Tis the Season for Contact Centers: Give Agents the Tools for a Happy Holiday

  • Cindy Whelan
    Cindy Whelan

    The contact center is a critical element in building customer satisfaction and improving the customer experience; agents’ ability to respond to customer requirements effectively can set the tone for future business or sour the relationship.

  • A recent survey from Dimension Data highlights declines in customer satisfaction and first call resolution rates.  Contact center operators need to ensure coordination across contact center operations and provide agents with the tools and processes to resolve an issue or escalate that first call as frequently as possible.

Dimension Data recently completed its annual Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, a global survey of 817 contact centers.  The Summary Report included some interesting findings in the area of customer satisfaction and first contact resolution:  customer satisfaction scores have declined from 82% to 77% from 2011 to 2013, and first contact resolution rates have dropped a whopping 12%, from 85% to 73% from 2009 to 2013. These declines are surprising given increased enterprise focus on the customer experience during these time periods, the growth in customer data collection, and the improvements that have been made to contact center tools and multi-channel agent contact options.

What would cause this decline?  Lack of agent training could be one factor, and poor internal contact center processes and agent constraints could be another.  I experienced a situation recently in which both of these factors impacted the agent’s ability to resolve an issue. I received a call from my “video entertainment provider” (television seems to be an inaccurate term given today’s variety of viewing options), offering a promotion for a few premium channels for three months. The agent had all of my information at the time of the call: she already knew which services we received, the monthly billing amount, and other details without asking me.  The promotion reduced the monthly bill, so I accepted and was told that the new services would be available within 48 hours.  The new services hadn’t been activated after three days, and we needed to make another change to the service, so I called the company.  The inbound call agent had no knowledge of the promotion, of my acceptance of the offer, or even a record of that outbound call, and informed me that she was not authorized to activate the service nor could she help with the other service issue. After several subsequent contacts and escalation within the company, I reached an agent that was able to resolve the issue. As it turned out, the company outsources their outbound calling programs to a third party, and there was a lapse in communicating information between the outbound calling agents and the company’s own inbound agents.

While this particular situation may have simply been a hiccup in the company’s system and not a regular occurrence, it illustrates an important point: contact center operators need to ensure coordination between various agent groups, including those that are outsourced, and they must provide agents with the tools and processes to support first call resolution.  The customer’s interaction with the agent may be to address a problem or question, but the call is an opportunity to increase customer loyalty through an efficient experience, and possibly to increase sales.  Depending upon the company’s business, not every agent will be able to resolve every call the first time, but contact center operators need to provide agents with the training and processes to efficiently take the caller to the next logical step in addressing the situation.

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