The reality is, your contact center’s success still hinges on the quality of the conversations your agents have with your customers.
The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in investments in AI, data analysis and other technologies designed to increase contact center efficiency. But in spite of all the technology that’s now available, the #1 factor contributing to whether or not your contact center achieves its objectives hasn’t changed. The reality is, the long-term ROI from your contact center training still hinges on the quality of the conversations your agents have every day with your customers.
This fact has been consistently reinforced by the contact center leaders, managers and supervisors we’ve polled at the two most recent Customer Contact Week (CCW) events. Here’s what they’ve revealed to us about the most pressing agent and operational challenges contact centers are dealing with today.
Contact Center Agents: Losing the “Human Touch”?
Managers told us their two biggest concerns with their agents are that they’re missing important customer cues about needs and that they need to improve the “human touch” in customer conversations.
Companies can’t build deep relationships on technology alone. Contact center leaders are rightfully worried that the increased focus on AI and technology could be driving their agents even further away from making the kind of human-to-human connections that create long-term loyal customers. Time spent in contact center training learning new tools could be coming at the expense of strengthening their relationship-building skills. And the fact that this is an area where agents are already struggling makes it even more of challenge.
But considering that technology will ultimately be the great equalizer once it becomes more widely available, this also represents an opportunity. Agents who are able to pick up on cues that reveal deeper needs and who have that “human touch” will create differentiating value for your customers — and your contact center.
Contact center leaders also told us that their agents are struggling with how to uncover needs and listen to what is important to customers. We know they’re getting training and being held accountable to meeting minimum activity levels. Are they likewise being managed to and trained on the interpersonal skills they need to differentiate and deliver value to your customers during the conversation?
Contact Center Operations: The High Cost of Churn
At the operational level, senior contact center leaders identified a host of challenges they’re grappling with. Number one by far, though, is the need to break the cycle of high agent turnover. With low job satisfaction and high burnout rates common, the churn is much too costly at most contact centers. And the consequences of that constant turnover can be felt in a number of ways, from hiring, onboarding, training and productivity costs to the impact on service quality and consistency.
While the top five operational challenges cover a range of issues, they all have something in common: the critical role of the manager. Whether it’s keeping employees engaged and motivated or coaching agents to meet important goals related to conversion and cross-selling, managers are the key. And too many managers are struggling. They are trapped in a cycle of measuring activity and adhering to scripts, while failing to understand what drives better results in the centers. Little wonder they aren’t able to move the needle on actual results.
In fact, some of the things managers are doing might actually be interfering with employee engagement, retention and goal achievement. For example, senior leaders told us that because their managers’ approach to coaching is mostly corrective, it reduces agent engagement. After all, it’s hard to feel great about what you do when the only time your manager gives you any attention is when things go wrong.
When managers lack great coaching capabilities, agent performance is less consistent. They become less motivated, and that, in turn, decreases their passion for creating great customer experiences. The damaging cycle of job dissatisfaction, disengagement, burnout and churn continues, and the customer experience declines even more.
Contact centers have one of the highest turnover rates of any industry, but that doesn’t mean high turnover is inevitable. Managers need to understand what coaching is, and then they need both the skill and will to do it effectively.
Technology is a given in contact centers today. But on its own, it’s not going to solve some of the most critical challenges contact center leaders are facing. Achieving your objectives still requires people-first leadership and the ability of contact center training to translate to strong customer relationships. If anything, it requires it now more than ever.
Chief Sales Officer
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