Treat Agents as Consultants to Maximize Engagement and Contact Center Performance
To your customers, the most important C-level position in your company is the CSR.
Hopefully your contact center understands just how valuable and influential its CSRs are.
The greatest centers I have worked with in my 20 years in the industry certainly don’t underestimate their CSRs (a.k.a., agents). They view agents not as ‘the folks on the phones’ but rather as highly insightful internal consultants – individuals who know what processes, practices and improvements are needed to provide optimal customer experiences and increase operational efficiencies.
Such contact centers keep getting better and better – and retain agents and customers longer and longer – by empowering staff to serve as…
Recruiting & Hiring consultants. Nobody knows what it takes to succeed on the contact center firing line better than the people who man it everyday. Smart centers solicit agent input to enhance recruiting and the applicant selection process. This may entail having them help develop ‘ideal agent’ profiles, provide suggestions for behavioral-based interview questions, interact with and evaluate candidates, and/or create job preview descriptions or videos (that give applicants a clear view into what the agent position is really like). It may also involve having agents sneak into neighboring contact centers to kidnap top talent.
Training & Development consultants. Agents know what skills and knowledge they need to create the kind of customer experience one usually only reads about in corporate mission statements or sees in dreams. Creating a training & development task force and including on it a few experienced agents – as well as a couple of not so experienced ones – is a great way to continuously close knowledge gaps and shorten learning curves. Agents will gladly tell you what’s wrong with and missing from new-hire training, ongoing training, one-on-one coaching and the center’s career path (assuming one even exists). Only by actively involving frontline staff in the training & development process can a contact center become a truly dynamic learning organization.
Quality Monitoring consultants. One of the best ways to keep agents from being afraid of or resistant to your quality monitoring program is to actively involve them in it. Agents will hate monitoring and you a lot less if you…
- ask them to help develop/improve the center’s monitoring form and rating system
- let them self-evaluate their performance prior to having a supervisor provide feedback/coaching
- allow them to take part in a peer monitoring & coaching initiative
- collaborate with them when creating development plans during coaching sessions
- give them a chance to “coach the coach” by asking them to evaluate how effective their supervisor is at rating calls and providing feedback.
Technology consultants. While you probably don’t want to have your agents designing the actual systems and software your center uses, you definitely do want to have agents share their ideas and suggestions regarding what tools they need to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the service provided to customers. Agents’ take on desktop applications, knowledge bases and workflows can be invaluable for decreasing handle times and increasing contact resolution rates. In addition, agents often know what’s wrong with the center’s IVR system and web self-service applications (because customers constantly tell them), thus they can provide input that leads to a reduction in the number of unnecessary calls, emails, chats and death threats agents must contend with.
Rewards & Recognition consultants. Empowering agents to enhance the rewards and recognition they receive is akin to letting your partner pick out her/his engagement ring. But hey, it’s all about making people happy and keeping them from running into the arms of another. I know of a lot of contact centers that ask agents for input on incentives and contests, individual and team awards, and how they’d like to be recognized. Many centers have even implemented peer recognition programs where agents themselves get to decide who is most deserving of special accolades and attention. Managers and supervisors still need to show plenty of their own initiative with regard to rewards and recognition, but collaborating with agents in this area goes a long way toward elevating engagement and performance.