Flexibility, empowerment are keys to success

By Kelly Koelliker

With the growth of consumer preference for self-service transactions—and the technology that enables them—many service issues don’t reach the contact centre at all. While this is a great development for the customer experience (CX) and efficiency the issues that do reach the contact centre now are much more complex.

As a result, it has become harder for your agents to find answers to customers’ questions as they often lack the modern tools needed to respond quickly and accurately. In fact, a study by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) found that 74% of customer service leaders acknowledge they don’t fully empower their agents to provide the best customer experience1. It’s a shame, because empowering technologies are available today to engage contact centre agents in a whole new way.

Add to this there is a new class of job opportunities for employees that didn’t exist a decade ago, such as Uber, Postmates and Amazon. People, especially those between the ages of 22 to 37 (the Millennials) are finding new ways to make money that provide the kind of flexibility they crave. Couple these factors to a strong economy with more employers seeking workers and you have a recipe for churn.

As a contact centre manager how do you find and retain the right workers in the face of these challenges?

Flexibility is key

In 2011 a well-known study of employee engagement in the Canadian workplace pointed to senior leaders and managers as bearing the primary responsibility for keeping employees engaged. Namely how clearly they communicate expectations, listen to employees’ opinions, give recognition and provide learning and development opportunities2.

Those things are still important, of course. But flexibility in the workplace has gained equal standing to the motivational capabilities of management. In a 2018 study of more than 36,000 consumers across 18 countries by Opinium Research LLP and Verint, 66% said that as technology improves, they expect workplaces to be more flexible to suit employee preferences3.

Having flexibility is the way Millennials want to work today. Smart contact centre managers are making appropriate changes to suit their preferences. For example, an agent is out with her friends for the evening and they want to make plans to attend an upcoming concert together. The employee checks her smartphone and sees that she is scheduled to work on that date, but quickly submits a request to swap shifts with someone else and it is approved. She can enjoy the rest of her evening knowing her employer lets her work the way she wants to and has reasonable control over her own schedule at her fingertips.

Workforce management tools that extend across mobile platforms enable agents to accomplish such tasks wherever they are. These applications not only give agents a sense of empowerment in that they can easily manage their own schedules and maintain work-life balance but they also give them a sense that their company is a modern one: accessed with the same technology they use in their personal lives.

This last point is critical. Let’s face it: if your employees have the feeling they’re stepping back in time when they go to work, forget it. Technology that is more difficult, cumbersome or confining than the sophisticated tools they use at home can be a deal-breaker in the hiring world. The “bring your own device” to work trend that started a few years ago has evolved into an environment in which work and personal life are blended 24/7, all driven by similar kinds of empowering tools.

Knowledge is empowerment

This then leaves the question of how agents can best handle complex questions, often covering such a broad range of topics and rapidly changing issues, so much so that it’s virtually impossible for organizations to provide their employees with enough training to cover everything.

The answer is automated knowledge management technology powered by speech analytics. Real-time speech analytics listens to customer conversations as they happen. When certain words are heard the agents’ desktops shows the next best actions. They can be reminders to complete compliance steps, excerpt from articles or specific processes. With this capability agents no longer need to spend time searching for the right actions to take, thereby improving efficiency and reducing mistakes.

Easy to use, this automated technology is an ideal fit for the Millennial workforce who are accustomed to consulting screens for all the answers they need. The tools are sophisticated enough to highlight the appropriate passages so that it is easy for agents to digest and put the answers in his or her own words. The agents won’t sound like robots, but like real persons with whom the customers feel connections.

Engaged employees deliver better CX

There is a compelling business case in providing employees with flexibility and advanced tools to help customers. Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce report found that companies in the top quartile of engagement levels experience 20% higher sales and 21% higher profitability as compared with those in the bottom quartile4.

We at Verint see similar signs of success in our work. Here are two of many such examples. An insurance company saw a 32-second savings in average handle time (AHT) and a 20% increase in Net Promoter Scores with new employee engagement solutions like the ones described here. A utility company improved customer satisfaction scores from 85% to 92%, lowered AHT by five minutes and reduced customer attrition by 20%.

We know a key component of a successful CX strategy is to be a company that is easy to do business with. But given what we know about the link between employee engagement and CX, another important requirement emerges too: a company should be easy to work for as well.

Kelly Koelliker is director of content marketing at Verint (www.verint.com).

1 ICMI, “Designing the Modern Customer Experience”, web site.

2 Shawn Bakker, Psychometrics, “Control, Opportunity & Leadership”, study, 2011.

3 Verint, “Defining the Human Age: A Reflection on Customer Service in 2030”, study, 2018.

4 Gallup, “State of the American Workplace”, study, 2017.

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