The ongoing shift to self-service has brought about many positive changes to the customer service field. Call volumes in many contact centers are down along with the cost to serve. Fewer customers now require assistance from live agents to pay bills or carry out other simple tasks. However, that also means that call center agent skills must now incorporate the capacity to deal with a far greater proportion of complex issues.
Higher Expectations from Customers Demand Highly Trained Agents
As a result of the growing trend towards self-service, today’s contact center agent must therefore be better trained to address these issues. Call center agent skills include being able to deal with more frustrated, impatient customers who’ve tried and failed to resolve their issues via self-service. This group may be bigger than many companies realize, with new data indicating that only 9% of customers manage to fully resolve their issues through self-service channels.
Helping customers resolve tricky issues puts pressure on the contact center in several ways, for instance:
- Complex cases increase average handling time (AHT), a key contact center performance metric that is deeply entrenched in the customer service field.
- Complicated cases drive up costs. While a self-service transaction costs the organization pennies, the average cost of a human agent interaction is far higher.
- Dealing with irritated customers and their complicated issues is causing sky-high rates of agent attrition. This is because agents get burned out from failing to solve their customers’ problems.
The Effortless Experience
Simply put, today’s customers want their lives to be as easy as possible. Convenient and effortless experiences are fast becoming expected by customers everywhere. Moving from providing high-effort customer experience to low-effort interactions cuts costs by 37%, and increases the likelihood of increased purchases by an astonishing 88%. Another reason organizations should strive to deliver friction-free experiences is because “Effort is the driver with the strongest tie to customer loyalty”. 96% of customers who experience a high-effort interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have an effortless experience. Therefore, the ability to provide a low-effort interaction is a key trait of a good customer service representative.
“Consumers Want Results – Not Empathy”: a HBR Survey
Harvard Business Review conducted a comprehensive survey of call center representatives and classified them into seven different types, according to their personalities and call center skills. Each group’s overall performance was then analyzed based on the agents’ ability to make service interactions as effortless as possible, with other factors including AHT and customer satisfaction also taken into consideration.
The seven types of call center agent skills found are:
- The Controller: Forthright; likes demonstrating expertise and taking charge of customer interactions
- The Rock: Calm and positive; doesn’t get ruffled by difficult conversations
- The Accommodator: Likes to compromise; quick to offer refunds and discounts to customers
- The Empathizer: Likes to help solve problems; listens sympathetically to customers
- The Hard Worker: Does well with rules and procedures; deadline-oriented
- The Innovator: Looks for new ideas to improve processes
- The Competitor: Likes to outperform colleagues and change others’ views
According to the study, empathetic agents were by far the most common customer service agent skill within the contact center. However, controllers ranked first for making interactions efficient and painless. Controllers outperformed all other types of reps as their strong personalities and confidence allow them to take charge of each interaction and guide customers toward the correct resolutions.
While Empathizers may make the customer feel supported and understood, customers want straightforward resolutions above all. Rather than demanding too much mental effort from customers during the problem-solving process, Controllers simply tell them what they should do. This removes any uncertainty and streamlines the whole episode.
Certainly, confidence is the key call center agent skill, enabling the rep to take control of any situation. But how can contact centers create such a culture? How can they give an agent complete confidence in their understanding of each customer issue and in the resolution they’re proposing?
Take Control with AI-Powered Visual Assistance
Remote Video Support
As customer issues get more complex, live visual assistance technology has emerged as a proven answer to how to improve customer service skills in the call center. It allows call center agents to take control and effortlessly resolve problems.
Visual guidance tools enable customers to use their smartphone camera to show the agent exactly what they see. The agent can then identify the visual symptoms of the issue, diagnose the problem and guide the customer with confidence and authority, using augmented reality annotations. This results in a faster and more effective call resolution and a more satisfying customer experience.
The ability to see the customer’s environment has another added benefit: it allows the agent to identify and address issues outside the scope of the initial contact, often enabling Next Issue Avoidance. For example, an agent might help a customer wire up a new router and then notice that it’s positioned too close to an A/C unit, which can affect the signal.
Visual assistance is tailor-made for Controller agents, exponentially enhancing their problem-solving abilities. As contact center managers witness the positive results live Visual Assistance brings in terms of higher First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates and improved Customer Effort Scores, they naturally seek ways to scale that success. But Controller agents are a minority. How can managers foster a controller culture across the contact center, giving all call center agents skills to become Controllers?
AI technologies are steadily revolutionizing back-end customer service systems. One way in which they’re most effective is in creating agent assist tools that provide real-time decision support for reps based on best practices and proven resolutions. An AI-powered visual contact center knowledge base is the next step for forward-thinking organizations looking to optimize processes for agents and customers alike.
Computer vision-powered agent assist tools automatically recognize devices, parts and issues. This ensures the agent is in control right from the start of the interaction, a key trait of a good customer service representative. The system not only provides timely resolution suggestions, but also helps the agent to confirm that every step of the process is completed correctly and that the issue has been successfully resolved.
Enhance Call Center Skills with Visual Technology
With contact centers now dealing with increasingly complex customer issues, companies must find ways to ensure that their processes are as efficient and effortless as possible. Customers don’t just want a friendly ear. They want to be told how to fix their issue by “Controllers”, call center agents who take charge of situations to achieve successful resolutions as quickly as possible. Visual technology is the key to developing these call center agent skills and creating a culture of control in the contact center. Focusing on how to improve customer service skills in call centers will lead to creating better CX and result in more satisfied customers.