Resolving shortages of customer service staff with the right technology

A recent Bloomberg article started: Call centers are severely understaffed, and the customer experience is deteriorating accordingly.

The waiting time at call centers has tripled in recent years. I admit it – the study that led to this conclusion was conducted in the United States. Moreover, the average duration of a call seemed to have increased as more customers than before the corona pandemic needed a talk. But bottom line of the survey – customer experience suffers significantly from the acute shortage of call center agents – almost all customer experience managers in Europe will also confirm.

We have noticed that many agents do not have the right tools to do their job well and be productive throughout. It leads to a lot of frustration. Especially when there is one element we have already focused on in our latest Customer Experience Benchmarking report: 4 out of 5 organizations agree that CX teams (ie contact center agents) are often overwhelmed by work.

The most obvious solution is for contact centers to simply hire more agents. Adequate staffing would significantly alleviate or even eliminate the problem of excessive workload. But how do you attract new talent when employee turnover is caused by too much workload and lack of the right tools to solve that problem?

One thing is indisputable: In order to solve this problem, organizations must first and foremost equip their agents with efficient resources. These resources can help to be more productive and customer-oriented and ultimately increase employee satisfaction and commitment. And that in turn leads to higher customer satisfaction. According to 89 percent of contact center managers, more employee engagement would significantly improve the quality of the customer experience, according to a 2019 survey by Frost & Sullivan.

Artificial intelligence and automation make the difference

There are many tools that can effectively and efficiently support contact center agents in solving customer problems. Most fall into one of these two categories: automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

Automation relieves agents of tedious and time-consuming tasks that computers can easily perform. This is also known as RPA (robotic process automation). An example of this is a chatbot that collects the necessary information from the customer: from the customer data and the reason for the call to an overview of previous interactions with your company. This generally leads to a more efficient, pleasant and productive interaction and thus to happier customers and employees who feel more involved.

Because the contact center agent already has all the necessary information before the conversation with the customer, both can immediately to the point come. The agent should not interrupt the call to look up data, and the customer should not repeat information.

With simple questions or queries, the chatbot can even help the customer without human intervention.

Maarten Copini, Customer Experience and Intelligent Business Practice Lead Europe at NTT Ltd.

With simple questions or queries, the chatbot can even help the customer without human intervention. In more complex cases, the chatbot forwards all customer information to the contact center agent during the call. But the end result is always the same: both customers and employees have a positive sense of conversation.

Other tools for optimizing engagement

There are several other ways to improve the contact center agent’s commitment and work from home agent’s performance.

Gamification is back on track to keep agents motivated, ensure they do not lose sight of their performance, and increase teamwork. Add some healthy competition and the opportunity to earn rewards, and employee motivation and commitment are guaranteed top notch. You can also integrate gamification into the contact center tools. A performance dashboard connects your goals with your contact center real-time KPI performance. Or use the e-learning dashboard to determine exactly what training a contact center employee should follow.

A good work-life balance is crucial, especially for agents working from home. Thanks to an advanced workforce management tool with smart schedules and work schedules – inclusive best practice such as exchanging and agreeing on working hours and the agents’ ability to indicate when they prefer to work – your employees remain productive, motivated and healthy.

Nor can you do without a solution to increase the involvement of your employees. This greatly automates the work of checking compliance obligations and assigning scores for interactions. Such a system combines data from your contact center’s routing platform with quality management and workforce management tools.

Common sense

According to this McKinsey survey, committed and satisfied call center agents are:

  • 8.5 times more likely to stay resident than other employees leaving within the year
  • 4 times more likely to stay than dissatisfied colleagues
  • 16 times more likely to refer friends to their business
  • 3.3 times more likely to go beyond solving customer problems

In any contact center, it’s all hand on deck to retain agents. The sector is struggling with high staff turnover and chronic shortage of employees. Giving contact center agents the tools to improve engagement and satisfaction is more than just a human act. It’s just a matter of common sense.

This is a contribution provided by Maarten Copini, Customer Experience and Intelligent Business Practice Lead Europe at NTT Ltd. For more information about their services, please click here.

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