The call centre is the backbone of any company, and it is often directly responsible for maintaining the business’ image in the eyes of the public. Support agents can often make or break a business. This, coupled with the fact that consumer expectations are constantly evolving, means that underperformance on the part of call centre agents can cost a company dearly.
As a company grows, providing customer support becomes more complex. More products and services mean more potential problems, and more potentially irate customers to deal with. Agents may find themselves requiring more upfront knowledge, and finding the right person or department to direct queries to may also become more difficult. While these challenges must be dealt with as a company grows, they are not the customer’s concern and should be handled behind the scenes so that customers still receive the quick and efficient support they need.
This means improving the productivity and knowledge base for customer support, allowing them to drive superior customer experience.
The Effect of Poor Customer Support on the Customer Experience
It is inevitable that an unproductive call centre will result in a poor customer experience. No customer wants to wait hours or days for an answer to their questions, or a solution to their problems.
This poor customer service can have a dramatic, negative impact on your business – especially for companies who rely on word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business. Poor customer support can alienate even the most forgiving customers and has the potential to cost the business new customers. Many consumers who experience poor service will often share their frustrations with family and friends, warning them to stay away.
Apart from the potential to lose current and future customers, poor customer service can also cost a business its employees. Even staff who chronically underperform do not enjoy being yelled at by management or unpleasant customers, resulting in an increased turnover of disgruntled employees. Not only is it expensive and time-consuming to be constantly advertising positions and screening and training new employees, but the high turnover can also have a negative impact on morale – further lowering productivity levels and creating a vicious cycle of poor service.
Empowering call centre agents to work more productively and efficiently can not only make their lives easier but also allows them to offer superior support and provide a better customer experience.
Benefits of a Productive Call Centre
Without productive and knowledgeable customer support, it is impossible to deliver a consistently positive customer experience. Improving agent productivity allows businesses to convert their call centres into a driver of positive outcomes, increasing customer success and ultimately improving customer retention.
Though trends such as chatbots and automated support have begun to revolutionize the customer support industry, most customers who call in to customer support want to talk to a human being. It is important that these customers are met with a prompt, efficient, and knowledgeable agent.
Customer support agents must be empowered to provide high-quality service, as their ability to provide timely call resolutions in an accurate and friendly manner is a direct contributor to overall customer satisfaction.
According to John Heald, Global Vice President of Market Development at SAP Hybris Service Cloud, “If your people are always saying no, try changing the culture and introducing some autonomy. Empower them to do what is necessary to solve a problem.”
Benefits of a productive call centre include:
Improved KPIs: Productive call centre agents who have been equipped with the right tools and training are able to contribute to improved KPIs such as mean time to resolution, first call resolution, and handling time, as well as satisfaction metrics such as Net Promoter Score ® and CSAT.
Lower Agent Churn: Under-equipped agents are likely to become overwhelmed by high caseloads, which can eventually lead to burnout – one of the leading causes of agent turnover.
Lower Costs: According to Accenture, “the estimated cost of customers switching [companies] due to poor service is $1.6 trillion.” Unproductive and under-equipped agents can lead to poor customer service, which can ultimately cost a business both customers and money.
Ability to Adapt to Variable Volume: Productive agents are more able to adapt to seasonal spikes and higher volumes of calls. Improving agent productivity means enabling agents to provide superior customer service, even during busy times.
Improved Customer Retention: It costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. According to a survey by Statista, 70% of millennials claimed that they would do more business with a company as a result of good customer service.
Five Strategies for Improving Support Agent Productivity
Improving support agent productivity enables agents to drive superior customer experience, improve customer satisfaction, and increase customer retention.
Empower Agents with Training
Providing agents with adequate training leads to more productive teams. Call centres that provide ongoing training for support agents show a 4.6% year-over-year improvement in performance, compared to those who don’t. Modern training software can be used by managers to create simple lessons on new products and services or skills and procedures that support agents need to know. Agents can also be allowed to engage with and review interactive programs and courses at their desks, without having to take time out to attend classes. This type of online learning also allows for a productive use of downtime, teaching reps to actively use their time to increase their knowledge base, without making themselves unavailable to customers.
Continuous training can also teach the support team to handle calls more efficiently and increase their ability to handle large volumes of calls without compromising service quality.
Improve the Knowledge Base
One of the main obstacles to support agent productivity is time wasted searching for answers. When consumers reach out to a call centre, they often expect the agent to have the knowledge and expertise required to resolve their query quickly – and without being handed off to other departments.
While it is unreasonable to expect agents to memorize the best response to every technical issue, creating and implementing a central, comprehensive, and searchable hub for all company knowledge can allow agents to find the answer to any question they may receive within only a few seconds. By creating a library of resources that provides details of each known product issue, this hub can help agents to save time, as they aren’t spending valuable minutes searching through the documentation for answers, or putting the customer on hold while they find the right person to direct questions too.
Having a single source for knowledge can directly impact CSAT and NPS scores, and allows agents to increase the number of first-contact resolutions. As agent confidence grows, so too will their productivity and knowledge base. Even non-customer facing teams such as legal and billing can contribute to the knowledge base by collaborating on and editing resources.
Another time-waster in call centres is having a customer repeat the detail of their query each time they are handed off to a different agent. Not only does this decrease the productivity of the entire call centre, but it also has a direct effect on customer happiness.
Providing agents with a complete view of the customer’s relationship with the company can help to save time and improve customer experience. This can include whether they’ve reached out before, which products or services they have purchased, which support channels they favor, and any queries they have previously had. This information gives support agents the visibility they need to provide more contextual support in a timely manner.
Share Strategic Metrics
While call centre managers will typically keep track of and share quantitative, real-time statistics such as longest and average wait time, and number of callers in the queue, not many will focus on the insights that can be gained from this data. Utilizing Customer Satisfaction Score CSAT and first-call resolution details that correlate directly with customer experience can allow managers to refine their approaches and provide more effective feedback, boosting support agent productivity and knowledge base.
Another approach is to share the real-time metrics of each agent, allowing them to analyze their own performance in comparison to their coworkers. This encourages friendly competition and can incentivize and motivate agents to increase their performance, productivity, and knowledge base.
In addition to traditional Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), newer technologies provide more individualized and specific insights into agent performance, showing areas for improvement. It is possible to integrate technology that studies time spent on calls, speech analytics, response times and many other critical elements to identify areas for improvement and coaching.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of measuring performance in such a manner is to allow agents to reflect on these metrics themselves. This can allow for the exposure of inefficient processes and other causes of dissatisfaction which may be a cause of low productivity.
Give Agents Autonomy
Call centre work can easily become monotonous, and when agents are following a set system of canned responses and processes which make their job feel repetitive and tedious, this monotony can become unbearable. Additionally, inefficient processes can mean that agents are unable to truly assist customers, leading to dissatisfaction and resentment.
It is important that agents be granted a degree of autonomy when it comes to the approach they take to customer service. They should be given some leeway to make decisions, as this can play a major role in their level of productivity and their knowledge base.
By granting them some autonomy, they are able to hone their skills and become more adept at thinking on their feet. Feeling like their decisions led to customer satisfaction can also give them a sense of pride, improving overall confidence, knowledge base, and productivity in the long run.
Allow Agents to Take Frequent Breaks
Stringent protocols, irate customers, strict deadlines and the stress of meeting quotas can contribute to extreme tension in call centres. All of this can add up, affecting productivity and job satisfaction, lowering morale and contributing to staff turnover. One solution to dealing with the stress endemic in call centres is to allow agents to take short but frequent breaks throughout their shift.
Even just getting up for a breather, using the restroom, or making a snack or cup of coffee can help agents to gain a sense of control over their stressors. Short breaks can also allow agents to clear their minds between customers, meaning that they can approach each new call with a smile.
The Seekify Solution
Seekify offers contextual training for call centre agents, designed to help them give customers more than what they expect. Empowering agents and companies to deliver the perfect customer experience, Seekify integrates with existing systems to generate actionable insights, while initiating contextual processes to utilize them. Going a step further, businesses can also use Seekify to automate any actions required to improve the customer experience.
If you are interested in delivering a superior customer experience, contact us at Seekify today.