As we enter the new year, 2022 looks like it is going to bring with it some tough times for contact center managers. With high demand for labor across all industries and new work-from-home options, prospective agents have more control than ever. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for contact centers to hire and retain all the agents they need; there are just not enough available agents in the labor pool to go around and existing agents have demonstrated that they are willing to leave at the first sign of frustration.
Simultaneously, customer expectations for a better experience continue to rise. For simple or straightforward interactions, customers expect a wide range of efficient and easy-to-navigate self-service options. And for more unique, nuanced, or complex issues, customers still want to talk to agents but they expect those interactions to be pleasant and efficient as well.
Because of these trends, most contact center managers are discovering that the costs for hiring and retaining a capable staff and the costs for delivering great customer service with the help of those agents are rising at a pace that lots of contact centers are going to struggle to keep up with.
How We’ve Been Solving the Problem
Naturally, some contact center managers will try to forge ahead with the same management practices, feeling that spending more money on the problem and just “trying harder” will keep their contact center functioning effectively. But with fewer agents available and higher customer expectations, resources spent on fixing these problems do not produce effective results and don’t facilitate sustainable improvement. Instead, what you get is:
Any of these outcomes would be bad enough on their own, but managers who refuse to change their approach will find that all of these things will start to happen (if they’re not happening already) and each of these trends exacerbates the others until increasing costs spiral out of control without achieving any real improvement. In other words, frustrated agents result in unmet customer expectations and managers having to spend time addressing agent issues. Increased customer expectations result in agents getting overworked and getting frustrated because they’re not able to meet those expectations. And harried managers aren’t able to make sustainable, measurable improvements in taking care of their agents or their customers. In the end, no one is happy and no one is doing their job effectively.
2022 is Going to Require a New Approach
To survive in this new world, contact centers will have to change their approach and that approach doesn’t start with ramping up hiring, spending more on technology, or developing new channels to help customers—it starts with clearly defining the process for delivering great customer service.
Only when you’ve clearly defined how to do the job correctly can you create a baseline for good service. Initially, the process might take a bit longer but at the very least you know the job is getting done right. Once the job is done right, you can look to technology solutions that facilitate that process being done quicker, that enhance your agents’ ability to follow the process, or that let your customers get the same great service in different channels. So all of your technology dollars are spent on improving from that baseline standard you established rather than solving one problem only to create another one, e.g. reducing handle times only to see quality scores suffer.
Lots of managers will respond that they already have their processes clearly defined because they have a knowledge base. But knowledge bases are insufficient in two ways. First, they’re never detailed enough to cover every scenario that an agent will encounter. Second and more importantly, accessing the information in your knowledge base is time-consuming and error-prone. Any agent who needs to reference your knowledge base usually has to switch to a different program and then search for the answer they need, read through those instructions once they find them, and interpret the best way to proceed based on what they found. While this is happening, customers are just waiting on the other end so handle times keep going up. Also, any two agents might interpret the steps wrong or in a rush they might miss a step, resulting in inconsistent service and often frustrated agents.
For a well-defined process to be truly effective at improving service or improving the agent experience, the right information has to be given to the agent when they need it and the steps forward have to be clear. Then when every agent knows exactly what to do on every call, the result is:
How are you going to remember 2022 a year from now? Will it be the year that you worked harder and spent more money without realizing significant results? Or will it be the year that you changed your approach, focused on clearly establishing your process, and reached contact center bliss?
Publish Date: January 18, 2022 12:23 PM
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