Play Matchmaker this Valentine's Between Customers and Contact Center AgentsAnyone who has dealt with a customer service representative knows it’s rarely a match made in heaven. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite.

Between long hold times, mismatched agents and unresolved issues, it’s no wonder why most interactions with a company’s contact center get off to a rocky start. Neither party is totally at fault for this unhealthy relationship -- customers simply want their issues resolved in a timely fashion, and agents have few insights into the people and problems that they are expected to address.  

So how do we as an industry prevent this seemingly endless cycle? With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’d like to share three ways to make every customer/agent interaction the proverbial “match made in heaven."

1. Invest Time in Your Agents

Ultimately, it is the contact center agents who have the biggest impact on the customer’s experience. Beyond ensuring agents are well trained and have the proper tools such as scripts and data, organizations should also have a deep understanding of their agents’ capabilities, strengths and weaknesses based on real performance data over time -- not just subjective hunches -- and use that information to connect the right customer with the right agent for best results.

Contact centers should encourage their agents to deliver a personalized and optimized customer experience, rather than placing focus on metrics around average handle time, service level, abandon rate, speed of answer and first call resolutions. A focus on quality always delivers more rewarding relationships than quantity.

2. Look at the Customer Holistically

In the world of contact centers, there is no better way to kill the customer’s experience than to silo their information. Customers engage with companies through a variety of different channels, and each channel typically involves a different set of systems and technologies. This results in the well worn relationship killer response, “I have told you this about me many times before, I can’t believe you don’t know it.”

It isn’t the agents’ fault -- their view of the customer is simply limited to the current or a few specific interactions instead of being armed with a deeper understanding of the customer and their journey. From the customer’s perspective, interactions across the contact center are one experience, not multiple distinct interactions. If companies can connect the dots between these interactions, they will undoubtedly secure the perfect match.

3. Prioritize the Customer Perspective

In a contact center, nearly every interaction with a customer touches multiple systems across the enterprise. A 2011 study by Ventana revealed that 34 percent of enterprises must obtain data from six or more systems to produce their analytics. A fault of most business software is that it captures data, but doesn’t put that data into context. This makes it virtually impossible for companies to get that ever-important holistic view of their customers. To achieve this, companies need to be able to make correlations across the different types of data to better understand the customer, his or her needs, and how to best serve them each time your organization engages with them.