The role of quality in elevating the role of the contact centre agent

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If there’s one thing I learnt from hosting a recent panel discussion on agent engagement, it’s that they are valued much more highly than the average person may think.

Today, decision makers in contact centre environments are constantly looking to improve the quality of the service provided, and the number one way to achieve this is through agent engagement. Fundamentally, to most of us average Joes (the customer), quality in service is human contact. But with 87 per cent of the contact centre workforce typically disengaged, what can forward-thinking companies do to turn this around?

Along with my Aspect colleague Chrissy Cowell, Quality Management Product Manager, we spoke to two of our customers in Edwardian Group London (EGL) and Motability about their own experiences of managing a contact centre workforce. Even when talking about bringing in a mutli- or omni-channel environment to manage customer interactions, it was clear that the priority was not cost, but value.

The expectations of Joe Public today of how they interact with companies means that it is almost considered a given that they can contact a brand via email, social media or mobile app, as well as traditional voice channels. Surely an expensive endeavour for what has historically been considered a cost centre, however, senior decision makers continue to focus on the long-term return.

The same is true of the workforce; when speaking to our customers, the dedication to driving loyalty from value via the agent teams shines through. We all know budgets can be tight under a barely recovering global recession, but wastage can be reduced via the workforce in a number of ways. Our customers are demonstrating that right now.

It was suggested that principles – rather than processes – remain at the heart of workforce management. Engaged agents keep principles at the core of what they do – even if this means breaking process occasionally to keep a loyal customer. For companies like EGL, which operates in the hospitality space, this human dimension is absolutely critical.

The overarching theme seems to be that in these companies, agents are the feeder to quality improvements. They’re the ones listening to what the customer is telling them, which is, in turn, fed back into the business. The business then delivers key actionable information back to the agents (whether that is via desktop performance management technology or verbally), which helps to turn up the quality of what they’re doing. As a result, engagement is improved; performance is recognised and agents are better trained, more knowledgeable, and more empowered.

I’m going to wrap up this post with top tips for agent engagement from our guests on the panel – if you have any of your own, I invite you to add them in the comments below or tell us on Twitter (@Aspect_Europe).

  • Focus on the slightly disengaged; but avoid actively disruptive staff, as they provide a lesser return, value-wise
  • Genuinely listen to the agents; they are the home front of your business, and know the customers better than any marketing department or analytics software
  • Encourage an environment of praise when performance is exceptional; allow employees to publically recognise each other, and notify individuals when they have delivered beyond expectations
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Colin Whelan

Colin Whelan has been a part of the Customer Contact Industry for the last 25 years, leading and supporting the UK & Ireland communities as a thought leader in resource planning, Back Office Optimization and Data, Analytics and Insight. Working for Companies including Barclays Bank, First Choice Holidays and Barclaycard, before joining Aspect as a Senior Solutions Consultant he was the Head of professionalism for the Forum, where he was instrumental in the development of the world’s first accredited University qualifications for the customer contact industry, along with standards in reporting, targeting and the use of intelligence. This career committed to developing and sharing best practice was recognised in April 2015 when the Forum Community gave Colin it’s “Industry Hero” award, “Over the past 7 years Colin has been a key figure within our community, committed to improving professionalism, making a huge contribution to the body of best practice in areas such as data analysis, back office planning and forecasting methodology. He embodies passion and enthusiasm for our profession.”
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