How to Empower Agents to Become Super Agents
Granucci adds that customers have come to expect these kinds of personal connections when interacting with companies. “Customers are more connected than ever before, yet those same customers often feel disconnected with a brand when there is no ability to provide feedback and receive validation during an interaction.”
At many companies, the ability to demonstrate the human side of service has become “a bit of a lost art,” she adds, noting that contact center leaders need to retrain teams to understand why customers are so upset, accurately assess the true issue, and resolve it with empathy and effectiveness.
For that, a combination of product and soft skills training for agents and managers alike is “the recipe to create your super-agent workforce,” Granucci says. “The more you can cross-train agents and managers with a variety of skill sets, the better you will be in building loyal teams that will grow within your organization.”
The benefits of such training extend far beyond any one department, she adds. “It is everyone’s responsibility across the company. Unifying your teams across finance, shipping, and marketing, for example, not only ensures a seamless experience but delivers consistent brand interactions that will create brand love and lasting customer relationships. And by creating a culture of customer service excellence across all departments, career pathways are paved for your super agents to find new, exciting, and elevated roles and tenure within your organization,” she says.
For Liveops’ Miles, a shift from classroom training to situational training is essential. Traditional classroom training often lacks consistency, wastes time because not everyone acquires knowledge at the same pace, overlooks modern learning styles, and does not provide the proper context for the information. With this kind of training, those leading the sessions often attempt to cover every topic the agent could possibly need in as little time as possible.
Classroom training “often overtrains individuals and requires them to retain every possible outcome,” Miles says. “We often hear our agents tell us how helpful it is to be able to go back and reference or revisit different learning modules while going through the initial learning phase and also after the fact. Because individuals learn at their own pace, it’s important to cater to those different learning styles.”
With this in mind, Miles asserts that agents need to do skills-building exercises at their own pace. “Agents need to be able to access skill development resources from anywhere, at any time, as opposed to the curriculum offered to service agents in traditional call centers today,” he says.
Miles also advises companies to use different delivery methods—including e-learning, situational simulations, and videos—for different topics. He then suggests that analytics be used “to track ongoing learner performance and results.”
Brad Snedeker, director of customer advocacy at Calabrio, a provider of customer engagement and workforce optimization software, also emphasizes the importance of analytics. “We’ve seen that some of the most effective training practices allow talent to be objectively measured and use social technology that gives agents the option to compare themselves with peers and colleagues,” he says.
Companies can do this in three ways, according to Snedeker. The first is near-real-time agent feedback. “Leading technologies now use advanced analytics to enable near-real-time evaluations and predictive scoring of every single customer interaction. This gives agents immediate feedback and provides objective metrics that allow self-driven performance improvements,” he says.
The second way is through benchmarking and gamification. “The same analytics capabilities allow supervisors to create performance benchmarks on both an individual and team level,” he says, while gamification can “connect benchmarking with real-time metrics to drive healthy competition among agents.”
The third way is through social learning. “Agents no longer have to attend long seminars or read boring reports to learn the latest best practices. By engaging agents in ongoing social learning—identifying characteristics of successful interactions, frequent interaction pain points, and other insights—each individual agent builds on the collective knowledge of the whole,” he explains.
PITFALLS TO AVOID
Yielding the maximum benefits means that agent training cannot be conducted in a one-and-done fashion, experts agree.
Foppen, for one, says ongoing training is essential. “If you want your agents to really be part of your brand, part of the group that represents your business when it comes to customer experience, you need to bring them in regularly,” he says.