Call center leaders are charged with managing growing call volume and sometimes a lack of confidence being able to maintain service levels from additional waves of COVID-19, according to a report from CGS. These are some of the challenges that face call center leaders who oversee operations critical to most businesses.
“Customer needs are continuously changing, therefore an easy business communications experience is crucial for their success,” said Swapan Nandi, senior director, Next Gen Solutions at Mitel. “As the market continues to waver, seamless and efficient contact centers experiences will heavily influence customer loyalty. Customers are not afraid to look elsewhere for businesses that have superior customer contact service experiences.”
The last year has seen, disruption, changing customer behaviors, supply chain shortages and more obstacles. No one knows what the 2022 holds in store, but having a robust strategy and a guiding north star is a great way to start. With that in mind, we caught up with some call center leaders who shared their thoughts on the coming year.
Supporting Call Center Agents in Variety of Ways
Mike Bowman, director, servicing operations at ECSI, said as we approach 2022, he’s focusing on these three components in his call center.
Automation Addresses Seasonality and Staffing Problems: Bowman said automation allows his call center teams to run 24/7/365. It’s also helping with the “seasonality of our business,” Bowman said, adding that his teams have been able to better manage the wild swings in call traffic during the year.
In addition, it helps with staffing problems and lingering pandemic-related issues. He noted “extreme competition for call center representative staff.”
Callers Want Self-Service Options: Analysis of ECSI’s callers' behavior shows that they strongly prefer self-service. Self-service implementations have also led to alleviating some staffing issues, according to Bowman.
Virtual Assistants Support Call Center Representatives: Bowman said virtual assistants drive solutions and resources to representatives in real time while on the phone. It reduces call times by automating necessary administrative tasks while on the phone, improves quality by giving real time interaction guidance to representatives and has allowed ECSI to gamify and reward the work representatives are completing, according to Bowman.
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Migrating Employees and Upskilling
Bowman said his teams have already begun migrating seasoned people to new upskilled, professional positions while developing tools and technologies in their call center. “Our mission in 2022 will continue to be providing our customers with technology-enabled, AI-assisted customer service professionals armed with real time resources,” Bowman said. “Additionally, we are partnering with vendors who have the same vision as us and are working alongside us in building upgraded platforms that support automation, self-service and virtual assistants.”
The company has also started an education push for employees, allowing them to take both informal and formal training in automation and RPA technology. This is in addition to working with internal engineers and vendor partners to gain first-hand experience and knowledge on how the technology works and can be leveraged in their own work areas.
Extensive Training and Coaching Will Be Hallmarks
Tom Hinds, vice president of global contact center management and technology and strategy at Mastercard, said his company’s 10,000 contact center agents worldwide receive extensive training and one-on-one coaching every week to ensure they are meeting the mark. That’s where his focus is: doubling-down on skill sets and training.
Mastercard recruits and develops a contact center workforce worldwide to provide support in 67 languages to meet the needs of its global customer base. Over the past year, the organization has revamped its approach to training to fulfill its goal of making agents competent and successful working in the financial services sector, which is rife with complexity. Mastercard also supports 55 different products.
In the past, it took six weeks to train an agent, Hinds noted. Mastercard then began to limit its training focus to the top five most frequent case types/transactions. Now new agents can take calls with minimal supervision in about four to five days and have average handle time metrics on par with seasoned agents, according to Hinds.
Direct coaching of every agent takes place every week with additional Team Huddles where one team leader meets with 15 agents to review contact center feedback for coaching, and then to the training organization — a full life cycle to constantly calibrate on what good looks like. Agents are eligible for bonuses and have access to a dashboard with the top three or four things being tracked, such as adherence, attendance, etc., according to Hinds.
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Agent Enablement Will Drive 2022 Goals
Brian Briggs, vice president of call center operations at Stericycle Communication Solutions, said his key focus in 2022 is on agent enablement because he believes agents’ experience dictates consumer experience.
The agent enablement roadmap includes three major goals:
- Entity extraction which captures consumer statements during the call to automatically populate data on the agent desktop needed to accomplish a task, such as scheduling a medical appointment.
- Using cognitive search will also enable the agent with relevant information as the consumer asks questions.
- Real-time service recovery with sentiment analysis.
“We believe our agent enablement program will help make our call center be more efficient, make healthcare brands more competitive,” Briggs said, “and ultimately elevate the patient experience.”