The traditional contact center – with agents in cubicles following scripts and rushing to meet individual KPIs – will soon be a thing of the past. Modern customer-centric operations are increasingly defined by a collaborative contact center culture, with agents working together to respond to customer requests more efficiently by drawing on shared knowledge and experience.
A collaborative contact center provides a better overall customer experience, as agents can communicate with each other in real time without putting callers on hold or introducing other elements of friction. Agent collaboration also enables a higher First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate by eliminating time-consuming escalations.
In addition, a culture of collaboration builds stronger morale for agents who see themselves as part of a bigger picture, working together to achieve company goals, rather than racing to meet their own quotas. Happier contact center agents mean more pleasant interactions for customers.
What’s the climate of your contact center?
According to research by CEB, now part of Gartner, there are three contact center climate types, classed according to adherence, individual judgment, and network judgment.
By the book
Adherence is the most common climate, with 52% of contact center representatives reporting that they work in such an environment, where scripts and company policies are strictly followed and conformity is valued more than individuality.
Every agent for himself
Individual judgment climates are found in contact centers that allow their agents to make independent decisions based on their own judgment and experience. Some 35% of contact center agents believe that they work in this type of environment. While individual judgment climates encourage more freedom than adherence climates, allowing agents to make decisions in a vacuum can reinforce bad habits or encourage too many policy exceptions to the detriment of the organization.
Network judgment climates emerge when contact center leadership fosters a culture of collaboration, allowing agents to make decisions based on group discussion and guidance. Rather than working individually to resolve customer issues, in collaborative climates, agents might frequently huddle around a whiteboard or use collaboration tools to resolve a complex issue as a team. This climate fosters success, with collaborative contact center environments performing 50% better than the other two types, reducing the risk of error by 25%. In addition, agents working in a culture of collaboration display greater levels of motivation – 54% go above and beyond what is required – and greater job satisfaction, with a 17% higher intent-to-stay rate. When agents stay in their jobs longer, it naturally increases the team’s collective knowledge and experience, further enhancing organizational performance. Despite these positive impacts, however, only 12% of agents report working in a network judgment environment.
Success breeds success
T-Mobile’s Team of Experts model creates small, localized groups of customer service agents that sit together in shared spaces called pods and operate as sub-units to collaborate to solve customers’ issues. They build relationships with specific customers and are measured both on individual and team performance. The TEX model has been widely recognized as a successful approach – T-Mobile was awarded J.D. Power’s Highest in Customer Service among Full-Service Wireless Providers prize twice in a row.
Techniques for promoting collaborative contact centers
Implementing new techniques and technologies can have a rapid and dramatic effect on company climate. Here are just a few:
Reward team players: Set collaborative goals, KPIs and team-based rewards, rather than individual ones. For example, when the team achieves a First Contact Resolution rate over a specific threshold, or the company’s NPS rises by a certain percentage, the entire contact center might be treated to a monetary bonus, or a treat such as a team breakfast.
Collect team feedback: Brainstorming sessions and focus groups can surface any barriers to cooperation and help smooth the way toward a collaborative culture. For example, a company’s focus on Average Handling Time (AHT) can be a significant barrier to contact center collaboration. Agents can simply be reluctant to step away from their workstations to ask for advice when they know the clock is ticking.
Implement collaboration tools: Consider bringing reps closer together in the virtual sense, using technology such as instant messaging apps or in-house social networks, enabling agents to check the availability of subject matter experts, work together on documents, access internal knowledge bases, or share screens. Whisper coaching enables managers to listen in on agents’ calls, and coach them in real time. This is especially helpful when bringing new agents up to speed or helping more experienced agents through particularly difficult calls.
Visual tools to drive collaborative culture – Visual Assistance technology allows agents to see a customer’s physical environment via their smart device, and guide them using Augmented Reality annotations. It allows them to see the customer’s issue, achieve faster and more accurate issue diagnoses, and provide intuitive resolution guidance.
Each live session also offers opportunities to create new best practices that can easily be shared with colleagues. By uploading images of successful resolutions to the company knowledge base, an ever-evolving resource can be created, one that all agents can draw on to deliver better service at every stage of the customer journey.
Collaboration is the key to contact center success
With self-service technology changing the nature of customer experience, more consumers can now resolve many simple issues independently, without the need for intervention by contact center agents. This means that the issues that do require the attention of agents are inevitably more complex and difficult to resolve. By embracing the paradigm of the collaborative contact center, enterprises can ensure that these complex issues are resolved more efficiently, benefiting agents, the organization and, most importantly, customers.
This article was first published on the TechSee blog.