The sudden need to enable remote working has impacted all companies and operations, and customer service is no different.
This has not been the only change contact centres have been forced to contend with. We are also seeing more and more organisations working to improve customer self-service options through digital channels.
With reduced numbers of contact centre agents available, and many now working from home, it’s necessary for organisations to try and drive down phone transactions and encourage faster first-time resolution of the issues to reflect business’ reduced headcounts. Enabling customers to self-serve through improved digital channels, such as chatbots and online forms, helps organisations to reduced calls.
However, whilst fewer customers are calling through thanks to self-service, the ones that do ultimately reach an agent tend to be experiencing more complex issues that digital channels can’t resolve. This means your agents need to have a higher level of skill when dealing with customers over the phone in order to resolve these more complicated concerns, especially when it relates to sensitive information such as outgoings and earnings, for example.
This shift in customer expectations means that the human side of your business is more important than ever. But what can be done to both secure and enable the very best teams to provide excellent customer experiences in an industry with an average agent attrition rate of 40%?
Agent retention must be a priority
Investing in new digital avenues for customer self-service is key, and a plethora of services and solutions can be found to help you drive down calls. However, you must also invest in your staff. Agents that feel unsupported and ill-equipped to handle increasingly more complex customer concerns are more likely to leave. In fact, a common concern for many Finance and Insurance organisations is agent retention; 83% of agents quit within three years, 30% quit within three months, and in some cases attrition in the first two weeks is as high as 22%.
There are three ways in which you can reduce attrition levels within your organisation by creating better skilled and more valuable agents internally that will, in turn, improve the external customer experience:
1) Recruitment must be geared to provide fast effective agent training
Many financial organisations will have initially employed people for traditional contact centre roles, but as the market has changed and we’ve evolved to an omni-channel digital model, we must remember to adapt recruitment processes. Have your HR and Talent Acquisitions teams re-evaluated the skillsets required and induction processes available to bring in people with the right skills?
Customers increasingly want to engage across asynchronous messaging channels (Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, etc.) for sales or service. Solutions are available to enable all these channels to be dealt with in the same way, classify the customer’s intent, answer their queries if possible, and if necessary (or desired) escalate to an agent. Using these types of services removes the need for multiple point solutions, reduces agent training time, and provides broad reach to customers across multiple channels.
2) Equip agents to deal with both mundane and complex calls
Using knowledge portals and AI, agents can more seamlessly access detailed information or process and compliance requirements. For example, knowledge portals can give an agent guidance on how to change a customer address, policy type, or even how to onboard. Access to this information can also be given to a customer via web portals, so if your customer wishes to change their own address, they can be guided through the process by information adapted for external customer use. Enabling knowledge and AI, and giving your agents or customers access to this, significantly reduces agent training time and average call handling time. It also ensures that if your agent does deal with a complex customer call, that they can quickly and easily access the necessary information
3) Foster a positive workplace for agents
It’s important to remember that tools and training can only go so far; they will help build a team of effective and knowledgeable agents whilst simultaneously making their it easier for them to perform efficiently. But ultimately, your agents are human, and creating a workplace culture that values them will improve happiness and reduce the number of people leaving.
As a business, be sure to revisit your agent’s career enhancement opportunities. By ensuring they have access to easy and simple development tools and are being encouraged to grow, agents will feel empowered, valued, and more likely to stay.
Agents that are well trained and have access to the right tools and knowledge will provide a far more efficient and effective customer experience and create happy, satisfied customers. Net promotor scores and CSAT’s will improve, customer retention will increase, and agent attrition will reduce alongside average handling time.
Customer experience will arguably become more important for finance organisations, as call centres get used to operating in the ‘new normal.’ In addition, financial services firms now contend with the prospect of tougher economic conditions which means the potential for more negative or complex calls. Therefore, now is the time to invest in those at the heart of the contact centre, the agents.
About the Author
Jonathan Mobbs is the Head of Finance & Legal Sales Vertical at Maintel. He is a successful IT Client Solution and Conceptual Sales Director with a proven track record of delivering fast and sustainable sales and margin growth against stretching targets in the most competitive of environments.