How to Empower Your Contact Center Agents
You can’t win the heart of customers without first winning the hearts of and fully empowering your agents. This doesn’t mean totally spoiling your staff and letting them have complete reign over your center. There’s no need to replace agents’ workstation chairs with jeweled thrones or to give them the authority to fire you, nor is it necessary to let agents make expensive technology purchases or allow them to handle customer contacts only when they feel like it.
Instead, you can empower your agents with practices that completely engage and motivate them while simultaneously setting them up to delight customers and quickly resolve their issues.
A Culture of Agent Empowerment and Autonomy
Top contact centers inspire agents and prepare them to create stellar customer experiences by sustaining a culture of agent empowerment and autonomy. They give agents a lot of say and ownership both on and off the phones.
Your agents possess a wealth of skill and knowledge, and they know your customers better than anyone. Empowering agents to use those skills and that knowledge and experience to make decisions and to improve or even create processes is probably the best way to continuously better your contact center and the customer experience, while simultaneously making agents feel valued.
The Benefits of Empowered Agents
Truly empowered agents not only have the authority to make on-the-spot decisions, offers, and exceptions to make life easier for customer during interactions, they’re also given ample opportunities to provide input on critical issues, work on special projects, and serve on key task forces and committees to make life easier for the company, the customer, and, of course agents themselves. In addition to improving operations, the customer experience, and employee engagement, empowering your agents on and off the phones frees up contact center managers and supervisors to spend more time on things like coaching and development, which in turn improves operations, the customer experience, and employee engagement even more.
An Example from Albridge Solutions
One contact center that knows how to sustain a culture of agent empowerment is Albridge Solutions. Few centers compare with it when it comes to empowering and engaging staff. Albridge Solutions has a virtually non-existent agent turnover rate. The center regularly meets or exceeds its ambitious customer satisfaction objective of 85% overall customer satisfaction. Albridge Solutions prides itself on giving agents tremendous opportunities based on agents’ interest in career goals, providing opportunities for agents to learn new skills, participate in interesting off-phone projects, and help make key decisions that impact the customer and the business.
Some of the examples of agent empowerment and autonomy at Albridge Solutions include agents interacting with clients at meetings and conferences, earning subject matter expert status and training others in their areas of expertise, serving on focus groups where they share their valuable customer knowledge to come up with better service practices and processes for the business, and participating in the center’s peer-mentoring program, where they get to help new or struggling reps succeed. As they provide mentoring, agents also develop critical supervisory skills that can help them advance their careers.
In addition to participating in one-on-one skip level sessions with Albridge senior management twice a year, Albridge’s agents are given the opportunity to ask the company’s CEO questions directly whenever he presents at quarterly department meetings.
This article was adapted from a portion of Greg Levin’s presentation in the webinar, Look Alive, Contact Center! Deliver Stellar Customer Experiences.