this fast.”
Where traditional metrics fail
Traditionally, contact centers have a more transactional focus, though what companies really want is to provide an outstanding customer experience that creates customer loyalty.
Traditional practices and metrics are aimed at helping agents become faster, more compliant, controlling the call, focusing on handle time and being reactive to customers and queues. When agents fall short, they are left feeling demeaned and helpless.
Despite these traditional measurements, most call center leaders say what they really want is for agents to show compassion and empathy for customers and collaborate with the company to solve problems and influence customer buying behavior.
“If you look at the traditional ways metrics are used in the contact center, they focus on being fast and functional,” said Rembach. “But this will never create a culture of collaboration, empathy and influence. The way metrics are used and reported has to change.”
Rembach says there is a downside to transparency and that withholding some metric data from agents could actually be a very good thing for performance and morale.
“There is so much data and information associated with contact center reporting – most of which stays locked in log files and is never even referenced,” he said. “And more of it should stay there because releasing too much information will create confusion and when there is confusion, agents get frustrated and burn out.”
Invest in agent success and monitor performance metrics
Contact center agents are really no different than other employees when it comes to what they want. Agents want clear job expectations, supervisor support, defined goals, recognition, a positive work environment, and the tools they need to do a good job and succeed.
The best way to nurture agents isn’t through bombarding them with information and operational metrics, but rather investing in their success.
Best-in-class contact centers now leverage intraday automation technology to find time to provide this level of agent development without negatively impacting service levels. The technology aggregates idle time and uses this time to deliver personalized training, coaching, updates, and knowledge base reviews directly to agents’ desktops. Agents receive the development they need and gain variety in their daily schedule. When call volume unexpectedly spikes, agents are automatically prompted to return to answering calls.
As agent skills increase, profiles and queue associations are automatically updated so agents can begin using their new skills immediately and gain the proficiency to keep morale on the upswing. This also frees supervisors and managers to spend more time coaching agents.
Intraday automation monitors metrics tied to performance and notifies supervisors when agents reach established benchmarks or when they have exceeded performance thresholds so that they can be immediately recognized. Supervisors can also set up business rules to be notified if agents aren’t progressing with their development plan or even if a call has gone on too long. This puts supervisors in a good position to proactively offer coaching and support to the agent in real-time before service levels are adversely affected.
Better agent experience, better customer experience
When centers invest in agents’ success by providing them with the training and coaching they need to be successful, the result is a frontline workforce that can effectively handle customer interactions and one that is more satisfied, productive and efficient overall. Agents who have what they need to be successful feel like a valued part of the team.
“When you spend time with your agents, developing them and showing them their true purpose, they have a better understanding of how they connect to the bigger picture,” says Rembach. “And when that happens – your agents, your customers and your company win.”
Intradiem, formerly Knowlagent, is the leader in intraday automation solutions for multi-channel contact centers. Intradiem’s customers achieve an invincible customer experience with a real-time workforce. Intradiem’s solutions automate manual processes such as intraday task management, intraday staffing, reskilling, channel balancing, and real-time alerts to ensure front-line workforces are poised to react to whatever the market throws their way. More than 450,000 contact center, field service, retail, bank branch, and back office employees around the world use Intradiem’s solution every day. For more information, call 888-566-9457 or visit www.intradiem.com.