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5 Ways to Overcome Contact Center "If Onlys"

Best of ICMI articles in 2020 - #2 

Have you caught a case of the “if onlys” in your contact center? When it comes to contact center technology, the “if onlys” are those pie-in-the-sky, grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side sort of items. They are those things that, if you could have them tomorrow, internal communication would improve, customers would self-solve more of their issues, customer satisfaction would soar, and company executives would finally give the contact center the respect it deserves. If only...

Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of falling into this “if only we had this functionality we could…” mindset. As I reflect, however, it’s clear to me that this is nothing more than an excuse to do nothing. In the spirit of kaizen, the practice of making continuous small improvements that become big improvements over time, let’s focus on doing something. In this article, I will share a handful of common contact center “if onlys” and then suggest some simple improvements contact center leaders can make to continue to move forward.

1. If only we had centralized knowledge management...

Are you waiting for a new knowledge management platform with all of the bells and whistles, including artificial intelligence, before starting this project? It’s time to start now, because guess what happens when agents handling digital customer service channels don’t have access to a robust set of knowledge articles and templates to assist them in responding to customers. They create their own documents with the responses they use most frequently. Contact center agents are a savvy bunch and if they can find ways to be more efficient, they will.

There are two problems with these disparate, disjointed local documents. At best, they contain well-written responses that are only used by one person and they should be made available to the entire team. At worst, these documents are littered with poorly written, inaccurate responses that are inconsistent with your brand voice.

Either way, it’s time to bring these documents together, even if they live in one massive, searchable, shared document. The great news is that when you finally get that knowledge management solution or begin using an AI-powered chatbot, you will be ready to fill it with a robust set of customer responses and knowledge articles.

2. If only we had better collaboration tools...

I can remember it well. One of my agents asked me a question via instant messenger, and by the time I responded with an answer, he responded with something like, “Thanks, but someone else already responded.” That only happened a few times before I realized there had to be a better way to communicate, and one to one messaging wasn’t the answer. In an effort to assist customers, agents were sending their questions to multiple people at once to see who would respond first.

Adopting collaboration tools and practices where agents pose their questions to a group or channel is far superior, and it has the added benefit of allowing others to see and learn from the questions of their peers. Furthermore, agents can search for those questions that have previously been asked and answered. This sounds like the beginnings of a killer knowledge base (see point #1).

The major challenge in shifting from one to one messaging to one to many is continuously adjusting the way we communicate so that only the people who need to see questions and updates receive them. Otherwise, the collaboration tool gets awfully distracting and the truly important updates risk getting missed.

3. If only quality assurance was...

Perhaps you’re waiting for a tool to come along that will grade 100% of customer interactions automatically, or perhaps for security reasons your contact center isn’t recording calls, or maybe you’re still fine tuning that new quality form before you start using it. Whatever the reason, ceasing all quality assurance activities is a dangerous game. Here are a few rebuttals to some of the reasons for not monitoring quality:

  • “We’re waiting for 100% automation of quality.” Some is better than none. Start small. Block out 20-30 minutes per day to monitor a handful of interactions.
  • “We don’t have time to do quality.” See above. Also try condensing your quality coaching sessions to those behaviors that have the greatest impact on the customer experience.
  • “We don’t record our calls.” Sit down next to your agents with a headset and a splitter and listen to live calls. If the agents are remote, either use the call monitoring feature in your contact center platform or occasionally have your agents assess their own calls and review those results with them.
  • “Our quality form isn’t ready for primetime.” Your agents need coaching and feedback even if you don’t have a fully baked form. You can always adjust your form as you go and there’s no better way to test its effectiveness than during live interactions.

4. If only that bug was fixed...

Customer satisfaction is low and it’s because we don’t offer this feature, or our product has this bug, or this policy is unpopular. At face value, it’s easy for the contact center leader to say, “We can’t improve until X changes.” But with a little digging we see that contact center agents have become complacent and have lost a sense of creativity and focus on taking care of the customer.

Rather than responding to customers with “No, we can’t do X,” the focus should always be on, “While we can’t do exactly X, here are a few creative ways we might be able to help you out.” And as you look at customer satisfaction across your contact center, you’ll likely find that the best agents are already exhibiting this behavior and it’s time to share some best practices throughout your center.

5. If only we had a full time analyst on staff…

Speech analytics is fabulous technology that’s more accessible than ever and it has the ability to unlock insights from customer interactions useful for improving customer satisfaction and quality — that is if you use it. Rather than waiting for someone to come along and perfect it, focus on a handful of queries sure to add instant value to both the contact center and the entire organization. Here are a few ideas:

  • Locate calls containing choice language or where customer tone is elevated and make these your first stop for quality evaluations. This will free up supervisor time previously spent searching for calls to evaluate.
  • Identify calls where customers indicate they are canceling and determine why they want to cancel. There are many folks in your organization that would love this insight.
  • Find instances where customers use positive words like great, wonderful, fabulous, stupendous, etc. Take a moment to celebrate the reasons the customer was excited. Perhaps they love the product or perhaps an agent managed to turn an upset customer into a fan.

What contact center couldn’t use just a bit more positivity and reason to celebrate?

The Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you. Think about your current contact center challenges relating to technology. Write down the list of “if only” statements you find yourself uttering on a regular basis. Now write down at least three things you and your team can be doing right now to continue to move forward. If you need a brainstorming partner or just want to share what you came up with, please reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn.