Karen HardyApril 05, 2018

Eight Things Contact Center Agents Want in 2018

If your organization is part of the majority that has either introduced a digital transformation plan within the last two years, or is planning to introduce one this year, then you understand the critical importance of advancing the contact center.

You know your contact center needs to mature to support the customer experience as a natural, enterprise-wide journey. One where interactions take place across multiple channels and devices, unfolding across multiple key areas of business. You need to make connections within the contact center more seamless, intelligent and intuitive for your business to respond to customer needs as a unified whole.

The question is are your agents empowered to actually deliver this kind of experience? Research suggests not: 20% of contact center leaders say their agents lack cross-departmental collaboration capabilities, 16% use poor desktop tools (CRM, CIS, billing), and 13% have insufficient routing and reporting.

Do a quick Google search on what contact center agents want and you’ll see a notable pattern:

  • “Skills Every Contact Center Agent Needs”
  • “The Most Important Qualities of a Contact Center Agent”
  • “Customer Service Skills Every Contact Center Agent Must Have”

And herein lies the problem: it’s impossible to maximize the skills of even the most proficient contact center agent if he or she isn’t supported by the right technology foundation. It would appear as though some companies are working backwards when it comes to the contact center—they’re heightening the standards of agents while lacking the cutting-edge technology needed to drive a next-gen customer experience.

Having visited and assessed dozens of contact center environments, I’ve observed these challenges myself in my experience as Director of Customer Engagement Solutions at Avaya. These challenges must be met to better engage agents and, subsequently, customers. 

So, how should businesses digitally transform in a way that meets the needs of their contact center agents? Here are eight focus areas:

  1. Better data management/sharing: Organizations seem to be split on this issue. About 20% of contact centers cite “improving knowledge management” as their number one priority, yet 31% still operate without any knowledge management systems in place. Agents need a true omnichannel desktop that lets them gather, collect, and use data where and when that data is needed. This requires a multi-touch customer engagement solution that’s built on an open data model. This kind of solution helps provide powerful insights across all channels, devices, and departments, enabling organizations to capitalize on big data within and across their enterprises.
  2. Ease of use: Imagine how difficult it must be for agents to work in an environment of disjointed applications and processes. Flexibly link platforms together so that agents never again have to search for customer details or create activity records. A solution built on open, extensible architecture connects disparate systems, putting everything agents need in one place.
  3. Assessment/training: “Improving performance management” and “improving agent training” continually rank as top contact center priorities. It’s critical that organizations maximize downtime to improve talent gaps that diminish customer experience. Ask yourself how does your current solution apply innovative new strategies to agents to help them continually improve sales, service and operational outcomes?
  4. Resource matching: Your integrated, multichannel strategy doesn’t account for much if those channels aren’t connected to the best agent for handling the individual customer need. Customers cannot be routed to agents based simply on who is assigned to handle certain channels for the day. Organizations need to get customers to agents who are best qualified to handle them based on such things as choice of channel, expertise, past experience with a particular inquiry and even next-level variables like personality and emotion.
  5. Visual workflows: Do you support a stale user experience that’s difficult to navigate or one that’s simple and breezy? Consider a visual drag-and-drop workflow design, which makes it incredibly easy for agents to bring the right resources, content, and context together across the CRM and other systems to serve customer and organizational needs.
  6. Personalization: Just like customers, can it be argued that agents desire a certain level of personalization? Of course! It’s imperative that organizations accommodate today’s evolving workforce. For example, 84% of global contact centers say they are adapting to meet the needs of millennial workers, more than half are open to more flexible work arrangements, and 42% are personalizing their management techniques.
  7. Proactive automation: Does your solution fully automate interactions to enhance customer experience? This is imperative for agents to naturally support the end-to-end customer journey. For example, it may make sense at some point for a customer to move from chat to a live agent because of the nature of his or her inquiry. Your engagement solution should automatically support these kinds of escalations so that agents can perform optimally.
  8. Ease of scalability: Scalability is crucial for ensuring service excellence during peak seasons. However, it’s just as important for ensuring agents keep their heads above water to continue meeting expectations. Consider a solution that offers modular snap-ins that can be scaled, managed and extended with custom, third-party cloud applications and services.

The more we do for our employees, the more they will do for us now and in the long run. When carving out your digital transformation plans, keep in mind the critical role of contact center technology for transforming the agent and customer experience.

Eight Things Contact Center Agents Want in 2018

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy, Vice President of Product & Solution Marketing at Avaya, is a 20+ year business communications industry veteran who currently leads marketing for Avaya's market-leading customer engagement and team engagement technologies.

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