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Author: Ann-Marie Stagg, Chief Executive of the Call Centre Management Association, United Kingdom

For many organizations, customer facing teams are the most important element of the customer experience (CX). The best CX organizations have knowledgeable, engaged advisors who are proud of their brand and who want to deliver a good experience for their customers. Increasingly advisors want to be aligned with the company’s purpose rather than just the product or service they are supporting.

An advisors level of engagement with their brand has a direct impact on their behavior and levels of discretionary effort, which in turn influences how they impact the customer experience. It’s not just about brand engagement of course, there are many facets to driving employee engagement but creating an environment where people understand the purpose of the business and how they fit into the bigger picture the more likely they are to care for your customers.

Does anyone care if advisors are engaged?

The Dimension Data Global Benchmarking Report ranks customer experience as the number one measure of strategic performance in contact centers, yet CX dropped for the fourth consecutive year (76.3% in 2015).

We all recognize that we live in an age when customers want digital self-service, and these channels are growing in both number and use. However, the forecasted decline of voice has once again been overhyped, with over two thirds of interactions still taking place over the phone. We’ve seen the role of advisors steadily shifting to roles that require greater knowledge and engagement, as they are called upon to solve issues for the customers that they weren’t able to solve using self-service.

We are starting to see a shift from contact centers being seen as a cost center to being recognized as key strategic differentiator in delivering customer advocacy. The contact center will always be an area where we look for efficiencies, and its right that we look to improve processes and remove non-value add contacts. But contact center environments can’t be about efficiencies alone – they must first be about engagement.

If we accept that enquiries are now more complex, then we must respond by supporting front line teams with better training – both knowledge and skills. The new front line advisor is a brand ambassador – often the only human contact a customer will have with your brand. Businesses must rethink their approach – elevating the advisor to a status then reflects and respects the role they play as brand ambassadors, and providing them with an environment that helps them to focus on creating great customer experiences.

Empowerment is key to delivering customer service

Whoever speaks to your customers most frequently should be empowered to put them first. Give them the tools that they need and enable them to have authentic conversations with customers.

Does your organization put so many controls in place that the advisor is constrained – they want to do the right thing for the customer but your rules mean that they have to climb through red tape to get things done? What messages are you giving your advisors – we don’t trust you to do the right thing, you aren’t smart enough, we’re worried that we will lose control?  The truth is that some managers believe that having a dashboard means that they are in control of the customer experience – they aren’t, they are just in control of an (often flawed) internal process.

Evaluate your advisors on the quality and authenticity of their conversations, rather than the quantity of calls measured against a tick-box. Research repeatedly tells us that customers want:

  • Ease of resolution
  • To speak with someone who has the knowledge and ability to make decisions
  • To deal with someone who is friendly and willing to help
  • To be given accurate information
  • Organizations to keep their promises – to do what they say they are going to do

Customers clearly expect advisors to be equipped with all the tools and knowledge needed to resolve their issue. First aptitude, then attitude. That’s not too much to ask is it?

Invest in your advisors

Organizations who really understand the value of delivering against their customer expectations invest in a long-term training program for their advisors. That should include core knowledge and systems and soft skills training that allows them to learn the processes, rather than just being told what they are. Upskilling and refresher training on both hard and soft skills should be delivered throughout the year through classroom, self-learning and on the job coaching support.

Organizations that have invested in long term training program have seen significant improvements in performance, productivity and employee engagement.

In summary

Investment in empowering your frontline teams undoubtedly makes your advisors feel more valued and engaged, but the bottom line results are often overlooked. Advisors who feel empowered, valued and happy in their role will take better care of your customers. And your business will benefit from customers who are more positive towards your brand, increased advocacy and a reduction in staff absence and turnover.

Research tells us that six out of every ten customer experiences do nothing more than meet expectations, and seven out of ten are not experiencing the type of service that will win their loyalty. The solution seems obvious – invest in your people. If your advisors love your brand, they will portray this in their conversations and there is more chance that your customers will love you too.