Published: December 21, 2017 | Comments
Looking back over the past year of working in contact centers, it’s a
daunting task to recall the lessons I’ve learned for a few reasons. First
of all, I’m turning forty in a little less than a month, and I swear my
memory isn’t what it once was. Second, I hate to say it, but if you work in
contact centers long enough and read enough books and blogs about wowing
your customers, it all starts to sound the same — becoming challenging to
uncover those nuggets of wisdom that enrich the experience for you and your
So what did I do to come up with three lessons for 2017? I went through my
last year of blog posts and found the experiences that taught me something,
and in some cases continued to gnaw at me throughout the year. Here they
Lesson #1: Approach AI with caution but DO approach it.
Much is being said and written about chatbots and other support tools that
leverage the power of artificial intelligence and specifically machine
learning. They promise to help customers connect with answers to questions
faster, more accurately, and with less effort.
While chatbots get much of the airtime, the tools I see gaining the most
traction are those that make contact center agents more efficient, helping
them find the best response or macro based on what the customer wrote.
These are tools like AnswerIQ and DigitalGenius which also promise to help agents handle chat more efficiently. Second to these are tools like ZendeskAnswer Bot and Solvvy that present customers with help center articles
before they submit a ticket or chat. They can track customer self-solve
rate and quickly prove their ROI.
From my vantage point, the adoption of chatbots is much slower, and vendors
are flooding the market, but I think in 2018 we’ll see these gain more
traction as companies figure out how to use chatbots in a way that doesn’t
inhibit the customer experience. And there will be a demand for customer
support and experience professionals who know how to configure them.
Lesson #2: Quality scores really don’t matter. Coaching does.
Several years ago, as a customer center leader, I sort of gave up on my QA
process. I was tired of running through the quality form over and over
again giving my agents a score. It just felt like I was going through the
motions and telling my agents over and over again what they weren’t doing
right. All of that to come away with a score that really didn’t mean
anything. Add to the mix Drive by Daniel Pink, and I found myself wondering
how a score achieves those goals of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
In 2017, I finally openly discussed my feelings with other contact center
professionals — 14 of them to be exact. Apparently, many of them have
similar feelings. The consensus from that conversation was threefold:
Quality assurance is still important. Some form of quality monitoring must
be done in the contact center to ensure that we’re delivering consistent
customer service at the level we want.
Coaching is important. This is where we make a connection with our agents,
reinforce the good behaviors, and develop the ones we want to see and
improve. These coaching conversations and the time spent reviewing how
agents performed on interactions are essential.
Scores don’t matter — sort of. Quality scores matter and they don’t. They
don’t matter in those coaching conversations with agents. The presence of a
score can actually cause agents to mentally check out of coaching
conversations so share them with agents wisely or not at all. Scores and
forms are useful for quantifying where the team and individuals are
excelling and where they need improvement. This allows you to monitor the
effectiveness of quality coaching over time.
Lesson #3: Where was mindfulness during my last system outage?
Can I be really transparent for a minute? I’ve worked for SAAS companies in
the past where we went through phases where something would break weekly,
the call queue would go from 5 to 50, and we’d work into the night trying
to get caught up on the email queue. The large customers who would call and
demand answers that I didn’t have were the icing on top.
Sure, we had a plan of action for these situations, but there were seasons
when outages were so frequent that I would just sit at my desk and freeze
up. My brain would go in a million directions, and it felt like it took all
of my energy to execute the plan.
In 2017, I read this wonderful article by my colleague Sheri Kendall-duPontand had this conversation with my friends Jenny Dempsey and Debi Mongan on
mindfulness. I’m still working my way into a regular practice, but I’ve
already found that when I pause to be quiet and focus on my breath, even
for a few minutes, I’m more able to think more clearly and respond better
in stressful situations. This is an essential practice for contact center
professionals, and I’m grateful to those who are championing the cause.
So those are my three lessons from 2017. As I look over these again, I’ve
covered technology, operations, and personal and employee growth and
development. I think I’m rather proud of that balance. Let’s make 2018
another year packed with learning and growth. Here we go!