A few weeks ago, I attended a webinar jointly held by CCW and Vonage titled Checklist For Success: 7 Crucial Considerations For Today’s Contact Center Leaders (note that you’ll need to register to access the recording). Prior to logging on, I was excited about the potential to discover some new tactic or piece of knowledge that would help the Effortless Experience™ team to stay at the front of the customer service training world, but at the end of the hour I was pleased that each of the topics resonated with what we are already focused on.

The webinar covered a lot of ground in an hour and offered great discussion on seven considerations below:

  1. The New Contact Center Framework
  2. Establishing Performance Goals and Metrics
  3. Pain Points that Actually Cause Pain
  4. Broken Operational Processes
  5. Agent Engagement in the New World
  6. The Future of Contact Center Technology
  7. Aiming to Advance with a Holistic Approach to the Customer

Each of these seven considerations are crucial in today’s customer service world, but one resonated with conversations we’ve been having in recent months.

The New Contact Center Framework

After one year in a world that is constantly adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was particularly interested in hearing how the world has changed for both customers and the agents who assist them. This is where CCW and Vonage began their conversation. They pinpointed the shift to work-from-home and new abundance of hybrid contact centers, as well as a new level of emotional need from customers who choose to directly contact a business.

Data: CCW and Vonage data showing a new era of customer service due to the shift to work-from-home and new abundance of hybrid contact centers, as well as a new level of emotional need from customers who choose to directly contact a business.

Similarly, Challenger’s Effortless Experience™ team points to three eras customer service organizations, with the third, most recent era showing customers’ continued preference for self-service (causing overall contact volume to be lower) leading to a higher complexity of contacts and greater demand for tailored service.

Given the shifts we’ve seen in the industry in the last 12 months, we’re ready to add a fourth era, driven by rapid change in just about every aspect of human life around the globe.  This era is underscored by a continuing demand for reliable and more advanced self-service options, an increase in customers’ digital competence and their preference for it, and customers wanting not only tailored support, but also emotional support. 

The Age of Empathy

But wait – we have long argued that customers don’t call you to make new friends, and the idea of customers needing a rep’s emotional support may be a close cousin to that.  Ergo, let’s not take it too far.  Customers still don’t need a new best buddy; they need someone to solve their problems, but to behave with humanity and empathy while they are doing it.  Enter: The Age of Empathy.

We’ve already touched on exactly how misguided it is to go out and tell reps to “just display empathy.”   Taking that approach is going to lead to a slew of inauthentic or empty statements, and unhappy customers who can hear the difference.  So let’s discuss a second angle.

Reps need employers who lead with empathy

It’s so important I’ll say it twice: reps need employers who lead with empathy.  If the first three eras of the contact center were about what customers needed from companies and therefore what companies needed from their reps, then the fourth era shift should be about what reps need from their companies. (Spoiler alert: your customers will reap the benefits).    

The Effortless Experience team talks with our clients frequently about restoring employees’ Control Quotient (CQ), which is the confidence to use their own judgment and maintain control over the conversation, especially in stressful situations.  Reps with high CQ are more adaptable, engaged, and resilient to the natural pressures of the job, with lower risk of burning out.  Sounds ideal, but what we know is that most contact centers are managed in a way that squashes reps’ naturally high levels of CQ.  Here’s a short list of things that companies can do to restore rep CQ:

  • Demonstrate trust in reps – teach them the right skillset, but allow them to use discretion in how they deploy these skills in customer interactions
  • Ensure they are receiving meaningful coaching
  • Strengthen peer support networks
  • Align reps to organizational goals

In summary, you need to take a holistic approach when it comes to supporting your customers AND your reps. Our programs enable organizations to improve service quality by providing agents with the Low-Effort tools they need to feel confident handling customers with complex demands and emotional needs. If you’re looking to keep up with the changing world, let us know.

Emily Campbell

Emily Campbell is an Associate Manager with Challenger’s Effortless Experience™ team. In her role, Emily helps client organizations implement Effortless Experience programs designed to help companies grow in their journeys to becoming low-effort customer service organizations.

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