People skills may end up carrying higher premiums
“We are at an interesting inflection point with customer service: We’ve gone from full automation and the push for chatbots, and back to live call center agents as a result of customer demand for human interaction.”
That’s from a recent article in CRM Magazine I had the honor of being featured in about how brands can meet increasing expectations for outstanding customer service by developing team members into super agents.
As VP of Learning and Development at Liveops, I think a lot about what makes an agent a super agent. My team spends our days focusing on creating growth-enablement tools for agents to use to build skills and understand brands and their customers. What we’ve learned—and what CRM Magazine picked up on—is that human-to-human conversations aren’t going anywhere. In fact, people skills may carry a higher premium now more than ever before. The key is to give agents the development, support, and learning opportunities they need to bring their best selves to every interaction.
A world of super agents and robots
“The robots are coming to take your job!” If I had a nickel (or 0.0000064 Bitcoin) every time I heard that one…
Hopes and anxieties surrounding automation and artificial intelligence have pervaded headlines for years now—especially in the customer service space. Gartner, for example, predicted that “chatbots will power 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020.”
With just a few months until 2020, that prediction seems a bit over-eager, and more than a little out of sync with consumer trends. In fact, a recent survey published by Usabilla (PDF) reveals that most people still prefer speaking with human agents and that many people—particularly millennials and members of Gen Z—“might have a case of tech fatigue.”
Savvy customer service teams are already well aware of “tech fatigue,” and have begun allocating their resources differently. Their solution isn’t to disavow automation and AI entirely but to harness them in support of their agents. How, exactly? By continually cultivating learning opportunities.
Agents need to be able to access skill-development resources from anywhere, at any time, as opposed to the curriculum offered to service agents in traditional call centers today. Classroom learning can often lead to over-exerting an individual and requires them to retain every possible outcome. This causes the agent to be overwhelmed before even taking a call. We often hear our agents tell us how helpful it is to be able to go back and reference or revisit different learning modules while going through the initial learning phase and also after the fact. Because individuals learn at their own pace, it’s important to cater to those different learning styles.
4 (more) ways to turn your customer service staff into super agents
Want to ensure your brand stands out in an increasingly competitive customer service field? Here are a few more tips and thoughts that didn’t make it into the article, and which no company can afford to ignore:
1. Start by bringing in the right people
Super agents are natural problem solvers. They thrive off helping people, and feel gratification with solving customer’s issue. Their drive is greater when they have a brand affinity as well. Thus, finding the right agent profile from the beginning is a winning recipe—although that’s easier said than done. At Liveops, we don’t have geographic restrictions to find talent, so we can filter to the best profile for a super agent. We can thereby provide every client with agents who possess years of experience aligned to the needed vertical. This only helps during the learning process.
2. Consider the message and the medium
At Liveops, some of our most significant recent improvements involve fine-tuning the learning process to cater to different types of materials and learning styles for optimized information retention. For example, we have found that soft skills exercises are better delivered live by a facilitator in a real-time virtual simulation. By providing learning content that is in tandem with individual learning styles, we’ve been able to increase speed to performance by 14%. In other words, learners reach proficiency 14% quicker than classroom training, allowing both the client and agents to start earning money faster.
3. Teach agents how to fish
Learning professionals need to not only create content on main processes but also focus on how to find a resolution. A true super agent is entrepreneurial in essence, and if guided correctly, will quickly find the correct resolution. Learning is not only an act of providing knowledge but also knowledge on how to be empowered to solve an issue and find the right solution.
4. Go beyond the basics
A company’s curriculum needs to cover more than simple ‘do this, not that’-style job functions. That means ensuring all content aligns with the needs and mission, including tailored delivery methods for different subjects, allowing learners to complete skill-building exercises at their own pace, and providing tools that empower learners to meet performance goals—with contextual practice to retain content. An effective program may include e-learning, situational simulations, facilitator and student guides, videos and more. These kinds of blended curriculum delivery methods can reduce onboarding time by 40%, in return providing instant ROI.
Make no mistake: Agent readiness is an investment
At Liveops, we’ve made that investment for you. Our clients leverage an on-demand community of customer service professionals certified through award-winning learning programs tailored to each brand’s needs. With skills and knowledge backed by comprehensive, self-paced learning courses, our super agents can provide your company with a critical edge over the competition—no robot uprising required.