Beyond Training: Defeat the “forgetting curve” of contact center agents with in-band knowledge and AI augmentation


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Have you ever heard of the “forgetting curve”? A concept pioneered by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, it refers to the rapid deterioration of human memory over time. This decay is also called “transience”. Ebbinghaus’ research showed that humans retain only 25% of information after just two days of learning something. Research by the University of Waterloo says we retain only about 2%-3% a month after learning something.

Contact center agents are human, too, and are not immune to the forgetting curve. Yet, they are “thrown to the wolves” to solve customer problems after just a few days of training, where they drink information from the fire hose. The forgetting curve biology kicks in quickly to conspire against their performance, which, of course, negatively impacts customer experience (CX). No wonder consumers complain that agent knowledgeability and consistency is the biggest hurdle to their experience, according to a survey of 5,000 US consumers by Forrester Consulting, and CX performance in the US dropped or stayed flat at best, per Forrester CX Index from 2016, 2017, and 2018.

To add to the challenge, today’s contact center agents are millennials and, increasingly, Gen Z. And training is not their cup of latte. If you think millennials have a short attention span (12 seconds), Gen Z have a “gnat” attention span at 8 seconds. While millennials may tolerate some formal training, 65% of Gen Z would rather just learn on the job. They live “guided lives”, where they use GPS devices for driving and robot advisors for financial management. Likewise, they would like to get in-band guidance to answer customer questions, troubleshoot problems, and provide value-added advice when the customer is on the line.

Companies have been spending $10K-$40K per agent per year in training to make the contact center workforce knowledgeable. In fact, US companies spent $70.65 billion on employee training in 2016 alone. Clearly, while training is useful, it is not able to address agent performance when the customer is on the line. A survey of over 600 contact center agents across the world proves it. Not surprisingly, agent pain points had mirrored the consumer pain points, with finding the right answers to customer questions being the top issue.

The solution? Provide in-band, conversational guidance to contact center agents as they interact with customers. Many enterprises in our clientele, who have significant training programs, have done just that, transforming CX and AX (agent experience) in the process. Here are sample results:

1. Telco giant achieved 30% improvement in NPS (Net Promoter Score), 23% improvement in FCR (First-Contact Resolution), and 100% improvement in agent speed-to-competency across 10,000 contact center agents and over 600 retail stores, while enabling any agent to handle any call
2. Multinational bank reduced agent training time by 50%, agent churn to <1%, and unnecessary service processes by 50%, while elevating NPS from #3 to #1, and enabling any agent to handle any call
3. Global bank reduced training time 60%, improves FCR 36%, and NPS 10%
4. Leading telco reduced unwarranted handset exchanges and returns by 38% through better resolution of customer issues by contact center agents and the website

So, when your agents get hit by the inevitable forgetting curve, guide them with knowledge and AI when your customers are on the proverbial line. They both will not forget to reward you with their loyalty!

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam is SVP Marketing for eGain Corporation, award-winning provider of cloud solutions for knowledge and AI-guided customer engagement


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