With customer service and customer experience beginning to overtake price and product as brand differentiators, big investments have been made over the past few years in empowering customers with more ways to engage, provide feedback and share their experiences.
Yet, most employees are trying to engage the empowered customer with the same siloed technologies and stagnant knowledge repositories they’ve used (or not used) for years. This is creating a customer service and customer experience divide that will further separate leaders from laggards as we head into the future.
Consider these statistics: 72% of consumers expect a customer service agent to know their contact information, product information and service history as soon as they engage with a brand for assisted service; 90% of consumers say they expect consistency and continuity from a brand across channels.
Yet, according to Forrester Research, only 36% of contact centers have implemented multichannel integration to provide consistent experiences; 70% do not train agents to support multiple channels, and 56% do not offer an agent-facing knowledge management solution. In addition, a third of Gen Y workers say their at home technology is better than what they have at work.
Microsoft recently worked with Nucleus Research to develop a customer service maturity guidebook with one of the pillars focusing on agent empowerment. Nucleus interviewed approximately 40 brands (also Microsoft customers) to determine the characteristics of customer service organizations at three distinct stages of maturity: functional, tactical and dynamic which represents the most advanced or mature organizations).
Nucleus found that companies with advanced customer service maturity leverage technology and organizational structure for agent empowerment, “both by delivering predictive and prescriptive advice to agents within the application and streamlining escalation paths.
“This reduces resolution time, but also enables companies to do more with their agents (like enable them to identify cross-selling and upselling opportunities),” notes analyst Rebecca Wettemann, who identified primary benefits as increased agent productivity, accelerated time to productivity and reduced agent churn.
10 Tips to Empower Customer Service Agents
For all organizations striving to empower their agents and move ahead in terms of customer service maturity (and who isn’t?), here are ten tips that have proven successful for our customers as they advanced through to the functional, tactical and dynamic stages of maturity:
- Provide each agent with individual productivity scorecard. Set benchmarks, goals for agents with weekly reports that show customer satisfaction score, tickets resolved, knowledgebase articles suggested, etc.
- Incorporate agent feedback to improve your service responses, delivery. Gather feedback from agents to improve processes, productivity, self-service knowledgebase with answers to most frequently-asked customer questions.
- Provide agents with a centralized knowledgebase. Give all agents access to a centralized knowledgebase of product, service and customer service information so that they can deliver current, consistent answers and train faster.
- Include best course of action in knowledge articles. Increase agent productivity and reduce frustration and handle times by developing and providing agents with next best action knowledge.
- Empower employees with multiple skills and responsibilities. Keep employees engaged, reduce monotony by enabling them to work on different items (e.g. provide support one week, work on knowledgebase the next).
- Promote real-time collaboration and knowledge sharing among agents. Use community and/or social tools to help speed resolution of trending issues.
- Work with teams outside customer service to drive customer-obsessed culture. Lead through customer service to drive change, customer focused culture and processes.
- Implement an agent service desk that consolidates all channels. Consolidate channels for omnichannel service delivery so that agent can seamlessly transition across channels with customer.
- Empower employees to solve issues and make decisions without escalation through training,
reasonable compensation boundaries. Empower agents to solve more complex or escalated issues or to be able to offer some type of compensation to upset customers without waiting for approval.
- Provide a 360 degree view of the customer for personalized and contextual service. Give agents an enhanced view of customer information or create a custom widget so that they can see customer contact information, product history, sentiment analysis, service history.
Get the Report
Check out the characteristics of each stage of customer service maturity, metrics-based customer success stories, along with insights and advice from Nucleus Research on how to incrementally improve in customer service, in this new guidebook report: