Agents = Teachers: Digital Customer Service Empowers Front-Line Representatives

Digital Customer Service Empowers Front-Line Representatives 

What if, instead of defining the role of “customer service representative” as: 

An employee who is paid by the company to take customer calls in order to solve problems and serve people.

You started telling your Service reps:

You are paid by the company to represent each customer you interact with. Your job is less to serve, and more to teach. Every time you teach a digital-first customer how to do something on our website or app, you’re helping them feel smarter and better about themselves. THAT is your job from now on. (And by the way, it’s much more fun and effortless for you!)

That’s the description of what it’s like to be on the front lines at companies that are transforming their service operations to Digital Customer Service (DCS). In addition to the efficiency benefits of lower operational costs, DCS also transforms the experience of being a frontline Service rep.

I recently conducted a poll on LinkedIn and asked, “Which background has the best skill set to work as a customer service representative in a digital-first environment?” The highest response (43%) was teachers. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing. In fact, some companies are now looking to actively recruit people who have a background in teaching to become their newest-hire DCS agents. Not just people who have been classroom teachers (although that’s a plus!) but people who’ve been coaches, volunteer leaders, or tutors in any discipline. People who have a natural proclivity for helping others learn, who get personal satisfaction out of showing someone else how to do something. These are the natural personality traits that seem to be best suited for success in digital-first service.

In our book, Digital Customer Service we feature interviews with service leaders who are redefining the role of the “rep” from serving, to educating:

Director of Service Technology Amanda Steinspring at Omaha-based Orion Advisor Solutions says the career switch from the classroom to the DCS environment has been an easy transition for many former educators, “We’ve hired several teachers recently and they seem to do well. They have been very successful with digital service because they’re doing what they know and teaching people how to use the self-serve capabilities we provide.” 

Jessica Shettel of Members 1st FCU in Pennsylvania adds: “What our people are doing with the customers they’re interacting with is showing them how to do things, because that way they don’t have to call us back. You know, there’s so many times that a member calls in on the phone but they’re looking at their computer while they’re talking to you. That’s a perfect opportunity–not to do it for them but to teach them how to do it.”

Now, think about your own personal life as a customer of all the companies you do business with. If you have a problem or service issue you need to take care of, who would YOU rather interact with?

Company Representative “A:”

A call center rep who you finally got connected to after going through the whole IVR process and getting re-authenticated again (because you already spent 5 minutes on the company’s website), and then after dialing a phone number and waiting on hold for however-long, Rep “A” comes on the phone to say “How may I help you? (And now you have to start all over!)


Company Representative “B:”

A person who connects with you through your screen whenever you choose—by pressing one button. Maybe it’s just a voice conversation where you’re looking at a photo of the rep on your screen, or maybe it’s a 2-way video call. And Rep “B” already knows who you are (and greets you by name), without having to ask you a million questions. In fact, this rep already has a pretty good idea of what you are looking to take care of.

Imagine this rep shows you—on your own screen—how to solve that same problem next time, and maybe even teach you about some other cool feature on the site that will be helpful in the future. And afterward you feel a little smarter, and likely even more loyal to that company. 

So…which rep would YOU rather interact with? “A” or “B”?

Bet you already got there … of course, they could be same exact person. The big difference is the tools provided to them, and the definition of the role they play in the success of your organization. 

Less of being a service agent, more of being a teacher.
Same person, different role. 

But that difference feels very different to digital-first customers. That’s what 5-star experiences feel like in today’s world.