The world of work is getting more complex. As technology takes away the routine, mundane and predictable, we humans are left to do the heavy lifting. Few professions are immune to the march of the machines – and contact centres, in particular, are having to rise to new challenges.
One of the fundamental questions is what contact centres are there to do in a world where “autonomous” customers doing a lot more themselves. Some assume that self-service will make the contact centre as we know it redundant by 2020 – but are they right?
We decided to ask contact centre industry professionals what they believed contact centres would look like by 2020 – and the answer wasn’t really too surprising. 54% of them reckoned that the contact centre would be dealing with the complex and emotive stuff that humans are far better at doing than technologies.
Who do you entrust complex, emotive enquiries to? Is it the lowest paid, most junior, least experienced employee? Logically the answer to that question is “no” but, in practice, in many contact centres today the answer is still “yes”.
Who do we need in the contact centre? With complexity going up, along with call handling times, do we need to employee people with superhuman powers – SuperAgents?
In fact, the primary superpower required for a contact centre agent seems to be the ability to communicate often complex concepts effectively (48% regarded this as a vital). People who are good at this often need to have an in-depth understanding of the products and services that they are being asked about. By implication, they also need to be naturally good problem solvers who can effectively stick a fork through the spaghetti of internal processes on the customers’ behalf.
One contact centre strategist summed it up: “customers are calling us about an issue because of the complexity of the world we are living in. We have termed this a ‘contact centre job’ – with people being paid the same wage as ten years ago. That is unsustainable – you will not get expert problem solvers who are shifting organisations in six monthly cycles – they are call handlers – we need expert problem solvers”.
Superpowers are not limited to agents – we may need SuperManagers too! With complex tasks being undertaken by expert agents, contact centre management becomes less about command and control micromanagement and more about understanding the bigger picture. 62% of managers believed that they will become the guardians of customer experience by 2020.
In the absence of X-ray vision, they will need tools that tell them, in real time, why customers are making contact rather than just counting contacts and monitoring quality. If the website is down, they need to work with the web team to, firstly, alert them of the issue but also manage customer expectations as to when things might be resolved, as well rapidly getting the resources in place to take the inevitable deluge of contacts.
All good super heroes need a mentor. SuperManagers will need solid back up from their senior management to ensure that customer experience is given the priority it needs. This will undoubtedly be helped if customer experience, and the contact centres’ increasingly strategic role in it, is recognised at board level. Above all they need to resist falling back on traditional cost/resource optimisation measures (such as call handling time (CHT)) when the going gets tough.
Are your agents and managers ready to leap tall buildings?
Want to know more? Read our ‘SuperAgent 2020’ research.
Nicola is speaking about Super Agent TODAY at Customer Contact Expo 2014.
Find out more about BT’s Contact Centre solutions.