Every contact center has a handful of star performers. You know the ones I’m talking about. They take more calls than anyone else. They respond to emails more quickly and concisely. They handle three chats simultaneously without skipping a beat. They work efficiently with high quality, and have productivity reports and CSATs to prove it.
These best-of-the-best have probably been promoted and been honored with other recognition for their work. But even senior-level agents aren’t immune from common stresses in the contact center, such as:
- Repetitive or non-challenging work
- Limited development opportunities
- Lack of career growth
- Inflexible work environment
- High levels of stress
- Low job satisfaction
While the turnover rate declines with more senior agents, still approximately 10-20% of this level of staff leaves these roles annually. For contact centers seeing this level of churn–or perhaps even a higher rate–it’s an ongoing challenge to replace the lost productivity and maintain the level of skill and knowledge left by this vacuum.
It might seem like a shocking suggestion, then, to propose taking these agents away from direct customer contact work and focus them elsewhere. Yet this might be the most valuable thing you can do to increase customer and employee satisfaction.
Write knowledge base articles
The first area in which great agents can have a big impact is in the area of knowledge management. One reason they are able to help customers so quickly and easily is the quality and quantity of information they have amassed.
Granted, writing skills may not be a strong suit for every great agent. That’s okay because their contribution can match their skills: they might simply outline solutions or they could be authoring articles completely and even editing others’ work. Getting stellar agents involved in knowledge management is one of the best ways to not only disseminate information better among the staff and to strengthen customer self-service options, but also to ensure that knowledge is retained.
Build chatbot conversations
Chatbots continue to gain in popularity and customer comfort in using them continues to grow. But chatbots are only helpful to customers and beneficial to customer service when they actually solve problems.
Despite what some might think, chatbots aren’t activated with the flip of a switch. Even with advances in machine learning, they require pre-defined conversations to be built. These conversations establish the guide rails to help them ask the proper questions to zero in on the most likely problem and the probable solution.
This is another area where star performers can assist. They know the questions to ask. They know how to diagnose problems and get to an answer. They might serve as a subject matter expert only, or they might learn the technical skills required to architect the conversations. As with knowledge management, this creates or strengthens another self-service channel for customers.
Analytics and other measures indicate the most common issues customers are raising with customer service. Oftentimes those require more than just an answer from a knowledge article or a chatbot. In fact, delivering a solution frequently comes from departments outside of customer service: questioning an unknown charge with the billing department or requesting replacement parts from the fulfillment team, for example.
Like other self-service options, it’s easy to address these types of common requests online. Customers fill out forms, answer a few questions, and workflow can route the question or issue to the department responsible for responding to the customer issue. Constructing new workflows and maintaining existing ones is a great opportunity for agents to build a new skill as well as develop new relationships in other departments as they work with them on the underlying process flow.
Train other agents
Despite the popularity of self-service options, the more complex problems as well as emotional situations will continue to be the realm of the human agent. There are also times when a customer just wants to interact with another person. The best customer service agents have demonstrated their mastery of these scenarios in terms of knowledge, customer service skills, and their ability to connect emotionally.
Shine the spotlight on these agents. Develop training or incorporate their best practices into existing training that can benefit the rest of the staff. If they show the aptitude and desire, have them deliver the training, too. This is a great way to replicate success with the rest of the frontline customer service team.
It’s a win-win
In any industry and in any role, it’s hard to come by an employee that consistently delivers on all fronts. In the stressful world of customer service, this is especially so–and then there are the retention challenges to consider.
Rather than burning them out, consider opportunities in customer service where high-performance agents can have an impact beyond the day-to-day work. These could be permanent roles changes or regular time away from the front lines. Even partial away time helps them build new skills, offers a change of pace, and the ability to recharge. In place of their productivity, customer service will benefit from improved self-service offerings and a new wave of star performers.