Knowledge is power in customer service

Enabling contact centre staff to be more efficient and motivated enhances customer experience and helps retain and attract employees.

Wynand Smit.
Wynand Smit.

Fostering a culture of continuous learning is essential in today's business environment, but companies find this principle difficult to implement.

Fortunately, recent business developments are making ongoing training and team development a reality. Today's workforce can access information, training and more using new learning tools such as an interactive knowledge base, and this feeds directly into a younger workforce's expectations for on-the-job skills development.

A recent Deloitte study found millennial employees expect to be trained on the job, and yet their experience is that employers tend to prioritise the bottom line above workers, affecting employee motivation and loyalty.

More than that, however, they feel ill-equipped to handle Industry 4.0, but want to succeed in this challenging environment. With this in mind, they're actively seeking out employment at companies that will help them develop the necessary skills to cope as business evolves and their desire for meaningful work becomes a more pertinent personal driver.

Younger workers need positive reasons to stay with a company; they need to be offered the realistic prospect that by staying loyal they will, in the long run, be professionally better off, and as individuals, develop faster and more fully than if they left.

Less than 36% of Millennials and 29% of Gen Z currently in the workplace believe they are fully prepared and have all the skills and knowledge they need.

Less than 36% of Millennials and 29% of Gen Z currently in the workplace believe they are fully prepared and have all the skills and knowledge they need. This is a troubling statistic considering the potentially disruptive impact Industry 4.0 could have in shaping future work environments.

This means proactive employee training and ongoing skills development must become an active objective within companies. The young workforce demands it, and customers expect it. In a customer service environment such as a contact centre, this could mean the difference between, for example, a widespread backlash on social media, to a poorly managed response compared to a great customer experience that elevates the business above all others.

Employee focus

We've all heard the Richard Branson quote about the importance of employees and why they should come first, but how can this be practically applied in day-to-day business operations? Moreover, what role does continuous development play in this?

In the contact centre, incoming customer service requests can be varied and dynamic; requiring agents who are adept at handling typical as well as anecdotal queries. While every new agent will undergo onboarding training, this knowledge is static and there is isn't much time for on-the-job training. This is especially applicable when it comes to the pressing demands of day-to-day customer service.

Factor in the high staff turnover at contact centres (approximately 30% on average), the associated impact on customer service, and the costs of training, and this presents a compelling case for introducing a business tool to support and promote continuous on-the-job learning.

In a fast-paced environment such as a customer service centre, agents can assist customers quickly by using a virtual assistant or chatbot to look up customer-specific and general product/service information from the knowledge base while on the call, or even on topics they may not have had previous training on.

Contact centre agents can type questions and access information directly without interrupting another agent/supervisor; reducing the burden on managers, and simultaneously providing valuable hands-on training.

Culture of learning

Onboarding new employees and training existing employees on new products or services can be time-consuming, but with interactive learning tools (such as an assisted/interactive learning platform or knowledge base), the implementation of training is accelerated, leading to a culture of continuous learning and professional training.

For example, if a contact centre agent wants to learn a task such as updating the CRM, they can simply type in "how to add a customer to the CRM" and then follow the directions (by being guided by a virtual assistant or the knowledge base itself).

Ultimately, enabling contact centre staff to be more efficient and motivated doesn't just enhance CX, but also helps retain and attract employees.

Adopting an "inside out" approach, combined with a firm focus on continuously improving the workforce's knowledge and skills, is key to staying relevant to customers and today's market.

Wynand Smit
CEO of INOVO.

With over 10 years of operational and strategic experience in the South African contact centre industry, Wynand Smit's understanding of technology and its application to business has benefited multiple organisations across a variety of industries. As CEO of contact centre solutions provider INOVO, he is passionate about using the contact centre as a platform to drive positive change in a business.

Have your say
Youtube play icon