Envision’s Kuhn Sees Shift to High-Performance Agents As Key to Improving Customer Satisfaction
As more contact centers seek to transition from cost centers to revenue-generating operations, the business skills and communication capabilities they’re seeking in agents is evolving more rapidly than ever before.
According to Rodney Kuhn, CEO of workforce optimization and agent coaching solution provider Envision, companies can no longer afford to staff their contact centers with one-dimensional agents who only know how to stick to scripted responses.
“To create an exceptional, consistent customer experience, companies must take a more creative approach to agent effectiveness,” he said. “It’s time to phase out the robots and build around what we call ‘the adaptable agent.’ There is a growing need for high-performance representatives who can not only handle phone calls but respond intelligently to web chat, social media, email and more, depending on the needs of the contact center.”
“Adaptable agents,” said Kuhn, “ are able to seamlessly shift to support new products, effectively communicate promotions and services and resolve suddenly emerging customer needs, crises or concerns. “
This more flexible approach calls for a fundamental shift in determining metrics for performance in the contact center. Traditionally, contact centers have used qualitative metrics such as queue length, hold time, transfer rates, call volume and AHT to measure agent effectiveness. Kuhn points out that organizations now need to redefine these standards and implement metrics that align with their specific business goals and use that knowledge to provide focused agent training to drive performance.
“With agents expected to handle customer interactions across multiple channels, old-school training and metrics fail to provide any genuine insight into their effectiveness during these communications,” said Kuhn. “Companies now need to put mechanisms in place to evaluate performance in such areas as customer lifetime value, conversion rates, revenue-per- call, revenue per agent, cross-sell proficiency, first-contact resolution and agent retention.”
As an innovative workforce optimization provider that places a strong emphasis on agent effectiveness and coaching, Envision offers solutions to help companies increase agent performance and job satisfaction; drive revenues, lower operating costs and increase ROI; as well as build customer retention rates.
Kuhn sees the transition to adaptable agents as a holistic three-step process. “First, create adaptable agents by providing them with the information they need on upcoming programs and how to respond to questions,“ he said. “Provide best practice guidelines on responding to positive or negative social media posts and share best practices of other agents.” “Traditional training methods should be combined with immediate and ongoing feedback—the second step is coaching agents in their seats,” continued Kuhn. “Call recording and screen capture can be used to evaluate interactions, determine if performance is appropriate from a customer service standpoint and then to present the insights gained to agents in a personalized format through regular coaching and delivering training to the agent desktop. This approach enables supervisors to address the specific needs of individual agents.”
Once adaptable agents have been established as a force within a company, Kuhn sees the third step as helping them to succeed with analytics. “Effective use of analytics can help pinpoint where a contact center is trending and identify areas of opportunities for improvement with agents whose practices might be negatively affecting customer satisfaction.”
Envision offers what they consider a “right-sized” speech analytics solution to enable contact center and enterprise management to affordably incorporate speech data into their analysis equation to more effectively meet specific agent, center and business performance objectives. Companies can implement the solution by analyzing blocks of time where they can search for use of competitor’s names being spoken, type of call and other QM elements. “By analyzing the call, organizations can use the information to better coach agents,” said Kuhn. “This enables them to build a business case for more robust use of analytics.”
One phenomenon that Kuhn sees as an important trend in developing adaptable agents is the increasing deployment of work-at-home agents. “This segment of the workforce is often more experienced, more educated and has better writing skills,” he noted. “Alaska Airlines is now staffed with 80% work-at-home agents.”
Companies can also employ IVR surveys and other tools, combining the data to get a more accurate measure of performance. “The adaptable agent is here to stay,” said Kuhn. “Progressive organizations know that employing multi-skilled agents can help not only help them reduce operational and training costs but improve the quality of service that customers receive.”