Recently, Lucidworks joined a group of customer service professionals at Frost and Sullivan’s Customer Contact Virtual. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that customer support agents are supported is a priority at the top of many company’s lists. We hosted a topic table titled, “Creating the Most Effective Agent Experience.” to discuss these challenges and offer solutions. Here are the top three things all companies should be doing to empower their support agents.
1. Remove Barriers to Information
We all know that an effective digital customer experience drives revenue, retention and loyalty. Having the right technology and tools at an agent’s disposal is paramount in order to drive the aforementioned outcomes.. In speaking with executives at the Lucidworks-hosted topic table, the subject that kept arising was that we also need to be taking care of the human needs of our agents in order to drive that effective experience. The “right” technology and tools break down the barriers between employee and information.
One of the most challenging situations that agents face is sorting through the available data in order to find the right answer to help a customer with a query. An organized and intelligent knowledge base is key to saving time for agents and customers.
Frost & Sullivan research found that companies empowering employees to better engage with customers through effective workforce engagement tools are 96% more likely to be able to achieve overall profitability and 82% more likely to provide a better quality of customer experience. A smart knowledge base can also guide the agent through a conversation with the customer by providing consumer history and context-driven recommended actions.
2. Make It Easy to Connect with SMEs
At the event we also uncovered how important it is for agents to connect through one-on-one interaction with other subject matter experts in their organizations. Many of the folks we spoke to brought up their recent successful programs, most of which involved opening up chat forums and creating standing meetings where agents and reps could get together and have “water cooler talk” to help each other solve customer issues that were especially challenging.
It might not feel particularly innovative to simply activate a chat or meeting forum, but when you’re supporting employees during a pandemic‚ especially when a workforce is so scattered—it makes a world of difference to be able to create ad hoc human connections. This topic in particular that really got the conversation started.
3. Create Human Connection
Let’s talk more about creating that human connection, not just for our customers, but for our employees – especially those in customer support. The job of a support agent is a difficult one that requires empathy, patience, and fine-tuned listening skills.
These are not skill sets that can be easily trained and a lot of organizations take for granted that these “soft skills” can be a company’s greatest asset—especially if that company is one that relies heavily on their support team. Therefore, it is necessary to think about what will make the lives of those agents easier, and support their needs like we do those of our customers.
Gartner found that in recent months, clients and vendors saw an increase of traffic into the customer service and support functions mushrooming from 4% to 1,000%+. That is a massive amount of stress and increased workload. One of the questions we can ask our employees is simply, “what can we do to make your jobs easier?” It’s this empathy directed back at our most empathetic employees that will drive success for our businesses. Creating virtual chat rooms where employees are not obligated to talk about work, starting initiatives where employees are given awards and kudos, sending gift cards for lunch deliveries and coffee breaks are all small actions that have a big impact.
Support Your Support Agents with Empathy and Technology
So what does all of this mean when we get down in the weeds with data and technology? Well, the adequacy of data as well as the design and usability of an agent’s service desktop are two of the most important aspects of the experience right now. We should absolutely be supporting our customer support employees as human beings, but we also need to be arming them with the right tools and information to perform their jobs with ease.
Gartner tells us that many successful customer service organizations tackle this challenge by deploying or upgrading customer-facing and agent-facing knowledge bases. Improved delivery of contextual knowledge to an employee or customer reduces a provider’s time to answer by 20% to 80%, raising competency and satisfaction. In order to ease the stress of a customer rep’s workload, customers need to be enabled to self-serve, and that starts with having the information in the knowledge base connected, organized and easy-to-access in a manageable UI.
B 2022, 85% of customer service interactions will start with self-service, up from 48% in 2019. Great self-service with organized data can also enable ML-powered chat solutions and a search platform that delivers relevant results. They all need to work together. When the challenge is too great for a self-service deflection, agents need to be empowered using the same discipline behind organized and connected data, alongside a manageable UI. Connecting all of these experiences not only makes logical sense, it creates the most effective total experience for every touchpoint.
At Lucidworks, we believe strongly in the connected experience. And our customers do too. We believe that empathy should closely align to technological platform choices – but you have to understand the needs of your employees first. A great customer experience will quickly follow when your internal team is happy.
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