Three ways to honor agents beyond Customer Service Week

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Customer Service Week is only a week away. This week of celebration is a great opportunity to acknowledge the work of your customer service staff. Frontline agents are one of if not the most important asset in your service center. Maybe you are planning on serving them lunch and perhaps have some fun team activities planned?

Though it’s a weeklong observance, it’s really only a few days to honor people doing a job where the turnover rate is 30-45 percent (compared to an average of 15.1 percent across all industries). And with the unemployment rate currently around 3.9 percent, it’s easy for agents to shop around or change job fields entirely.

What if there was a way to truly recognize the hard work they do through making that work easier and perhaps even enjoyable? Well, there are several ways to do this.

Self-service and automation

Answering the same simple questions over and over quickly becomes tedious for customer service agents. For the more motivated agents, boredom also means they aren’t being challenged and they might start the search for another job. Instead of relying on agents for these common issues, make solutions available with self- service. Self-service is already very popular; customers continue to flock to it as a preferred form of service instead of contacting the service center for live support. Self-service comes in many forms.

A knowledgebase is a must for any customer service organization. It provides a searchable repository of step-by-step instructions to solve common issues. As a company’s knowledge management culture matures, additional features like commenting and voting on articles’ worth assist in curating the articles and ensuring they are dynamic and helpful. Agents can also search the knowledgebase for solutions when working live with customers.

Many common tasks customers contact customer service for can also be automated and made available on your customer service website. These include such actions as address changes, billing inquiries, warranty registrations, and shipping status. Customers fill out a form or answer some questions, and workflow connects the request to the people and processes necessary to complete it.

Chatbots are also gaining popularity in self-service. In fact, Gartner predicts that 25 percent of customer service operations will be using some form of virtual customer assistant (or chatbot) by the year 2020. Not only that, they report that companies employing chatbots are seeing a reduction of up to 70 percent in call, chat, and/or email volume. Chatbots make it easier for customers to find answers thanks to their conversational nature and by leveraging already-available solutions in knowledgebase articles, automated solutions, and online communities.

Machine learning

Not all problems can be addressed with self-service. When that’s the case, customers may resort to opening a case online. Those cases must be prioritized, categorized, and assigned. This triaging of cases is typically performed by an agent, and this manual data review can experience varying degrees of accuracy depending on the knowledge and engagement level of the agent.

Thanks to machine learning and as little as a few months of historical data, this high volume, lower value activity can become a thing of the past for agents. Supervised machine learning identifies the sorting patterns from prior work, as well as learning and adjusting along the way. Not only does the machine not get tired or bored, over time its accuracy rate can be better than a human. Meanwhile, customer issues are routed and addressed faster than before.

Simplify their work

When customers do come calling (or emailing or chatting), agents rely on the tools at hand. Unfortunately, those tools can often hinder the agents as they struggle to efficiently assist customers.

One cause is the need to use multiple systems to address queries, and those multiple systems aren’t connected. When agents must switch between systems to perform tasks, their work is more challenging and time-consuming than it need be. Good agents want efficient interactions just as much as customers! Make it possible for agents to check orders, shipping status, and payment information directly from their case management system.

Once systems are connected, the next step is streamlining the agent’s desktop environment. Observe how agents interact with the case management system as they perform their work to identify ideas for how to improve the workspace interface. Put important customer and case information up front at eye level with minimal scrolling, moving less-needed information to other screens or tabs. Minimize clicks, data entry, and screen changes as much as possible.

Finally, many modern customer service management systems offer assistive technologies to agents. These tools monitor agents’ work with customers and offer possible solutions from other information repositories: the knowledgebase, automated solutions, and answers in online communities. When an agent is stumped, this gentle nudge can quickly deliver the answer a customer seeks.

Year-round appreciation

Customer service agents experience many daily stresses. In addition to staying up-to-speed on current products and services and turning challenging customer situations around, they must provide solutions that might seem tedious and repetitive as well as performing other mundane activities using systems that seem to work more against them than for them.

Customer Service Week is a dedicated period to honor the hard work of your customer service team, yet one week to honor them seems like hardly enough! By relieving agents of the burden of simple problems, eliminating the need to sort cases, and providing them with a modern, efficient work environment, you’ve done more for them than a week of celebration can provide, and they’ll thank you for it.

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