How CX Agents Can Become Customer Advocates
Agents like helping customers. Happy customers buy more and require less service. It is a simple equation that too few companies recognize. A myopic focus on servicing cost creates a reverse incentive for customers, agents, and business partners to select alternate providers for their products and services.
Somewhere along the way the job of a contact center agent transitioned from helping customers to an environment where the only thing that is rewarded are efficiency numbers, often at the expense of the company’s brand. Walk into many contact centers and they resemble sweat shops with computers. Companies in the “most-hated” list often have their contact centers cited by clients as a top reason.
The reason contact centers and customer service organizations develop a reputation as “the contact of last resort” is simple. Agents are not incentivized to help customers; they are encouraged to end the conversation as fast as possible. This is not a simple problem to solve because it has evolved over many years, but enlightened companies are rethinking the issue of agent empowerment, how agents are measured, and how they measure client success.
Make Agents Advocates
The first step in this process of agent empowerment is to convert agents’ function from one of transaction executers to that of customer advocates. Surprisingly, technology plays a big role in this transition. It is not sufficient to change the objective without changing the tools. As contact center agents and managers change from labor intensive administrative resources to customer advocates, who advise and coach customers serving as brand ambassadors for the organization, the tools and approach will need to change in parallel.
Having a holistic view of the customer is critical for agents to be advocates. When agents have relevant customer data at their fingertips, agents can then focus on engaging customers with productive and personalized experiences. This, however, is more than just the “single pane of glass” being sold as the solution in many environments. It is the ability for agents to do the right thing to correct issues, offer real-time discounts and offers, and eliminate or streamline cumbersome approval processes.
The second part of becoming customer advocates involves training. Traditionally, training is focused on memorizing processes, learning how to look up information—often while the customer sits on hold—and then closing the call as quickly as possible. Converting your agent to advocate means focusing on outcomes, not blind compliance to a process. An agent cannot affect long hold times, but they can make sure once connected they help the customer and ensure they don’t have to call back. Pundits will say that contact centers have always measured FCR (First Call Resolution) but it is rarely a focus of training.
Another meaningful outcome of agents becoming advocates is that agents are able to employ more intelligent approaches to customers. Eventus sees a transition from a “next best action” approach to a more dynamic real-time intent determination with multiple responses. Intelligent, as opposed to procedural, systems can determine customer intent, leverage analytics, and recommend a potential best match to the customers’ needs and desires for targeted products, services, brands and results.
When agents operate as advocates with appropriate tools, many of the traditional metrics (e.g., Average Handle Time) will drop without negative impacts to issue resolution and customer experience. The contacts will be quick because the agents have the tools to help customers and they are not stuck in a tug of war between the customer’s needs and how they are measured.
Measure Customer Satisfaction Differently
Traditionally, customer satisfaction has been measured by various survey tools. Net Promoter Score (NPS) and CSAT measurements are the standard for how most teams are evaluated. However, this approach suffers from low response rates and selection bias and, more importantly, most companies have the ability to measure customer satisfaction with a much more analytical approach. We don’t suggest dropping your NPS or CSAT Programs, but we do think there are better ways to measure customer satisfaction and the impact of the servicing organization.
Companies have invested billions over the past decade in developing sophisticated data warehouses and analytical tools. Those tools should be the foundation of customer satisfaction programs. Rather than asking customers about their experience, companies have the ability to develop programs to measure customer behavior on a “Market of One” basis rather than using segments or other techniques to group customers together.
Customer satisfaction can be measured by increases in sales, referrals to friends and subscription repurchases. These items are usually measured in silos and they are rarely correlated with servicing or marketing events. Rather than treat these events as standalone items, they should be considered in the context of the overall experience. How did sales change after various servicing interactions? Do proactive outreaches impact sales? Do customers refer friends? These items can be measured and correlated through a company’s analytical tools. Rather than measure CSAT based on a one-off interaction, measure it in context with the overall behavior of the customer, not in how they filled out a survey.
Reimagine Your Customer Service Analytics
Customer service analytics can also change with the evolution of agent empowerment. This is one area most servicing organizations can control. The traditional way of measuring agent quality is to audit small sampling of calls and make sure the agent followed a checklist of required actions. Often, the people grading the agents are former agents who are sympathetic to the grind of being an agent. It also usually focuses solely on whether the agent followed the procedure, and not whether following the procedure satisfied the customer’s need. This misses a key opportunity to measure the effectiveness of the processes themselves. There is nothing particularly wrong with companies using this approach in the past but, like many things in the servicing area, it needs to evolve.
Companies now have the ability to review every call with analytics and can focus on outcomes as opposed to meeting a checklist of items. They can determine if a call back was promised, whether a customer was happy with the interaction regardless of survey results and they can identify the agent’s skill by measuring how long customers were on hold and other metrics.
Automated quality management and sentiment analysis also provides contact center managers with detailed intelligence about agents’ interactions with customers. These capabilities enable a more targeted and focused approach to coaching agents in order to improve and enhance overall results. Performance trends can also be automatically flagged to allow for timelier courses of correction and system-managed escalations can then create greater process efficiencies.
Automating quality assurance can turn your program from a “check the box” approach to one where every interaction is measured and focuses on actionable improvement based on trends, not just a small sample of calls, thereby turning your contact center organization into a rapid insight-generation engine for your organization.
Artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are transforming customers’ expectations of what constitutes exceptional service. A well-executed AI experience increases convenience for customers. However, a clunky or poorly orchestrated solution can actually increase customers’ frustration when interacting with your brand.
Historically, businesses engaged in customer service have implemented new systems to address missing capabilities or to improve efficiency. With the number of overlapping capabilities in the marketplace, that mindset needs to shift toward designing solutions with an eye toward experience orchestration rather than simply adding more systems to address changing business conditions.