Author: Chris DeLambo, SVP of Business Development, Customer Experience Transformation, HGS
Whether you're a diehard Marvel fan or you pledge fealty to D.C., everybody likes a superhero. Not only do they always save the day, but many are also multi-talented, with a range of useful skills they can deploy as needed.
Contact centers, too, can have superheroes. They’re known as universal agents, or super agents. Like superheroes, these agents are versatile, multifaceted employees. And they have a superpower every contact center needs: They ensure happier customers and keep costs down through faster resolution rates.
Many contact centers, however, are still operating under the old model: regular agents working in silos.
The Challenges of the Contact Center
Many contact centers hire and train people for one specific role: customer service, billing, tech support, sales, customer retention, and so forth. Customers contacting a brand are routed to the appropriate department, and must wait for the first available agent trained to handle their specific need, rather than immediately speaking to any available agent.
The availability of more communications channels has further complicated things. Multichannel communications are good for the customer on one level, because they can contact a brand through their preferred medium: voice call, email, webchat, SMS/MMS message, in-app messaging, social media and so on.
But on the other hand, having so many channels can lead to longer wait times for customers if agents are only trained on, or assigned to, one or two channels. One particular day may bring a rush of webchat queries, but not many customers calling or messaging. Some agents may sit idle — while still costing money — while others tackle the webchat queries, one at a time.
These longer response and resolution times translate into lower customer satisfaction levels and costly inefficiencies. And with so many types of customer inquiries, and so many channels through which to address them, contact centers have to hire more people to have enough agents for every niche, which likewise increases costs.
The Super Agent to the Rescue
Enter the concept of the super agent, or universal agent, who wears many hats, and all of them well. These agents can handle more than one type of customer contact driver, or even all contact drivers. They’re comfortable with technology, can communicate effectively, and boast razor-sharp problem-solving skills.
Best of all, they’re able to multitask, quickly switching not only between different brain-work tasks, but also between different communications channels, without missing a beat.
Turning a regular agent into a super agent isn’t as easy as handing them a mask and cape. For starters, it takes the right kind of person to be able to do all of this. Contact centers must reconsider what metrics they are using in their screening and hiring processes to find people who are, or can be trained to be, a skilled generalist.
Once you’ve hired the right people, you have to set them up for success. Agents must be trained to navigate any customer queries that come their way — not just one or two contact drivers — and given the right tools.
That includes an omnipotent knowledge management platform that is rigorously maintained and continuously updated, because even the most experienced, highly trained agent sometimes comes across a situation that stumps them. Knowledge management also can also boost the customer experience: If agents know they have a tool that can assist them when they’re stymied, they will be more confident and collected when interacting with customers.
Of course, that’s just the human side of a super agent. There’s another component: technology.
Technology for the Win
Human agents cost a contact center money, but they’re 100% necessary. However, they are not necessary in 100% of interactions.
Many customer queries are fairly basic: What is your return policy? How can I sign up for a loyalty card? What accessories are compatible with my recent purchase? All of these can be easily handled by a bot trained via machine learning. They can even be answered by the customer themselves, through an automated self-service center that has been optimally designed to guide a customer toward the right resolution. Both of these options require some initial investment, but provide an ROI that reduces overall costs.
More complex queries need the human touch, but technology can be useful in those instances, too. Contact centers can tie artificial intelligence (AI) into a cloud-based knowledge management platform to improve resolution rates, even for difficult queries. As an agent types keywords into a search bar, the AI serves up the right information, much faster than an agent manually searching. This is good for both the customer, in terms of their time and satisfaction, and the contact center, in terms of costs and efficiency.
Contact centers can also add an AI with natural language processing (NLP) to a cloud-based phone system. The AI "hears" the customer’s query as the customer speaks it into the phone, and instantly populates the agent’s screen with the resolution. The agent only needs to deliver the answer and personalize the interaction.
Bots and Brains Together
There will always be tricky customer situations or difficult phone calls that even the most advanced AI of our time cannot handle, and that’s why a contact center also needs super agents, or universal agents.
But combining smart technology with humans who have been trained and set up for success is an ideal scenario for a contact center. This model cuts costs and drives efficiencies while helping customers get their issues resolved faster — ultimately resulting in higher customer satisfaction and a better customer experience
About Hinduja Global Solutions Ltd.:
HGS is a global provider in consumer engagement, digital CX, and business process management (BPM).
Published: Monday, December 21, 2020
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