Published: May 23, 2019 | Comments
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.
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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.
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.