Every contact center has three critical components vital to their success: people, technology and information.Understanding the interplay between the three and ensuring that they properly work together will make or break both customer experience, and your KPIs. Bad information will lead to cascading failures through your service channels.
Information: The 1st Component of Service
The basis of a contact center is information. Without that, no amount of software, technology or even the best agents in the world could solve your customers’ problems. Customer support boils down to solving problems with the right information at the right time - whether that be on the phone, live chat or even self-service. After all, customers want ¼-inch holes, not ¼-inch drill bits as the saying goes.
Information is the fuel for your entire contact center. It powers your agents, email, self-service, chatbots, social media service and more. If it’s poor quality, inaccurate or unclear, that will just filter down through all of your service into poor customer experiences, lower first call resolutions and longer handling times.
So, what can you do?
- Enable all your agents to both create articles and easily provide feedback on them
- Dedicate a person or editorial team to quality assurance, even if part-time
- Flag articles for automatic review after a certain time period (e.g. 6 months) to ensure continued accuracy
Technology: The 2nd Service Component
Simply put, technology provides the tools that deliver the right outcome in skilled hands. A knowledge base sits between your agents and information, enabling them to deliver accurate solutions quickly on-demand.
Let’s imagine racing for a moment. To win a race, you need a car, driver and of course fuel. A skilled driver and top of the line car can’t get to the finish line without fuel. Similarly, your average joe doesn’t have the skill to race a professional car even with fuel.
Choosing the right software for your contact center can have a profound impact on both employees and customers. Imagine for a moment trying to find something online without Google and other search engines. Seriously! You’d have to visit every website that may be related to your question and search internally on it over and over! In fact, you wouldn't even know most of sites that would even be relevant.
That’s essentially what customer service agents are often forced to do, sifting through the shared drive, then Google Drive, perhaps a binder full of documents, then a wiki and maybe the company website. The most talented and motivated agent will still struggle to provide a speedy and high-quality customer experience in conditions like that.
What software is critical to contact centers?
- CCaaS software (e.g. Nice inContact)
- CRM (e.g. Salesforce)
- Ticketing (e.g. Zendesk)
- Knowledge Base (e.g. Knowledge Center)
It is critical that all of these systems are integrated to avoid creating a series of isolated systems which leads to inconsistent data, extra work and mistakes. Knowledge Center, for example, integrates directly with both Zendesk and Salesforce.
People: The Tip of the Spear
People, empowered by the technology you choose, will deliver information and solutions to the customers. This could be an agent on the phone, the person answering live chats or text messages or even the agents creating articles in your knowledge base and managing the chatbot!
Even as digital touch points multiply and phone calls volume falls, agents are an important source of value for customer-facing companies. Quality people help companies compete on customer experience at a time when competition is high, companies struggle to differentiate themselves and many organizations are pushing consumers into automated digital channels (think “Press 1 for….”)
Agents offer the emotional intelligence and finesse that FAQ articles and chatbots lack. Nobody with a big problem ever walked away happily sharing his experience with your company after reading a how-to article or dealing with a chatbot. When someone receives the wrong item or gets a defective product, your customer service representatives have the human touch required to turn things around and create a positive memory of being helped out of a problem.
Allowing agents the freedom to handle customers as they see fit, with flexibility and respect can go a long way. Today’s consumers immediately recognize when people are reading from a script and see it as a lazy canned response, no different than an automated email.
To avoid scripts and excessive micromanagement of agent-customer interactions, having a centralized knowledge base for agents to use as well as guided dialogues in the form of decision trees gives agents the information, support and confidence required to deal with customers naturally and flexibly.
How can you create better agents?
- Quality and regular training over time, not just during onboarding
- Provide modern and easy-to-use software tools
- Create structure without micromanagement
Understanding the interplay between the three main components of any contact center is key to understanding how to manage and improve your performance, not to mention provide an excellent customer experience.