Many successful companies will outgrow their customer service infrastructure at some point in their evolution. For obvious reasons, leveraging a customer service outsourcing partner to manage the frontline customer interaction can lead to trepidation within the purchasing camp. To gather a unique perspective, we decided to ask our agents on the front lines to recount their firsthand experiences.
We sought out three of our own top agents, Nick, Jacques, and Claude, who work on projects that span a range of consumer-focused industries and functions. In this post, we have summed up five key insights from the frontlines of customer care.
1. Know the Pros and Cons of Agent Scripting
There are two schools of thought on the agent scripting debate. On one side, companies benefit from scripting because it provides a consistent interaction framework for resolving customer issues. On the other side, companies can ditch the script, empowering seasoned agents to deliver a better customer experience. Our agent Nick keenly noted, “Agent scripting can help less experienced agents and support new processes, but sometimes actually slows down experienced agents.”
2. Enable a Smooth Knowledge Transfer
The implementation of any new contact center campaign from in-house to outsource is a complex, delicate process. Jacques, a customer service agent for a national grocer retailer, has a key piece of advice for first time outsourcers: “Never assume.” If you’ve been working with agents in-house who have done the job for years, the way they interact with your customers and processes can be almost instinctive. Transferring that knowledge successfully demands strictly managed process. Explicitly define the desired customer processes, call dispositions, and escalation procedures. Jacques notes that knowledge transfer is a continual process: “Manage change; keep agents in the loop early and often on new procedures or shifting customer needs.”
3. Simplify the Agent Desktop
One of the greatest facilitators in resolving customer issues, the agent desktop, provides access to critical customer information. How many applications will your outsourced agent need to access for a typical customer interaction? In a scenario where speed is essential, agents who are bogged down in three, four, five or more applications will have to alt-tab, click, and log on to multiple interfaces, each with a unique user experience. Jacques points out, “I notice a huge improvement in my handle time when I only have to work in one application versus when I have to work across three or four open applications.”
4. Optimize the Customer Experience by Empowering Agents
Many factors contribute to the customer experience. However, the “high touch” nature of inbound customer service calls puts an obvious spotlight on the customer experience. Claude, who works on one of our warranty service projects, says, “Empowering agents to make decisions improves first call resolution and is core to the customer experience. Too much back and forth with the customer withers the customer’s confidence and damages their overall experience. ”
5. Leave the Door Open for Customer Feedback
Many exchanges occur on the front lines; customers communicate positive and negative feedback to agents. By allowing this type of feedback to flow back up the “food chain,” management will be able to hone in on weak areas. Jacques added, “Keep a temperature gauge on customer feedback. When the gauge goes up sharply one way or another, find out why and take advantage of customer insights to improve the service experience.”
In a series of follow up posts, we will share more details on the five unique agent perspectives from the front lines. The client-vendor relationship shouldn’t rest solely on the shoulders of executives and project management; it requires a 360-degree view, and that includes agent feedback. After surveying the agent pool, the client and outsourcer will benefit by gaining the ability to determine what’s working and what’s not.