The modern contact center is optimized for every customer and prospect interaction. Before founding my company, I spent years leading financial institution contact centers and experienced the rise of automation and chatbots. Powerful new digital technology streamlined many aspects of the contact center by increasing productivity and reducing cost, but left agents with the most challenging customer and prospect problems to solve.

Today’s agents must solve complex customer and prospect problems in voice and text-based channels representing the front lines of your business. And contact centers with high-performing agents trained to address the most challenging customer and prospect needs deliver outlier key performance indicators (KPIs), including higher (customer satisfaction) CSAT Scores, better conversion rates and lower operating costs thanks to well-crafted first call resolution and drive strategies.

Agents continue to be essential in providing exceptional experiences for customers and prospects. They are often the only human connection between a company and its customers and prospects, making their role crucial in ensuring customer satisfaction. Contact center leaders can take the following three steps to develop confident and high-performing agents:

1. Prioritize Investment in Human Agents

Chatbots and AI are replacing many contact center functions, but humans still matter to customers when creating exceptional brand experiences. According to Execs in the Know’s “CX Leaders Trends & Insights Report,” 80% of customers said a good experience with an agent would reinforce their brand loyalty.

Agent jobs are only getting more challenging with automation addressing basic customer needs. While investing in digital customer service tools is critical, it’s just as critical to invest in your frontline agents as your most valuable customer facing asset.

Related Article: How to Improve the Call Center Customer Experience

2. Use Active Learning for Onboarding

Your agents may be your customers' only human interaction, making them representatives of your brand. Leaders must have the data to prove that new hires are fully prepared before their first customer interaction. Contact center leaders should leverage proven approaches to practice and master various real-life scenarios. '

Agent training matters to customers: 70% of consumers want companies to focus more on improving their customer care agents rather than creating better self-help solutions. With the right training approach, agents improve confidence, remove anxiety and prepare for live customer and prospect interactions.

3. Optimize Omnichannel Service

Providing top-notch experiences for customers and prospects requires agents to be trained in all human interaction channels. This includes the ability to deliver seamless interactions over live voice calls, screen shares and text-based channels. Ensuring that agents have the necessary skills to operate effectively across these channels is crucial in delivering exceptional customer and prospect experiences.

As companies adopt more comprehensive multichannel strategies, agents play an essential role in the omnichannel approach, as 61% of multichannel engagements begin with voice or text (CX Leaders Trends & Insights). High-performing agents are proven to boost first call resolution, whether interacting with voice, screen or chat.

Related Article: Starting a Call Center? Advice From One Company's Journey

Learning Opportunities

4. Build Soft Skills

Do your agents approach customers with critical soft skills such as empathy? Delivering personalized empathetic customer and prospect experiences is essential to your success. The Sitel Group revealed that 70% of consumers prefer human interaction versus bots for personalized experiences.

For some agents, soft skills like empathy don’t come naturally. However, like any skill, soft skills can be learned and applied to customer and prospect interactions. With experiential active learning technology like simulation training, agents learn and master critical soft skills such as acknowledging the customer with empathy and removing their feeling of isolation before solving their problem.

Improving soft skills through experiential learning can greatly impact CSAT and Net Promoter Scores. By honing these skills, agents can offer a personalized and empathetic approach to customer interactions, transforming the overall customer experience.

5. Optimize Your Contact Center for Remote Work

In 2023, agents can work from anywhere yet can feel isolated. Contact center leaders today need to nurture growth and confidence to improve performance and agent retention.

For example, at-home onboarding must include genuine feedback from the training leader to maximize improvement and knowledge. Remote agents should also feel like their leaders are accessible. For the contact center leader, the future includes remote agents, so they must embrace and optimize new ways of working.

Final Word on Developing Top Contact Center Agents

With agents often serving as the sole human connection between a company and its customers and prospects, and consumers showing a preference for agent-assisted service to resolve complex issues, investing in agent development is crucial for company success.

By providing new hires with the necessary training and resources to confidently handle customer interactions, contact center and training leaders are seeing significant improvements in agent productivity and retention, customer satisfaction, and overall contact center performance.

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