In these uncertain economic times, how do we nurture agents to secure revenue? Recent research shows consumers believe there is a direct correlation between contact centres and brand loyalty. Magnus Geverts of Calabrio discusses what organisations can do to support their frontline staff.
In the latest State of the Contact Centre Report the vast majority of consumers (97%) and contact centre managers (98%) agree that customer service interactions have an impact on customer loyalty. According to 88% of contact centre managers brand perception also directly influences overall company revenue. Yet customers are quick to look for new options if unhappy. An astonishing 60% of consumers have switched brands due to negative contact centre experiences. As a result, the role of the contact centre is elevated with agents becoming brand guardians.
The good news is that the prevalence of remote and hybrid working is accelerating the journey towards effective brand guardianship. Without the stress, cost, and time to commute, agents are better placed to focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences supported by today’s connectivity-boosting cloud-based solutions. In fact, 73% of UK operations now have more than half of their agents working at home, at least some of the time and there has been little change in the past 12 months. Is there any wonder this trend is set to continue with the main benefits of homeworking cited by contact centre leaders as being disaster recovery/business continuity (96%), staffing flexibility (60%) and reduced staff attrition (30%)?
However, many contact centres are still being held back by staffing challenges. Top of the list are agent stress/burnout and the operational difficulties of remote/hybrid working (both 40%) followed by high attrition/turnover (38%) and lack of agent engagement/motivation (37%). Worryingly, these largely internal issues are trickling down to the customer. One in 3 consumers say they’ve noticed that agents seem more stressed than a year ago, and alarmingly, 72% say that an interaction with a stressed contact centre agent would negatively impact their perception of a brand. It’s time to act.
1. Do a better PR job on agent careers – with recruitment, attrition, and retention being key priorities, it is more important than ever that careers in customer service are seen positively by the general public. Research from the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) reveals that while 64% of UK consumers believe customer service organisations do an important job for the community, opinions on pay and benefits lag behind. Contact centres that promote the benefits of flexible hours (57%) and the opportunity to learn new things (56%) stand to gain most.
2. Build a culture of brand guardianship – to help agents achieve your revenue-generating customer experience (CX) objectives. Encourage them to perfect a compelling storyboard that makes your organisation stand out from the crowd. Make this brand story part of the agents’ mindset so it becomes second-nature when interacting with customers, whatever the channel. Train new recruits and experienced members of the team then inspire and motivate them through incentives and gamification. Offer rewards to those who share their brand story successes and learning with others. This gives everyone the opportunity to shine, and customers will pick up on the positive energy and enthusiasm.
3. Introduce new levels of flexibility – after higher pay, agents want flexibility (at 34%) . What does flexibility mean in your organisation and how can it benefit agents and the business? Try introducing shift bidding so agents can view and select their first and second choices of upcoming or unassigned shifts, then make the most of micro-shifts—small windows of time that frontline staff can spend on e-learning, unexpected domestic crises, or simply relaxing.
Next, make the most of self-service automation and allow agents to build and edit their own schedules in real-time, using their mobile devices. This evolved form of ‘lifestyle scheduling’ is extremely empowering, eliminating the stress of work-from-home regimes and leaving agents energised to deliver exceptional CX.
4. Monitor agent wellbeing – with agent stress a detrimental factor, offering the right support is crucial. Build time into agent schedules to connect with other colleagues and give agents their very own DIY de-stressor kit to cope with the demands of their new role. This could include ideas for creating an ergonomically friendly workspace at home, signaling when they are “on” and “off” duty or energy boosting tips such as how to get a good night’s sleep.
The latest sentiment analysis tools are also a useful barometer of agent mood. They help to identify individual agents who might need extra support and highlight specific pain points that get in the way of effective brand guardianship.
5. Give agents tools tailored to training – offering targeted training (49%) and improving technology (43%) are two major areas contact centre managers are focusing on right now . Do your agents know what customers are feeling at every stage of the customer journey? Can they pre-empt what will make or break a good customer experience? First, adopt automated performance coaching solutions to identify individual skills gaps and deliver highly personalised training schedules. Then, harness the power of Voice of the Customer (VoC) analytics to give agents the intelligent insights they need to flourish as brand guardians and deliver the best-ever customer service.
For more ideas on how to make your frontline staff brand and revenue guardians in these uncertain economic times, download our latest report: State of the Contact Centre 2022: Empowering the Contact Centre as Brand Guardian.