The Times They Are a-Changing: Talent in the Contact Center Part 6: Management

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Today’s contact center managers focus primarily on agent performance and customer service level metrics, and using those metrics to drive staffing, training and technology investment decisions. 

As consumer expectations around service rise and customer experience becomes a competitive differentiator, the contact center is changing from a cost center to a key strategic asset. Instead of low-cost operations being the top priority, managers’ goals become driving customer satisfaction and improving business outcomes.

Available technologies and customer care requirements are changing rapidly. Managers need to be looking at cloud-based solutions that can keep pace with these rapid changes, hire and train the staff who can effectively use these new technologies, and develop processes and metrics around these technologies. 

People Issues

As self-service and bots take over the rote tasks, managers need to hire and train staff for the more complex tasks that they will face. The cost of losing a talented and trained agent will be much higher in the future than it is today, making today’s high turnover rates unsustainable, so retention programs become very important. Managers need to become cheerleaders, mentors, and advocates for their agents and supervisors to be successful in this changing environment.

Another complexity for managers to deal with is the interplay between humans and technology. While bots may be a boon for some, they are seen as a threat by others. Every day there is another article about how AI will drive massive job displacement. But for AI to be successful and free up agents from the mundane parts of their job, the agents must be part of the team working on continuous improvement of the bots. Managers need to create incentive programs that encourage humans and bots working in tandem to improve customer service, and have everyone celebrate the success of the bot community.

As customer communication continues to shift towards a digital-first model, the skill sets best suited for agent-customer interaction change with it. Communicating via digital channels is different than in a phone conversation. Social channels require fluency in new terminology and acronyms. Video introduces yet more dimensions, such as creating a “visual image” of what an advisor from your company looks like, setting dress standards, creating backdrops, incenting compliance among employees, and enforcing it all. 

Evaluations and trainings need to take account of each agent’s talent for the written word versus the spoken word, and how they may “act” on video calls. Managers need to hire, coach and schedule staff accordingly.

Not all of today’s supervisors will be able to make the transition from taskmaster to mentor. Not all agents will be successful in the digital-first world.  Managers will face tough personnel decisions.  To get ready, new hires or promotions today should anticipate the needs of tomorrow.

Check out the previous installment of this series: “The Times They Are a-Changing: Talent in the Contact Center Part 5: Playbook Writers