Tapping Agent Talent Off the Phones
Your agents possess a wealth of customer care knowledge and experience, and understand your customers better than anyone. But does your contact center truly empower agents to use such information and experience to improve – or create new – processes and practices?
Tapping agents’ collective ideas and insight is invaluable not only for bringing about continuous improvement across the contact center (and the larger enterprise), but also for keeping agents awake and engaged – thus increasing retention. Further, actively involving agents in key processes and initiatives gives contact center supervisors and other support staff more time to spend on such critical activities as coaching and training, creating rewards/recognition programs, and napping when nobody is looking.
There’s no limit to the number of ways contact centers can tap the power of their agents and add some much-needed diversity to their job. Following are some of the most effective approaches I’ve seen in my 17 years working with world-class customer care organizations.
Let agents serve on improvement taskforces. Looking for ways to enhance hiring and training? Quality monitoring? Call workflows? Employee retention? If not, you should be… and your agents should play a key role in such initiatives. The best contact centers I’ve encountered have a host of improvement taskforces in place, with a number of agents serving on each – sharing experiences, making suggestions and helping to implement solutions.
Some taskforces are actually led by agents. Several years ago, experienced agents at Aetna Health Insurance headed up the company’s first-call resolution (FCR) initiative, which resulted in a dramatic increase in the center’s FCR rate and a reduction in unnecessary calls.
At Scotiabank in Canada, a group of rotating agents leads the center’s Rewards & Recognition Committee – planning special monthly activities aimed at increasing employee motivation while promoting key business objectives.
Select agent “SMEs.” Many of your agents are already qualified subject matter experts; now it’s time to formally establish them as such. This may entail selecting them as mentors in a peer mentoring program or just promoting them as the center’s “go-to” guy in their area(s) of expertise.
Giving experienced agents the chance to share their knowledge and assist their peers is a huge boon to all involved: Veterans get to spread their wings and expand their role; developing agents receive helpful tips and support from “one of their own”; and supervisors are freed up to focus on other key tasks. It all results in having a highly motivated and continuously improving frontline – something customers will certainly appreciate, as well.
Create a crew of “interdepartmental liaisons”. Strong working relationships between the contact center and such departments as marketing, sales, and IT are essential for customer care success enterprise-wide. Enlisting agents to help share and gather relevant news and information with members of other key areas is a great way to keep the contact center in the loop, build interdepartmental rapport and educate agents on the inner workings of the organization.
Georgia Power provides a prime example of how to successfully use agents as interdepartmental liaisons. The large utility’s liaisons attend staff meetings of outside departments (e.g. sales), regularly report contact center activity to those departments, and discuss ways that the team and the contact center can help each other achieve their respective goals. In addition to strengthening interdepartmental ties and raising agent engagement, Georgia Power’s use of agent liaisons has had a positive impact on sales revenue and customer relationships.