Published: October 27, 2015 | Comments
It’s beyond clichéd to talk about consumer access to information in our modern age. But clichés exist for a reason – typically because they’re true. It’s also true that consumers are much earlier adopters of available technology than their corporate counterparts, and for good reason: businesses need to ensure that they are running on tried-and-true, reliable systems and platforms that enable standardized deployment, maintenance and support. And while these are valid business requirements, the result is almost always the same: a predictable cycle of misalignment with customers, increasingly expensive and resource-intensive operations and lower satisfaction scores from both your customers and employees, which leads to brand perception issues and threatens growth. The list could go on, but it ultimately always leads to the same conclusion: one by one, businesses in any given space adopt newer, more customer-centric technologies until the entire market reaches a tipping point.
In the world of Contact Centers, the tipping point is here. Consumers have fully embraced the cloud and, along with it, all of the real-time access it offers to information, insights, communication and more. So what does that mean for your agents? More often than not, it means the deck is stacked against them.
Seventy percent of customers say they typically know more about the problem they’re facing than the agent helping them does – and I’d bet that you can quickly think of a recent support interaction from your own life that would lend credibility to that stat. And you know what? That stinks. It stinks for our customers. It stinks for our agents. It stinks for our brands. And we shouldn’t stand for it. How can this still be a struggle with all of the agent tools available? We can do better – and we will.
Brands must invest in and prepare their agents well before their first interaction with this new breed of Connected Customers. Connected Customers simply will not accept excuses for poor customer service—they will move on to the next brand, making their opinions universally known, and taking their hard-earned dollars with them.
Customers now have access to staggering amounts of information and channels through which to consume and share it. You can either work with that reality, or against it. Today’s sharpest brands have already embraced this, and are using it to build stronger relationships with their customers – and maybe even yours too. Interestingly enough, we’ve all done a pretty good job of engaging customers on the front-end. Proactive communication through shipping alerts, searchable knowledge bases, forums and the like are all keeping customers in the loop more than ever before. And this only exacerbates the challenges for our contact center agents.
Our now hyper-informed, and shockingly self-sufficient, Connected Customers expect more from brands – and that falls squarely on the shoulders of our agents who simply aren’t equipped to keep up. They need more sophisticated solutions or they’ll always be a step (or several steps) behind our customers. Because customers aren’t calling to check on order status anymore—they already have that information by email and text. They’re calling because the order hasn’t arrived as the tracking information promised. They aren’t contacting you with a simple return request, because they can do that online. It’s complex. And they have very specific and detailed questions that aren’t answered by the FAQ they’ve already thoroughly scoured and reviewed more than once. Only a live person with access to a variety of even more resources can help.
They need Super Agents.
My colleague Rich Pinnington has written about the qualities of a Super Agent, and I’ll recap them here. Super Agents can:
- Quickly access information about customer history, orders, preferences and past interactions.
- Engage with customers across any number of channels, from phone to live chat to social and more.
- Instill confidence that they can resolve the issue—and follow through to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Make decisions and do what is needed to keep customers happy.
- Have immediate access to supervisors, perhaps via a chat function in their contact center platform, to secure support and approvals as needed.
- Display a higher level of “EQ,” or emotional intelligence, to handle complex situations with possibly emotional customers. Empathy, remaining calm under pressure and constant communication are key.
- Keep a positive attitude, regardless of the situation—people really can tell when someone is positive and smiling, even when not face-to-face.
These qualities are more than just “nice-to-have” when interacting with Connected Customers - they are essential. Any agent the customer interacts with is absolutely your brand. That’s a scary thought when you remember that agents don’t usually have the tools they need to keep up with customers. And it raises the stakes.
Super Agents must have not only the soft-skills, training and technical acumen required to engage those Connected Customers in a timely and appropriate manner, but also access to the modern arsenal of technology and resources required to deliver a customer experience befitting your brand.
Super Agents not only value the customer, but also their time and energy. They are equipped and informed to resolve issues quickly and efficiently. They are familiar with and able to quickly navigate systems to provide an exceptional and frictionless customer experience. Hold time is their kryptonite. With seamless customer data at their fingertips, they deliver personalized service and First Contact Resolution.
They are also knowledgeable, above all else, about the products and services they support. Super Agents understand and demonstrate your values – and they treat every single customer just as you would.
When you have Connected Customers, you need Super Agents. But Super Agents don’t just show up at your doorstep. They are developed by committed organizations that understand the importance of consistent, dedicated provisioning of resources and training. They are empowered by knowledge - easy access to more information than ever before.
Commit to your agents’ success and they will pay that dedication and commitment forward to your customers. That’s where the magic happens. And that’s no cliché.