Thomas Saint-Hilaire at Odigo explains how your agents will create value for you if you let them.
The facts are in and it turns out that, even in spite of reports of high attrition rates, contact centre agents tend to enjoy their jobs. The thing that contact centre managers everywhere should realise is that the agent workforce is there not only to drive value – though they do enjoy the process of doing that.
Empathy and workplace collaboration are invaluable soft skills, as the opportunity to make a genuine connection with customers is immensely satisfying for agents, and when they get to do it well, those connections enhance brand loyalty and value.
However, they also do it for themselves. They do it to learn the craft of customer service, to gain new skills, to develop professionally, and to move up the ladder. The last thing any of us wants to feel is replaceable.
Moreover, there are other intangibles like feeling trusted for knowledge, expertise, and integrity. Workplace malaise sets in when these are denied. And when a contact centre agent feels their skills aren’t improving (or worse, going to waste), or they are not recognised for their ability to make contributions, not only are they less efficient in resolving issues — they will move on.
Contact centres that don’t trust agents to apply the skills required to do their job run the risk of getting caught up in the industry-wide problem of agent attrition.
They are already fighting that problem at a disadvantage. The well-worn stigma of contact centre work is that it’s “unskilled”. Not giving contact centre agents the required skills to help your brand compete in the marketplace feeds into that stigma.
What’s more, managers have employed strategies that emphasise delighting the customer, which can come at the expense of contact centre agents and developing their skills. Constantly putting agents in the crosshairs of angry customers at their expense is a method of overworking them that is a leading cause of burnout and empathy fatigue.
We could accept this as being the nature of the beast, but really, we shouldn’t. Contact Centres can be Better.
Contact Centre Agent Skills Development and the Culture of Work
Symmetry of attention is a concept that all contact centres should swear by. At least as much investment should be made into developing contact centre agent skills and increasing their engagement as there is into addressing customer problems and delivering on KPIs.
Increasing engagement involves a serious look at upgrading your centre’s technology, cited as one of the top ten contact centre problems. It makes sense: enthusiasm for working flags when an agent can’t make their best effort.
An Engaged Agent is a Happy Agent. Business leaders agree that prioritising employee happiness gives companies a competitive advantage and makes it easier to retain talent.
Filling positions is a problem the world over right now. In the UK, there are not only post-pandemic issues but also Brexit-related ones, creating complex problems in the working market.
Furthermore, when people are not satisfied with their working conditions, a pool of qualified workers might end up choosing alternative work. For example, these days, there are as many as 600K people in the UK who have a HGV licence but do not drive for a living…
But the Culture of Work is Changing. The pandemic has forced companies to scramble to accommodate their employees in light of drastic, sudden changes to public health guidelines.
The benefits of that shift are plain to see for companies and employees alike, not least in the area of employee engagement. Contact centre agent environments have been improved thanks to working from home, now it’s time to upgrade their tools so that they may upgrade their skills.
Modern contact centre solutions are moving in the direction of incorporating artificial intelligence (AI)-based innovations. The benefits of upgrading your contact centre’s technology are two-fold, as optimising agent engagement translates to growing your customer base’s engagement with your brand.
Better technology means new skills for your contact centre’s agents in the course of mastering it, with the added benefit of letting them handle interactions that require empathy. It also means a more intuitive user interface, which takes some of the expected pain out of the training process.
All of which minimises stress and maximises performance, leading to faster call resolution, a boost in your customer satisfaction metrics and brand reputation.
You Should not Hesitate to Develop Contact Centre Agent Skills
Changing outdated mindsets means doing away with outdated practices, with which new technology is a great help. Making the leap to an AI-driven solution requires an investment in patience, faith and, of course, money.
Then again, it already likely costs you a small fortune to continuously train new hires to command the phones. If you think you can’t justify the cost, can you justify the status quo? The reward potential is very high, to say the least.
The arrival of AI offers a way to create an augmented contact centre agent workforce that will help you grow your brand. And, in turn, contact centre agents will feel energised, motivated, and engaged. Your agents will create value for you if you let them.
Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.