As with any area of business, the contact center has been inundated with ever-changing processes, metrics, and rules, which can lead to multifaceted problems and communication errors. A disconnect between agents, management, and technology can spell disaster. Here are some issues that you should keep on your radar.
Getting back to agent basics: coaching and training
For agents, sitting on the front line can feel like sitting on the firing line. Even with helpful new technology, training and coaching are issues that often rear their ugly heads. Roger Woolley, vice president of solutions marketing at Verint, says that training can often fall by the wayside, especially when agents are preoccupied with call volume spikes.
"We talk to supervisors and agents, and what we find oftentimes is that training takes a back seat when call volumes come up, so it will get rescheduled or cancelled," Woolley says."Not only does training provide agent[s with] soft skills, but also application usage and knowledge management transfer."
Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, agrees.
"If a company doesn't have standardized questions and answers, there might not be a knowledge base, or technical knowledge, or there may be gaps in knowledge," she says. "You want to make sure that agents have adopted company policies and procedures and they can represent a company and the brand."
As part of coaching and training, Leggett says it's important to include sensitivity training. "You really want to make sure that the agent can empathize with the customer," she says.
The biggest issue facing agents, according to Deborah Navarra, senior analyst at DMG Consulting and a former contact center agent, supervisor, and manager, is that agents don't feel empowered.
"Agents aren't empowered to take ownership of the customer problem, and essentially that's what customers want," she says. "They want to know that they're in good hands and you're going to fix [their problem]."
Navarra points to Zappos as an example of a company that provides excellent customer service. "Their agents are empowered and they'll do whatever they can to make you happy," she says. "It does make a difference."
Kelly Koelliker, director of product marketing at KANA, says that another issue affecting agents may be a lack of access to a knowledge management system or a lack of its use. [Verint acquired KANA in January 2014].
"Often the systems are very siloed, so there may be knowledge available to [contact center agents], but when I sit side-by-side with [them], I'll often see them go through calls where they never use knowledge management," Koelliker says. "It could be because it's difficult to use so they don't think of it or [that] it's not brought automatically to the forefront of their screen. What ends up happening is that they are giving out information based on memory instead of source."
Is technology helping or hurting?
While it's great for agents to have so much information at the touch of a finger, Navarra believes that siloed information is one of the biggest failures with contact center technology.
"The customer will start out in one channel and migrate to another, but sometimes the information that came from the first channel is lost," Navarra says. "There could be a brand-new interaction and there's nothing to link it together, nothing to measure the whole customer journey."
While there is technology to alleviate this issue, Navarra believes that many companies aren't utilizing it.
"We do have the technology to measure and manage the customer experience throughout every channel," she says. "There is usually a three- to-