Starting Fast in 2021: Advice from 3 Contact Center Experts and Me
The value of getting a year off to a fast start in 2021 cannot be understated. Especially for operations. Because of COVID-19 get going quickly can be tricky. In this article Centrical's Dee Nilles and 3 contact center experts offers ways to move rapidly to have a successful year.
Starting Fast in 2021: Advice from 3 Contact Center Experts and MeSubscribe to Blog
The value of getting a year off to a fast start in 2021 cannot be understated. That said, it’s possible there’s a lingering holiday hangover in your contact center operations. Because COVID-19 was wearying and impacted everything.
The pandemic forced decisions. Like shifting large numbers of agents from working in contact centers to their homes. It accelerated decisions, such as moving to the cloud and broader use of remote digital training. It made staff planning difficult because, among other things, the predictability of seasonal call volumes went right out the window.
Those – and still being in the midst of a pandemic – are some of the reasons why getting 2021 started fast is more important than most years. Along with offering my own suggestions to do that, I drew on the expert advice of three well-regarded contact center/CX authorities:
- Micah Solomon – author of four best-selling books, including “Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away),” senior contributor to Forbes.com, and frequent keynote speaker
- Alex Mead – a customer service and team operations consultant as well as a driver of CX innovation worldwide
- Donna Fluss – president of DMG Consulting and author of a number of books and studies focused on contact center operational strategies
Operations like yours swiftly and effectively made the transition to working from home (WFH) such that performance, on a number of levels, improved. The challenge for a fast start to 2021, really the entire year, is to find ways to keep performance at a high level on a sustained basis.
It’s my view that one way to achieve that is to engage agents in ways that gives them the sense they are part of something greater than themselves. That what they’re doing matters. That you have confidence in their ability to exceed customer expectations.
Micah Solomon advises, “teaching agents to revel in their power to create…’everyday wow:’ a connection on any call where it seems the customer is open to it.” He adds, “the connection can be made via anything that authentically relates to the customer. Hear a dog bark, connect over your shared love of pets. Hear a kid in the background, do likewise.”
This is about taking an “action that is customized for that particular customer,” Solomon advises. However, without the right training – actually, ongoing learning – it’s an action unlikely to occur. Just to instill the knowledge and/or skill isn’t enough. You need to recognize and reward agents who provide that “wow” in their customer interactions.
Improve the Journey
In the view of Alex Mead, “there are so many companies with such poor contact center journeys and frustrating customer service operations.” As more operations offer multiple ways for customers to interact, by voice and digitally, Mead observes that organizations should make certain there’s rhyme and reason to the channels offered; to whom, for what reason, and in what manner. He suggests the answer is not simply the application of some form of virtual agent: “I hope companies will stop thinking superficial chat bots are the answer; realizing that the basics of multichannel customer service need to be put in place quickly.”
If not designed or handled well, utilizing virtual agents of one form or another actually puts an added burden on the actual agents. Think about it. A customer dials in and proceeds to interact with a series of digital representatives. And the person keeps pressing the buttons to get to a living, breathing agent. By the time that connection occurs, the customer’s level of annoyance could be sky high. Fold into that the fact today’s customers are very knowledgeable, thanks to all the information to be found on the internet. Imagine: angry and smart.
It’s a situation like that where training at the moment of need can make a huge difference. And with digitally-based microlearning, it can happen.
Use the Right KPIs
During the last nine months of 2020 employees’ roles and responsibilities were changing on a near constant basis. This prompted lots of reskilling and upskilling as well as efforts by managers to see to it that team leaders and agents were able to understand and stay on tasks assigned to them.
In speaking with folks in positions like yours I got the sense that many of the KPIs traditionally used to evaluate agent performance were changed due to COVID-19. It’s wise not to let the KPIs you have in place stay there. January 2021 is different than April 2020.
Donna Fluss urges you to “rethink key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure customer, contact center, and agent performance.” She adds there’s purpose to creating “a new list of metrics to measure and make necessary changes to all systems to capture and report these KPIs going forward.”
In summary, to make a fast start in 2021:
- Apply your learnings from COVID-19-influenced 2020
- Empower you agents to excel
- Ever-improve the skill levels, close the knowledge gaps of your agents
- Leverage technology for better employee and customer experiences
- Measure what matters and share the findings with all involved