As technologists, it’s easy to get caught up in the feeds and speeds of the latest contact center technology. It’s easy to get wrapped around metrics like abandoned rates, queue times, and SLA thresholds. Contact center software developers and integrators spend a great deal of time talking about features and metrics and how these things will drive revenue, cut costs, and improve customer satisfaction. I’ve seen thousands of feature sheets, charts, sample reports, and beautiful software interfaces, but very little, if any, thought is given to the actual humans working within the contact center and how they drive your business.
What about the customer service guy who commutes to work every day, logs in, and answers call after angry call with no reprieve? What about the tech support woman who is juggling calls, web chats, emails, and five different applications spanning three computer monitors? How can technology help these people? And, in turn, how can these people help your contact center and ultimately your business?
Agent burnout is, in my opinion, the most troubling epidemic contact center leaders and business executives are faced with today. Agent attrition leads to poor service, lost revenue, brand damage, high costs, and an eroded bottom line. But you don’t often see the employee burnout metric show up on a weekly contact center report.
It is my belief that software for the sake of software is useless to your organization unless it is aligned with the human element of your contact center operation. Companies that embrace these concepts to elevate their contact centers will win with better service and differentiation.
Here are the top things progressive contact center leaders are focusing on:
- Making the agent’s job easier: Agent software needs to be evaluated, configured, and deployed with the goals of streamlining applications into one or two at the most. The fewer the clicks or application switching required for agents to do their jobs, the better. This also saves precious time. Ideas might be to embed telephony and contact center controls into the customer relationship management interface, click-to-dial, or dynamically display customer data on the screen during an inbound call.
- Training: Continuous training on the software tools is important. Ongoing soft skills training like customer empathy, patience, and conflict resolution is critical.
- Physical environment: Consult with workplace experts about creating a more enjoyable place for your agents to work. Things like natural light, noise, and ergonomics can make a significantly positive impact in agent happiness.
- Enjoyable: Simply accepting that a contact center agent job is going to be an unenjoyable experience will put you out of business. Gamification software, fun wallboards, and contests can improve the agents’ experience.
- Immediate feedback: It’s human nature for people to want to know they’re contributing to the greater good, and know how they’re contributing to the greater good. It’s a fact that immediate, real-time feedback is the most powerful reinforcement to behavioral change. Again, much can be done with wallboards, contests, and gamification to provide immediate positive (or negative) feedback for your agents.
- Decalcifying agents: Figure out a way to get your agents out of their chairs every day. This could be by inviting them to take a lap around the building or inviting them to walk over for a sales presentation call. This will do wonders in preventing agent burnout and promoting happiness.
- Simplify reporting: Stop analysis paralysis. Measure less, but more meaningful, data. Pick no more than 10 meaningful key performance indicators and track them maniacally. Forget anything else. This simplifies management and expedites important decisions. More importantly, understand the true meaning behind the metrics. For example, occupancy rates mean nothing unless you understand that they are a good indicator of agent burnout.
In our experience, it’s much easier to accomplish and tailor much of the technology/human alignment part of the contact center by adopting a cloud contact center. It’s generally quicker, cheaper, and easier to work with as opposed to its IT-laden, onsite, complex counterparts.
Millennials are driving high customer service expectations across every industry. They also have high expectations as contact center employees. To survive and thrive, you must align your contact center with its people.
Edited by Alicia Young