How to Avoid Serving Customers on Autopilot

A photo of a bored contact centre advisor

We share lots of tips to help your advisors turn off serving customers on autopilot and put their full concentration on the customer.

The Problem With Being in Autopilot

It is difficult to stay focused on the customer, call-after-call, and to not only problem-solve but also maintain a good level of energy and empathy.

What often happens is that advisors go into serving customers in autopilot mode. This is where they just focus on the functional parts of the call – not the emotional parts – and make assumptions about the customer’s problem, as they have dealt with similar problems before.

There is great value in engaging with each customer as an individual…

However, there is great value in engaging with each customer as an individual, avoiding assumptions and making emotional connections in the contact centre.

Not only that, when advisors turn off autopilot, they are more engaged with their jobs, which not only has a good impact on customer conversations, but also improves their job satisfaction, as well as your attrition and absence rates.

To make each of these great benefits a reality, here is a set of simple things that you can do to turn advisors off autopilot.

Top-Up an Advisor’s Emotional Bank Account

By making an effort to catch people in the act of doing good things, you will encourage them to replicate those practices in the future and stay out of autopilot.

To do this in a remote contact centre, there’s a few things that you can do, including:

  • Feedback quality scorecards to advisors with annotations that highlight things that they did really well
  • Share and celebrate good customer feedback
  • Set up mechanisms for advisors to thank one another for sharing great advice
  • Keep track of how you measure performance and congratulate advisors on improvements

This takes us back to a concept of Stephen Covey, a popular US academic, who has written about the value of putting deposits into your people’s “emotional bank accounts”.

The more pieces of positive feedback you give to advisors, the more “credit” you have going into the advisor’s emotional bank account.

Yet if you fail to catch people doing good things then you are going to be “overdrawn”. That is not a good place to be and it will lead to advisors coasting through calls. Your advisors will also be less receptive when you have constructive feedback to give them.

A poll showing where contact centres are in terms of fulfilling their employees' emotional bank account'

According to a Call Centre Helper webinar poll, 12% of contact centres admit to being “overdrawn” when it comes to their advisors’ emotional bank accounts.

A heashot of Gavin Scott

Gavin Scott

“You don’t always have to focus on the end outcome. Focus on the effort that they have made. Because if you give them recognition for that, they will do more and expend more effort,” adds Gavin Scott, founder of Loaf Training.

So, when good things are happening, make sure you are there to celebrate that success.

Encourage Advisors to Do More With Their Breaks

When working from home, it’s easy for advisors to fall into the habit of just flicking through their phone or turning on the television in their break time. Yet this constant staring at a screen is no way to stay sharp.

With this in mind, encourage advisors to get up and away from their desks/workplaces and do things to rejuvenate their minds, so they feel revitalized and ready to focus 100% on the customer.

Examples of the types of thing that you can encourage advisors to do on their breaks include:

  • Do a 20-Minute Workout – Physical exercise has numerous health benefits and boosts energy levels.
  • Write a Journal – This is a great way to build emotional intelligence, as advisors can write for two minutes about something that has happened that day. They can then reflect and look for patterns in how they are thinking.
  • Listen to a Podcast or Music – Listening to some of our favourite genres of music every day is a proven way to help increase morale, while podcasts can help us turn off and learn something new.
  • Read a Chapter of a Book – Taking your eyes away from the screen every now and then is important, while reading also helps to nurture creativity and imagination. This is great for problem-solving.

Arguably, though, the best thing to encourage advisors to do is to take a walk, particularly if your team live outside of the city.

While on this walk, ask advisors to consider the sights, smells and sounds and encourage them to let their minds wander off. This will enable your team to develop greater self-awareness.

You could then also launch a most steps challenge within your team to encourage them to stay in touch with one another while promoting a positive well-being.

For more on how you can develop positive well-being in the contact centre, read our article: Employee Well-Being: How to Reduce Contact Centre Stress

Create a Contact Centre Vision

Lots of the new theory for getting the best out your team is in inspiring your people with a vision for your organization.

To make this work in the contact centre, consider:

  • What is the purpose of your business?
  • What does it stand for?
  • Why does this matter?

Then, break this down into a strapline. A couple of examples that we have come across in contact centres include:

  • “Get it right first time and build a positive relationship with every member, on every contact.”
  • “To be a strategic link in our customers’ communication processes, committed to exceeding their expectations around the clock.”

Supporting this strapline with your quality monitoring, continuous coaching and communication efforts can really help to engage your team with this purpose.

Taking communication as an example, and the strapline of “getting things right first time”, you could then create an employee focus group and ask advisors:

  • What is preventing you from getting things right for customers at the first attempt?
  • Which processes are clunky and getting in your way?
  • Are there any system-related problems that are making things difficult?

Then do your homework. Do some impact analysis into your advisor feedback and close the loop by telling your team what can and cannot be changed, giving reasons why.

Sharing feedback and then recognizing the people who helped create a positive change is a great way to make advisors feel more involved and it helps to build a better connection with your purpose. This will help them to stay motivated across the day.

For more on creating a purpose for your contact centre, read our article: What Is the Purpose and Mission of Your Contact Centre?

Build Up Advisor Confidence With the 80/20 Principle

Some contact centres will create training programmes that cover everything. Others will cover very little and instead rely heavily on the contact centre’s knowledge systems.

A better practice is to take the 80/20 approach. This means focusing on your top ten call drivers before explaining, training and practising those things over and over again, either in a coaching or academy environment.

By doing this, your advisors will feel confident in handling what will likely be around 80% of the calls that they receive.

What does this have to do with helping advisors turn off autopilot?

A headshot of Lee Jones

Lee Jones

According to Lee Jones, Sales Director at Elev-8 Performance: “It builds confidence. It’s like when you learn to drive a car and you have the pedals and the gear-stick down to a tee, you suddenly pay more attention to the road. It’s no different when you are speaking to a customer.”

Another tip along these lines from Lee is to use scenario-based learning to help advisors practise integrating what they need to say from a customer experience perspective with system navigation and product knowledge so the experience feels natural and free flowing.

For more advice on building a great contact centre training programme, read our article: 50 Call Centre Training Tips

Develop Self-Awareness and Create Triggers

By increasing self-awareness, advisors will be quick to recognize when they are slipping into autopilot and will be much better at managing their emotions throughout the day.

Not only that, self-awareness leads to improved relationships, better decision-making and an improved ability to deal with stress.

Self-awareness leads to improved relationships, better decision-making and an improved ability to deal with stress.

To help develop self-awareness in the contact centre, there are number of things that you can do, including:

  • Encourage advisors to pay attention to what bothers them during customer interactions. When an advisor notices something that irritates them, ask them to consider why and how they can manage their emotional response.
  • Invite people to talk about how they are feeling in a group setting. Use emotional culture cards to help them find the words to express how they feel openly.

Yet when it comes to turning off autopilot, the biggest thing that you can do to increase self-awareness is to set triggers.

When listening to customers, ask advisors to listen out for certain things, such as when the customer expresses an emotion. That should trigger an advisor to acknowledge that feeling and reassure the customer, thus bringing them out of autopilot mode.

Break Up the Advisor Day

The repetitiveness of the contact centre advisor role plays a big part in why they so often fall into autopilot mode.

To keep advisors engaged, regular recognition of their work is important, but so is ensuring that they have something to break the pattern of call after call after call.

So, think about how you can mix up things for the team. In their day, could advisors:

  • Spend an hour responding to customer emails
  • Take 30 minutes to coach a new recruit
  • Work on a meaningful project – eg.. creating a how-to video, preparing a lunch and learn etc.

Of course, there won’t always be room in the schedule to constantly do all of that, but you can also run games and competitions across the virtual contact centre like:

Also, as a final tip, encourage your team to do things that they’ve been putting off, as avoidance is connected to being in a state of autopilot. While this is important for advisors – who may be delaying a certain email response, for example – it is also key for your contact centre leaders.

For lots more advice on keeping your team engaged throughout the working day, check out our articles:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 21st Apr 2021 - Last modified: 18th Dec 2023
Read more about - Skills, , ,

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