This post was originally published on lessonly.com.
Google the phrase “sales enablement,” and you’ll see 16.4 million results. That’s real. Try it yourself. Now google the phrase “customer service enablement,” and the returns are just one-tenth that number. Crazy.
There’s a sea change in companies right now, and if you don’t ride the tide, your company will be swept out to sea. For decades, call center solutions have been tools for “loss prevention”. Now progressive organizations view them as profit centers. If your leadership doesn’t feel this way, it’s time for a sit-down to understand why.
Think about how you make a major personal purchase these days. Typically, we cringe at the idea of speaking directly with a salesperson. Through the power of the internet, the modern buyer is more informed than ever. We might frequent a brick and mortar shop to look, touch, and feel the item, but most likely we’ll make the purchase online. During that online transaction, they’re not engaging with a salesperson; they’re working with a customer service agent. That agent now has the same impact on the sale that a salesperson once did. So our contact center solutions and contact center software both need to be up to the challenge.
It’s time we start enabling customer service reps the same way we do salespeople—with technology. Here’s why:
Win the war on talent
On average, turnover rates in a contact center range between 30 to 45 percent, more than double that of other business segments. According to the Human Resource Institute, it costs about $10-$15k to replace a frontline employee. A call center supervisor is bailing water to keep their boat afloat.
Technology and call center tools not only accelerate the onboarding process for backfills, but they also help contact center leaders attract a pool of talent that prefers to work-from-home. An online knowledge base, accessible via a URL address, means stay-at-home agents have access to the same tech stack as those in-house. Virtual call center software is game-changing. And with Single Sign On (SSO) protocols, security is similar in both locations.
Consider how different generations learned a new skill or craft. My parents read books and papers and typed dissertations to demonstrate their competency. I’m in my mid-40s, I went to lectures and presentations and group discussions to learn. The average age of a call center agent is 27-30 years old, and this generation learned through technology. Through laptops connected to the infinite wisdom of the internet.
So why is it we train agents with PowerPoint and then hand them a binder to handle interactions on the floor? As leaders, that’s on us. It’s a disservice to teach colleagues how we want to learn instead of how they want to learn. It’s time we tech-up and meet learners where they are and allow them to learn their job through an online call center training program so they feel appreciated, respected, and valued at work.
Focus on ESAT not CSAT
“The customer is always right” is a phrase coined back in 1909 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, a London based businessman who founded the department store of the same name. For over 100 years, we’ve focused on the happiness and the experience of the consumer to drive superior customer service. That led to CSAT becoming the key metric considered in call center jobs. But, we can’t expect to solve 21st century challenges with 20th century mantras.To provide best-in-class customer service, organizations need to shift their focus from customer to agent.
Agents have a passion for helping people. There’s an endorphin rush when agents help a customer; when they turn a customer’s confusion into clarity. A knowledge base hosted in software accelerates the search functionality to communicate the information these agents need, in their moment of need, to produce that “a-ha” moment for a customer. More positive interactions lead to higher ESAT scores which result in higher CSAT. Start with the agent in mind. As a leader, serving the agent will ultimately lead to serving your customers better.
Stop practicing on your customers
Conversely, there’s a terrifying feeling for the agent when asked to perform without empowerment. Traditional training calls for role-playing: practicing their craft in front of their colleagues and trainers. Panic, sweat, and terror ensues. That’s not exactly the caring, compassionate work environment that yields loyalty.
Another classic training technique is having the new agent shadow a tenured rep. There’s certainly benefit there, but this can also feel deflating as the experienced agent has had thousands of interactions and exudes confidence through experience. The new hire may leave that interaction intimidated, thinking, “It’s gonna take me YEARS to get that good!” Have you ever played golf, or tennis, or cards, or a video game with someone really, really good? It’s not exactly an empowering experience. Often, mentoring in the call center creates a similar feeling.
What’s worse is that soon after roleplaying and shadowing, that new rep is practicing their craft on customers. We’re asking our customers to endure an uncomfortable interaction for the sake of our agent’s improvement. Stop practicing on your customers! Instead, use technology to set up scenarios and have agents record their voices and faces through their webcam. Trainers and peers can then provide feedback in the safe environment of a call center application or call center software without the stakes of upsetting or losing a customer.
The bottom line
Here’s what I know about call center training techniques: They matter. How we’re training agents to be exceptional at what they do has long-term impacts on the success of a contact center or profit center. My advice? Be more customer-centric by being more agent-centric. There’s no such thing as over-investing in the development or enablement of a customer service team.
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