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Mastering the Art of a CX Agent

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In Dave Michels’ recent No Jitter article, I agree that being a contact center agent or a customer service representative (CSR) can be a thankless job. However, I don’t think that changing the agent title or doing away with it will have the impact we expect.
 
As Michels pointed out, the whole organization must comprehend how what they do indirectly impacts the customer experience—and we would like to think their actions would have a positive rather than a negative impact on the customer interaction touchpoint. However, unlike CSRs and those in contact center operations, the rest of the organization has little to no direct interaction with customers, which means they have no idea how their actions can influence customer behavior. Additionally, I’m not in favor of letting just anyone in the organization have direct customer contact as the collaboration tools and CCaaS providers keep touting. That’s a learned skill we invest in to educate our CSRs on the most appropriate, effective, and efficient methods of interacting with our customers, especially the disgruntled ones. It’s a learned art.
 
For example, when I teach a group of contact center operations people about workforce management (WFM) principles—particularly forecasters of customer volume—and ask what has the greatest impact on their volume or (to put it another way) what department may be the bane of your existence? I invariably get the answer: "marketing." We all laugh. However, when marketing sends a brochure, advertisement, or leaflet to customers, resulting in an unforetold increase in customer volume and confusion; the contact center suffers and so does the customer. That said, marketing doesn’t do this on purpose. Gaining customer engagement and market share is at the top of their priority list. They often forget that volume should be spread over a different period of time – probably not hit at our busiest time of the day or day(s) of the week.
 
Furthermore, it would be good if marketing understood that their verbiage potentially creates customer confusion. After all, contact center agents and their managers are usually left scrambling to figure out what marketing should have said to customers. It would also be beneficial if the marketing team coordinated their efforts with the contact center to avoid wasting valuable dollars because the contact center didn’t prepare for the influx of volume or the potential queries from customers. Planning and engagement with marketing is vital.
 
As another example, in contact center operations, we “pick on” IT in this area. When IT says, “…this change on the website, customer interface, or CSR application won’t have any impact …” contact center folks must plan and prepare as if it will have an impact such as increased average handling time, more influx of volume, type of contacts, and so forth. It’s also important to engage with IT and understand why they think the change won’t have an impact and discuss the possibilities of what could go wrong.
 
A credit union customer I worked with years ago didn’t properly test all the various browsers their customers were using when they launched their new website. They spent over nine months recovering from the influx of volume caused by a minor oversight in testing and planning for the potential increase or customer queries. The vice presidents of IT and customer experience at the credit union asked me if it was their responsibility to educate their customers on their browser selection and update the interface accordingly. I replied, “One of the main statements on your website to your members is ‘We want to be the easiest credit union for members to transact business.’” I added that the website change and related browser issues are technically not your members’ fault; so that said, yes, assisting your members with browser issues for them to transact business online (as you encourage) is your problem to solve.
 
It’s the responsibility of the contact center workforce management team to educate and reach out to those departments that impact the customer experience and bring them into the fold of WFM planning principles. When the contact center operations team is in touch with other parts of the organization on a regular monthly or bi-monthly planning process, engagement across the organization for better and improved customer interactions, the problem-solving begins, and a collaborative planning environment ensues. This strategy is a win-win for the organization and its customers. It’s also not a once-and-done process. It’s a continual progression to improve our forecasting of customer behavior, touchpoints with our customers, and proactively preventing unnecessary customer contacts in the first place.
 
We can have all the best technology and change the name of what we call our CSRs. But in the end, what we want to do is facilitate better, more effective customer interactions and prevent the customer from contacting our organization if it isn’t necessary. As an organization, we must think proactively, not reactively.

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Cheryl is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. Our consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.

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