contact center agentsContact center agents are primarily used to support customer service and sales inquires.  But there is another important role in which they are vastly underutilized. Namely, acting as a detective by finding out more about your customers.

As a Genesys business consultant, I do a lot of side-by-side service observations with agents in our clients’ contact centers. During these conversations, your agents are finding out incredibly valuable information:

  • Who are your customers?  What do they do for a living?  Are they married?  Do they have children?  What are their hobbies?
  • What do they want/need?  What sort of products or services are they looking for?  Are they giving you clues about what their potential or undiscovered needs are?
  • What do they like (or not)?  What appeals to them about your company and brand experience?  What are you doing right that differentiates you?  What do they complain about?  Do they offer suggestions for improving your products or services?  How can you make it easier to do business with your company?

This is a wealth of information that – if your company could systematically record, reference, and make use of it – would greatly help you determine what is the Next Best Conversation to have with this customer.  It also provides insight into how to improve your company’s offerings and business processes from a customer-oriented ‘outside-in’ perspective.  For example, a Genesys client initiated these sorts of relationship-based conversations with a target group of customers, and compared the results with a control group of customers who were not actively engaged in relationship-based dialogs.  A year later, the company’s business with the relationship-based customers had grown more than 15% compared to the control group’s. Moreover, the company was able to extract 30% of their service costs by identifying and re-engineering broken business processes from the customers’ perspectives.  These conversational insights are gold nuggets that clearly should not be ignored.

But typically what happens is your agents overlook these golden insights while servicing the customers, and these nuggets are never absorbed into the company’s collective wisdom.  Without these types of customer-driven insights, companies fail to:

  • Deepen and grow their customer relationships;
  • Rethink and re-engineer their business from a customer-oriented ‘outside-in’ perspective; and
  • Retain contact center agents, who can become demoralized and disillusioned if they have no channel for providing valuable customer feedback back into the organization.

A recent study by DMG Consulting found the two primary causes of agent attrition are monotony and the stress of dealing with unpleasant customers.  By encouraging your agents to play detectives to find out more about your customers and their needs, you can break up the monotony of their routine service inquiries.  Additionally, by providing your agents with a feedback loop to report customer complaints or suggestions, you can help them manage those difficult conversations with unpleasant customers.  There will always be difficult situations and unpleasant people that agents have to deal with from time-to-time.  But if there is something the company is doing that triggers these emotionally charged situations, at least agents can take action by reporting the situation so it gets addressed in the future.

This approach requires the right business processes and technology. Agents should be coached on the type of information the company is hoping to find out from their customers. And agents need soft-skills training on how to circumspectly draw this out during a natural conversation. Agents need to be goaled and evaluated on how successfully they are able to do this sort of detective work. If they uncover nuggets of insight, they should not be penalized if their Average Handle Time is a bit longer. Agents need a way of recording these insights and customer feedback into their desktop interface. Additionally this data must be attached to customer interactions so it can be filtered and reported on. A robust speech analytics system also makes it easier to systematically record, search, retrieve, review, and analyze the nuggets within a vast quantity of customer conversations.

As our world becomes more digital and virtual, your contact center agents may be the only human touch your customers ever have with your company. In fact, your agents probably know more about your customers than anyone else at your company – including you!

So empower your agents to work on your behalf. Help them educate you about who your customers are and what they really want.

To learn more about the various solutions which enable these experiences please download,  The Future of Work – Exceed Customer Expectations with Workload Management.

Lizanne Kaiser, Ph.D.

Lizanne Kaiser, Ph.D.

Dr. Kaiser is a Senior Principal Business Consultant at Genesys, specializing in business strategy, customer experience, design and usability for contact center and cross-channel interactions. She holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Yale University.