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The customer experience landscape is shifting. Self-service options such as apps and websites are making it easier for customers to resolve basic account inquiries and issues on their own. Instead, customers are contacting brands with more complex issues and frustration levels are often high. With recording devices that can capture unsatisfactory phone calls and the possibility of an agent interaction going “viral” on social media, the need for highly trained agents who can handle any situation while appropriately representing your brand is becoming more and more important.

But, how do companies know what type of contact center agent to hire who can effectively meet the evolving needs of the consumer? Let’s narrow the scope of the discussion to inbound, omni-channel customer service agents. Depending on the company, industry, and program goals of the contact center, these communication channels may be handled by separate departments or by a single, multi-skilled department. Hiring an agent who can be trained and coached to provide the customer with a resolution to their issue on their channel of choice is a challenge by itself. Add in delivering the service efficiently to drive operational improvements along with a polite and pleasant demeanor and you may think it’s near impossible. The key is to not only find the right person but to ensure the right coaching and training metrics are in place to measure success.

Finding the Right Person

The old approach to contact center hiring and training seems to focus on processes rather than the people themselves.  Candidates who are most qualified from a technical or product perspective are often prioritized.  Yet in the current marketplace, brands must also seek candidates who possess the necessary soft skills to fulfill the requirements of the job. For example, people who are capable of remaining calm and poised can turn an angry customer from a detractor to a promoter in the course of a single phone call.   The product knowledge and technical education required to resolve the issues can be taught in training, but the agent must be open to coaching on how to respond effectively under pressure and with integrity.

Once the agent knows the processes that can solve customer issues, their job is just beginning.  As customers no longer call in with simple requests, agents need to be able to problem solve using their technical knowledge of company products.  Hiring people with the skills to troubleshoot means training to product expertise rather than coaching to behaviors that are harder to change.

Empower Agents to Elevate the Experience Contact center agents are tasked to give the customer an experience and not just a resolution.

Now that customers have more options than ever before, it’s critical for brands to deliver an exceptional customer service experience every time.  This means contact center agents must have the product and process knowledge to service the customer and understand the company’s goals and policies. Contact center agents are tasked to give the customer an experience and not just a resolution. It’s critical to empower the contact center agents to elevate that experience, but also have the necessary controls in place to measure that empowerment while ensuring compliance standards are met.

Retain Top Talent through Inclusion

With an increasingly digital world, contact center agents have become a company’s brand. They’re the new brand ambassadors. They are your frontline. To retain top talent, create a culture with a sense of community and teamwork. Give contact center agents opportunities to provide feedback that contribute to the goals and mission of the organization.

Contact centers prove to be an increasingly important and valuable contributor to a company’s bottom line. The agents, whether on the phone or online, are becoming the customer experience representatives for your brand. These employees may provide the only real interaction a customer has with your company. Make it count and focus on hiring a contact center agent that can provide the elevated level of service needed in today’s world.