How to Empower Agents to Become Super Agents

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At companies that have adopted a work-from-home model, it can be invaluable to have agents come into the office at least once a month, he adds. “If you have a supervisor or a team leader who never sees those agents face-to-face, people start feeling more and more disconnected. They also start feeling more and more alone. Even if they work remotely, you really want to have that team meeting, group video chat call…so that people feel part of a community.”

Foppen further stresses the need for leaders to make every effort to keep agents informed. “Make sure you’re invested, as a leader, in keeping people up to date. They need to be part of that company culture; they need to know what’s going on in terms of changes—new markets, new products, new approaches,” he says.

Granucci agrees, noting that training has to take place beyond what is given when a new agent is initially hired. “Onboarding is generally one to two weeks and is limited to basic skills, mostly around product training, how to accept cases and resolve them as quickly as possible,” she says.

Sadly, though, refresher training is rare, and for seasonal staff, this training gets pared down even further, Granucci says. Companies don’t provide adequate follow-up training because such activities take managers and agents away from their desks and because there is a hard cost associated with bringing in training experts, she adds.

“However, as customers’ expectations are on the rise and new, cutting-edge technologies like AI take hold, this model will no longer work,” she says. “There needs to be a consistent mix of on-demand and interactive training available to teach contact center teams not only how to navigate around the service solutions but also the soft skills required to de-escalate across channels and to be able to turn customer adversaries into brand advocates by providing exceptional customer care.”

Granucci also emphasizes the importance of company culture, saying that it will play a pivotal role in hiring, training, and empowering agents. “Without a strong culture, agents will not have a sense of belonging or see what their career path is and will be more likely to leave to go work for another contact center down the street. With attrition on the rise, the ability to find great talent is becoming increasingly difficult. When you do, you have to create an environment in which they will thrive,” she says.

Companies also cannot afford to be inflexible in their training and scheduling, particularly when dealing with agents from younger generations, according to Snedeker. New platforms, he says, allow agents to indicate and adjust their availability through a simple user interface.

“This foundational step makes shift scheduling a collective activity, improving morale while reducing scheduling conflicts and ensuring all shifts are covered,” Snedeker says. He also encourages companies to implement flexible work arrangements for agents. “Cloud-based contact center technologies are a true game changer for remote agents. Reliable, secure connectivity from anywhere makes remote agents more viable and cost-effective than ever, allowing contact centers to give agents attractive and empowering freedom in choosing their preferred work arrangements,” he elaborates.

At the same time, and under these circumstances, having the right metrics in place is absolutely critical, Snedeker asserts. “As companies increasingly prioritize customer satisfaction and customer experience above purely operational objectives, many are unintentionally impeded by traditional metrics that focus on the efficiency of customer interactions,” he says. “Analytics-driven technologies allow companies to dive into the complexity of customer needs and sentiments to paint a more accurate picture of agent performance.”

Analytics and training go hand in hand, he adds. “For most customer service agents, ongoing training is limited to ad hoc meetings to address urgent problems and put out fires. Advanced analytics tools now allow leaders to easily identify training and improvement opportunities, making it practical to create structured group training as well as offer personalized coaching on agents’ key opportunities for improvement,” he says.

In the end, though, the bottom line is that staffing contact centers costs money. Training costs money, too, but with so much of an investment tied up in contact center agents, companies can’t afford to put anything less than their best on the front lines today. Adequate training, before and during agents’ tenure, is the only way to ensure that. 

Associate Editor Sam Del Rowe can be reached at sdelrowe@infotoday.com.

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