How do you teach empathy? That’s a question many people – including contact center managers and supervisors – would like to know the answer to. We know that good customer experiences (CX) happen when the contact center agent truly listens to the customer’s needs, understands those needs, and identifies with the customer’s situation or feelings. Customers want to be heard, understood, and interact with agents skilled at listening and solving their issues or answering their questions effectively, rather than simply reading from a script. Many of these “soft skills” require training agents and supervisors, but most organizations focus on training that increases product knowledge rather than skills.
Most contact centers focus their training efforts on the organization’s products and services and developing a product knowledge base while ignoring the soft skills that help agents provide more human interactions. Due to a primarily remote workforce, contact centers find it more challenging to effectively onboard and train agents and foster these skills. Udemy, CX University, Study.com, CX Pilots, and others offer CX eLearning and online courses, as online learning is the most practical type of training for today's workforce.
Soft skills have always been important but have become increasingly important since the start of the pandemic, as customers look for empathy when dealing with challenging situations and customer interactions. Genesys recently commissioned a study (Human Value: the operating system for a high-performing contact center
) that found that 59% of consumers prefer an empathetic customer service experience to a speedy resolution.
Proper training helps improve agent morale and attitudes towards their jobs, an essential part of the customer experience equation. Agents who get frustrated and discouraged with challenging calls and some call types without having access to the provider’s internal processes are likely to have unsatisfying call results, leading to low morale and job dissatisfaction. Inconsistent internal processes drive these outcomes that result in escalated calls to supervisors, resulting in less time to coach agents proactively to help them become more proficient. This approach negatively impacts business operations, resulting in higher business costs and increased employee attrition. When agents and supervisors struggle to deliver service to customers, customers end up unhappy with the outcomes. Genesys refers to this as the “Cycle of Pain.” The solution is better training for both agents and supervisors.
Genesys introduced Beyond CX
, an immersive learning experience for agents and supervisors, in response to the need for more effective training tools in a digital world. The subscription service teaches contact center agents “human” skills. For example, they may learn to build trust, reduce customer effort, and deliver personalized customer experiences that drive brand loyalty. Beyond CX is a series of episodes that uses high-quality video production, storytelling, and skills-development techniques, supplemented with supervisor coaching and assessment tools.
Learning from Netflix and YouTube
To get more information on Genesys’ Beyond CX program, I spoke with Inna Ekhaus, senior director of Genesys Beyond. She said, “When building this training solution, Genesys embraced the way people consume content today, taking what we’ve learned from Netflix and YouTube. At the heart of Beyond CX is something (we) humans have been using for thousands of years to share knowledge and wisdom... storytelling.”
According to Ekhaus, Beyond CX teaches the human skills contact center agents require to deliver magical experiences that drive brand loyalty.” Rather than simply providing dry educational online videos, Beyond CX presents this training in a form that people process and watch content today.
The program is based on various box sets, each with editions or learning tracks for agents (both novice and experienced) and leaders. Every box set includes a scorecard, prerecorded calls to help agents identify what best practices sound like, and quizzes in the form of games with reward badges, all of which are presented in a series of episodes using animation and videos (see image below).
During each course or episode, the agent track teaches agents various skills, such as how to show trust, how to think about the person vs. process, ways to make the interaction effortless and efficient, and more. The leader track emphasizes how to coach agents, provide the right kind of feedback and oversight, set proper KPIs, etc.
After completing the e-learning series or course, agents practice and evaluate those calls with their supervisor to review and reinforce the good behaviors and analyze the undesirable behaviors and responses.
What’s most intriguing to me is the concept of teaching empathy (see image below), helping agents understand or feel what the customer is feeling or experiencing. As Ekhaus noted, empathy begins with active listening. The program teaches agents how to ask guiding questions that will help them understand their end customers, their state of mind, and what’s most important to them at the moment. The videos and audios presented during the course provide examples of what empathy looks and sounds like so that agents learn how to pick up on and respond to customer emotions. The agents apply this skill in practice calls, building on what they’ve learned. For example, an angry or upset customer may want to be heard and feel a sense of connection from the agent before they accept a resolution. The agent can respond appropriately, establish trust, and help the customer feel cared for by learning to recognize the customer's common needs and priorities quickly.
I wanted to try Beyond CX for myself and completed several of the courses (or episodes). I found them to be entertaining and much more engaging than typical e-learning programs. It didn’t take long to go through several episodes, learning about the basics of CX, or what Genesys calls “The CX5” - Human, Trust, Effortless, Efficient, and Personalized. I also learned about skills that are useful both inside and outside of the contact center.
Genesys typically expects customers to start seeing some CX improvements after a few weeks. To measure how well the training is working, Ekhaus noted that organizations should focus on several metrics, including:
- First Call resolution
- Handle Time
- Employee retention and satisfaction
In addition, customers can use the Genesys Speech-to-Text analytics service to analyze and categorize the interactions to pinpoint and address agent training needs, identify skill gaps, and build personalized Beyond CX learning plans. The Speech-to-Text analytics can be used to listen to the agent, pick up on words and terms used, and decipher how much curiosity the agent is showing, kindness, empathy, etc.
Practicing what they preach, Genesys conducted a trial of the Novice Agent program with their own Global Care Team and several customers and agents from around the world. They reviewed various metrics before and after the training, and the results were impressive. After four weeks, Genesys found:
- 15% improvement in Building Rapport
- 17% improvement in asking probing questions
- 22% improvement in active listening
- 7% Improvement in showing empathy
Going forward, Genesys plans on releasing more box sets and will be adding a “Beyond CX hub” portal that features interviews with CX experts and best practices as part of the subscription. In addition, Genesys will embed the training into its Genesys Cloud for more seamless access. Beyond CX will ultimately be part of Genesys Workforce Engagement Management (WEM), as it focuses on the human side of the contact center to improve employee engagement.
Beyond CX hopes to reduce or eliminate the contact center “Cycle of Pain,” where agents with low morale negatively affect their customers, leading to negative CSAT scores, increased customer escalation to supervisors, and increased business costs. While Beyond CX may be slightly time-consuming, e-learning is entertaining, simple to do, and the results are well worth the time.
This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.