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8 Steps to Making all Your Agents Stars

As routine customer service queries get increasingly handled by self-service systems, requests coming into the contact center are becoming more complex. Moreover, millennials and Gen Z, who account for the majority of contact center agents, tend to switch jobs faster than previous generations, leading to even more churn in the frontline than before. In this environment, how can customer service organizations maintain service effectiveness and efficiencies?

The answer is to find the star agents (we call them ‘models’) and systematically "clone" them across the entire frontline staff. Here is how to do it.

Star agents

1. Identify your 'models'

Begin by aligning the goals of your customer service organization with your overall business goals. Then, identify your Best Agent DNA, based on what skills and traits make your best agents the best—who does the job well and at the same time, represents the essence of your brand? These star agents are your models.

2. Set your goals and timelines

Pick the right processes and tools to capture, and identify the model agents by considering these questions: • What service processes are the most important? • What are the skills and traits required to perform those processes well, while also representing the brand essence (as demonstrated by the models)?

Make sure when you consider performance metrics to identify the models, those metrics are consistent with your brand values. Nordstrom metrics won’t work for Wal-Mart and vice versa since the brands are so different in what they stand for.

• What would be the right attitude to make customers happy?

• How will you know non-models have achieved model status?

3. Identify ‘makeovers’ and ‘mavericks’

Next, go beyond the models and analyze your agent pool further.

i. Identify the makeovers — agents with good attitude, who need improvement in aptitude. This group holds great potential or improvement, and with the right enablement, can become ‘models.’
ii. Mavericks have high aptitude but are prone to ‘going rogue.’ This improvisation hampers consistency in performance and creates serious issues with compliance, which is very important, especially in highly regulated industries such as financial services and healthcare. Mavericks need to be educated on how costly non-compliance with regulatory issues could be and how best-practice compliance could elevate their performance to even higher levels.

4. Elicit and embed models’ expertise

Elicit, capture, and embed the "secret sauce" of information (what) and process expertise (how) from the models into your knowledge management (KM) and AI (artificial intelligence) system. Do this through interviews and by learning from their customer interactions. Also, make it easy for models to suggest knowledge with the click of a button when they are done interacting with customers.

Once captured, knowledge should be delivered by your KM and AI systems contextually at the right place and the right time whenever makeovers and mavericks interact with customers. KM systems make it easy for these agents to find answers while AI systems can provide reasoning capabilities to guide them through processes so they can execute them as masterfully as the models!

5. Digitize and automate compliance

Keep regulations in mind when it comes to the who, what, how, and when of customer service content, transactions, interactions, and processes. These regulations often live in documents and flow charts, which should be digitalized into your AI, KM, and workflow systems for automated guidance and control when agents are interacting with the customer.

All agents, whether models, makeovers, or mavericks, should be required to follow this guidance. Such compliance can also be rewarded to scale it across the entire agent pool—mavericks need to be paid more attention on this matter, as explained earlier!

6. Clone 'everywhere'

As the world goes omnichannel (while being digital-first), agent cloning needs to happen across touchpoints as well. Omnichannel customer engagement solutions unify customer interactions, knowledge, AI, and analytics across channels—digital, voice, branch office, retail stores, etc.—for 360-degree context and consistency, making ‘omnichannel cloning’ easier.

7. Measure to manage

Measuring and managing through analytics is critical for the success of any initiative. • Use control and test groups for benchmarking performance

• Make metrics specific and granular (e.g., "within six months, makeover agents score 20% higher on satisfaction for complex issues")
• Go with a robust solution for operational analytics that comes with out-of-the-box best-practice dashboards and reports

8. Manage appropriately

• Make sure makeovers know how much progress they have made through regular feedback, so they develop the confidence of the models. Celebrating success is a simple but important step for your organization and, ultimately, for your customers.

• Mavericks are typically high-aptitude agents whose attitudes need work. As said earlier, they are capable but may tend to take shortcuts instead of complying with best practices and regulations. Perhaps they mean well but create damage by trying to be too clever. They need to be managed and elevated to the model level through ongoing education of non-compliance risks.

• Of course, radical mavericks should be managed out and so should ‘misfits,’ who lack both aptitude and attitude!

Finally, recruit agents whose attitude, personalities, and values are aligned with your brand. This is also important since tools are better at doing the heavy lifting for aptitude than mentality.

Cloning at work

• Leading wireless operator and eGain client improved Net Promoter Score by 30 points and First-Contact Resolution by 37% across all 10,000 agents and 600 retail stores by eliciting knowledge and know-how from models and delivering it at the point of customer interaction in the form of AI-enabled process guidance to makeovers and mavericks.

• Leading global banking and financial services company and eGain client cut training time of makeovers by half, improved NPS of the entire agent pool from #3 to #1, even as it expanded to 11 countries! The bank instituted a rigorous agent cloning system, based on eGain’s KM and AI reasoning capabilities.

•A federal government agency and eGain client uses eGain KM and AI system to clone empathetic, consistent, and compliant customer service across 60,000 agents to members on healthcare and other critical issues.

Final word

Performance variance among agents is a big challenge in contact centers today. When all agents in the contact center are elevated to the productivity of the model agents, the results in terms of customer experience and contact center performance will be nothing short of transformational. Knowledge management and AI, coupled with proven best practices, can make it happen.