Contact center agents, field service professionals, technicians, services reps—these are a few of the many roles that constitute your front line. The front line is a crucial part of your enterprise since these employees are your first line of communication with your customers. How they interact with customers and perform their jobs has a determining effect on your brand’s reputation. Everything they do reflects the value, culture and vision of the company.
Here is what can happen if your agents are not empowered adequately.
Your customers interact with your brand on multiple channels—digital, social, email, calls, etc. If your agents are not aware of your brand messaging across all of these touchpoints, they may end up delivering the wrong value proposition or overpromising.
• No visibility of the bigger picture.
Your agents should be aware of what’s happening in other areas and departments of businesses relevant to their role. When they’re not, they may not fully understand what your brand is all about and where they fit in the bigger picture. They may only focus on their part of engagement and not be concerned once that stage is over.
• Lower productivity.
Many times, customer-facing teams have no context about a customer on the call, and they’re unable to deal with customer questions and offer a satisfactory solution. Other times, they have to search for sources for the required information that may not be readily accessible. This can decrease the first call resolution rate and frustrate the customer.
• Longer average handling time.
Often, the front-line teams don’t have the decision-making capabilities. They have to reach out to their supervisor or manager to check if they can offer a certain resolution to a customer on call, resulting in longer waiting times.
• Poor customer experience.
Customers call a contact center for several reasons, and they want quick and needful responses. Remember that poor customer experience continues to be one of the most common reasons that drive customer churn. Long waiting time on calls and getting routed from one agent to another can only augment this problem.
Therefore, empowering front-line employees should be a critical priority. According to a Harvard Business Review report published in 2020, 72% of the respondents surveyed said front-line empowerment resulted in increased productivity for their organization, leading to higher profitability.
Here are the important considerations to drive front-line empowerment.
• Share the broader vision.
Front-line employees must understand the broader business vision and objective as well as where they fit in the big picture. It can help them assume more accountability, develop an entrepreneurial spirit and contribute more to customers. Thus, instead of working in a silo, this team will function as a cohesive front line and make the overall strategy more successful.
• Give them resources for quicker and better responses.
Information is an indispensable power for customer-facing teams. You must ensure that front-line agents have, at their fingertips, all of the necessary knowledge and resources to address customer needs promptly while minimizing the time on call for the customers.
• Equip them with relevant intelligence.
Your agents should have real-time access to the calling customer’s profile—including their subscription plan, concerns, pain points, etc.—so that they can customize the conversation and engage better. Additionally, they should also have access to the best resolution options.
Here, it’s critical to ensure that the agents are not overwhelmed with complex technology and loads of irrelevant data. Instead, ready-to-act intelligence and prescriptions can turn your agents into customer retention superstars.
• Provide them with decision-making abilities.
You should consider arming your front-line employees with a certain level of decision-making about offers and resolutions. It can help them provide instant solutions to a disgruntled customer. Empowered agents can deal with customers with authority, and customers will feel valued when dealing with such agents.
• Invest in their coaching and development.
Set a benchmark for excellent customer service and support, and upskill your front line to meet it. Data-driven quality monitoring can help you offer personalized coaching to your agents and reduce the gap between top-performing and bottom-performing agents with respect to various business KPIs.
• Reward performance.
Studies attest that loyal customers are more profitable, better brand advocates and more likely to try new products than new customers. Considering the customer retention economics, you must aim to develop an organizational culture where agents are rewarded for their performance based on predetermined metrics, such as retention and CSAT performance.
One challenge to overcome in driving agent empowerment is that call and contact centers have historically been looked at as cost centers and, thus, have allocated lower budgets. Leaders must realize their revenue-generating potential and invest in them appropriately. Especially for a recurring revenue business, customer retention is as important as customer acquisition, and therefore, front-line empowerment should not be optional. However, it’s essential to note that besides training, it also calls for a cultural shift as well as embracing a new operating model powered by predictive analytics and prescriptive actions.
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