Navigating the new world of employee experience in contact centres
By Karl Reed, Chief Solutions Officer, Pivotal Data
In a world of hybrid working models, a rapidly evolving technology landscape and growing reliance on the contact centre as a first-line engagement channel, delivering exceptional employee experiences has never been more important for contact centre leaders.
Since the pandemic indelibly changed the way contact centres operate, employee well-being has become a major focus for contact centre operators. Finding ways to respond to these workplace demands is a challenge that currently keeps most industry leaders up at night.
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, every contact centre operator had to rethink their working model. Social distancing requirements spurred a sweeping and immediate transition to remote working or hybrid work models to reduce on-site staff capacity.
While restrictive legacy technologies and concerns around agent performance and quality of service historically constrained work-from-home adoption rates, the pandemic forced operators to embrace this working model.
Enabling work-at-home agent (WAHA) and hybrid models required overnight transitions to cloud-based contact centre solutions, and necessitated an overhaul in how operators hired, trained and engaged their employees.
The real-world experience showed that, despite various entrenched beliefs, remote employees were generally as, if not more, productive than on-site agents.
Now, as vaccination roll-outs accelerate and lockdown restrictions ease, returning to the world’s new normal will likely introduce new employee experience and engagement challenges.
Many operators will likely maintain a hybrid or employee-choice workplace model to benefit from the cost and productivity benefits. However, ensuring employee experience and agent satisfaction will become strategic imperatives amid this new workplace paradigm.
For instance, operators that support hybrid models will need to ensure that staff who work remotely do not feel disconnected from their teammates as at-home agents will increasingly face issues such as social isolation and possible burn-out due to a blending of home and work life.
Contact centre operators will also have less control over an agent’s day-to-day experience, which can impact company culture.
Employees that return to the office environment will need to adapt after growing comfortable with working from home and avoiding a daily commute.
Furthermore, modern contact centre leaders understand the correlation between agent and customer satisfaction as employee experience is a prerequisite for delivering exceptional customer experiences.
As such, contact centre success and sustainability hinges on transforming the work environment to meet these demands.
In this new era of remote work, creating opportunities for employee engagement will become a particular challenge amid less day-to-day and face-to-face contact with employees. In this environment, it will also become harder to identify potential issues regarding employee well-being.
In response, contact centre leaders will need to focus intensely on areas such as employee well-being through regular virtual employee engagements, as well as virtual training and coaching.
With regard to training, contact centre leaders must prepare agents to work in technologically transformed environments to address customer needs via a growing number of digital channels, while also dealing with more complex products and processes.
Whereas digital channels have historically functioned as low-touch options to resolve simple issues, they are increasingly becoming the default preference among digitally proficient consumers.
As more customers expect resolutions via digital channels, agents will need to engage meaningfully and deliver high-value outcomes when using these new platforms. Agent development strategies should also focus on empowering agents to handle different types of interactions that vary in complexity.
Now, more than ever, contact centre agents serve as the frontline customer engagement point. Given the vital role that customer-centricity will play in contact centre success moving forward, agents must understand and respond appropriately to customer needs.
In this regard, empathy – the ability to understand a customer’s intentions and sentiments – and friendliness have become vital qualities among contact centre agents.
Equipping agents to handle a greater diversity of issues across multiple engagement channels will require greater empowerment through group training and one-on-one coaching.
While consistently ranked as top contact centre priorities prior to the pandemic, the new remote working model has necessitated a rethink about how leaders provide this training and coaching.
Cloud-based contact centre and advanced intelligent digital solutions can help to address these training challenges, while unlocking new opportunities.
For example, adopting cloud-based solutions will position contact centres to embrace the power of automation and artificial intelligence (AI). These advanced technologies allow contact centres to offload tasks from staff and craft more memorable customer engagements.
Furthermore, leveraging automation and AI to handle simple issues or queries via intelligent self-service platforms will allow agents to focus on more complex interactions.
Embracing these solutions will also improve agent productivity and increase happiness as agents can devote more time to meaningful work.
Ultimately, digital technology and advanced cloud-based solutions hold the key to navigating the new world of employee experience in the modern contact centre environment.