Frontline customer connection
Customer facing or front-line employees are a crucial link in the delivery of effective, personalised customer service experiences. They can also often be the only contact point with an organisation, and in some circumstances, the one that develops a long-term relationship with the customer based on trust and understanding. For these crucial links in the customer service chain, these employees need to be engaged, motivated and rewarded to ensure commitment, loyalty and the highest levels of service delivery.
There have been many studies and surveys that have identified and highlighted the effects of having engaged and motivated staff in a customer service environment, on overall business success as well as long-term sustainability. A report for UK Government (Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement, by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke) found the following correlations to employee engagement:
- Companies with low employee engagement scores earned an operating income 32.7% lower than companies with more engaged employees
- Companies with a highly engaged workforce experienced 19.2% growth in operating income over 12 month period
Having engaged and motivated staff can directly impact levels of productivity and efficiency, market penetration, growth, customer churn, and ultimately overall return on investment.
Customer service roles in a contact centre environment have historically been associated with low-skill, low-pay, high turnover roles, even though they can be the first point of customer contact for an organisation. Increasingly however, organisations, especially those with a need for the delivery of sensitive or complex information, are looking at how they can develop and keep staff who ultimately can make or break the customer journey.
There are many standard, but often ignored, human resource strategies that should be engaged in the quest to motivate and retain staff. These include ensuring training and development opportunities are made available – both personal and professional, mentoring is offered, regular surveys and even focus groups are conducted to ensure that staff needs are reported and understood for future planning and reward programmes that recognise commitment and delivery levels. In addition to these, there are also more specific actions that can positively affect how customer service agents in a contact centre feel and how they ultimately perform.
Where customer agents are high in number in an organisation, the mistake can be made that they are just one of many. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to know, understand or be part of the bigger picture of the business and its overall ambitions. Enabling staff by ensuring they understand the aspirations of the organisation can directly impact how they deliver and share knowledge with the customer. Internal comms activities such as job swapping (senior to junior roles) can also be invaluable in understanding the challenges faced by those at the coalface on a daily basis.
For those organisations outsourcing their customer service teams the focus is very much about ensuring that the knowledge and experience levels of the team delivering matches that of the internal team as much as possible. Agents need to feel that they are well briefed and knowledgeable before going ‘live’ and that they fully understand and appreciate the brand voice, including tone and values.
Role of tech and data
As contact centres have increasingly become integrated with technology and automated customer data collection, when it comes to mapping the customer journey, it is important that the information and technology are reliable, accurate and timely.
For agents responding to large numbers of calls and complex enquiries, having the most up to date data at their fingertips is crucial to ensuring the user is responded to accurately and within acceptable timeframes, with the very latest information. It can enable the agent to offer the most seamless and personal service when it comes to response types and the supply of useful, tailored information.
Reliable technical support and back up is also key for contact centre staff to feel they can rely on the tools they need to be able to respond to the customer, it’s about ensuring staff know that what they are promising the customer is actually being delivered. So if an agent tells a customer they can find further information or access support online, then that should be the case, every time.
Mapping the customer journey has been a common practice for some time and part of the fabric of CRM platforms since the beginning. Oracle and other platform developers have also begun introducing Employee Experience Journey Mapping (EXJM) which is a people-centric discovery process aimed at helping employees deliver better services, through the gathering of information to understand the challenges they are facing when they are in a ‘live’ environment.
EXJM mapping, measures and analyses both ‘onstage’ and ‘offstage’ activity of employees and can give a valuable overview of performance and engagement and can highlight where improvements can be made.
The connection between user and agent is an extremely important and valuable one to most businesses, and as consumers demand more holistic and efficient journeys from brands, the relationship has become ever more important. The need to ensure frontline staff are engaged, motivated, loyal and knowledgeable can significantly impact the customer experience overall, ultimately affecting the bottom line.