The rise of the SuperAgent

The world of work is getting more complex. As technology takes away the routine, mundane and predictable.

Few professions are immune to the march of the machines – and contact centres, in particular, have to rise to new challenges.

One of the fundamental questions is what are contact centres there to do in a world where “autonomous” customers are doing a lot more themselves. Some assume that self-service will make the contact centre as we know it redundant by 2020 – but are they right?

We decided to ask contact centre industry professionals what they believed contact centres would look like by 2020 – and the answer wasn’t really too surprising. More than half of them (54 per cent) reckoned that the contact centre would be dealing with the complex and emotive stuff that humans are far better at doing than technologies.

Recent research also tells us that while customers are using an increasingly diverse range of channels to interact with their banks, they still place a huge value on human interaction.  They rate factors such as a contact centre being easier to get through to and having a named individual to phone as important to make them feel warmer towards their bank.

Who do you entrust complex, emotive enquiries to? Is it the lowest paid, most junior, least experienced employee? Logically the answer to that question is “no” but, in practice, in many contact centres today the answer is still “yes”.

Who do we need in the contact centre? With complexity going up, along with call handling times, do we need to employ people with superhuman powers – SuperAgents?

In fact, the primary superpower required for a contact centre agent seems to be the ability to communicate often complex concepts effectively (48 per cent regarded this as a vital). People who are good at this often need to have an in-depth understanding of the products and services that they are being asked about. By implication, they also need to be naturally good problem solvers who can effectively stick a fork through the spaghetti of internal processes on the customers’ behalf.

Superpowers are not limited to agents – we may need SuperManagers too. With complex tasks being undertaken by expert agents, contact centre management becomes less about command and control micromanagement and more about understanding the bigger picture. Some 62 per cent of managers believed that they will become the guardians of customer experience by 2020.

In the absence of X-ray vision, they will need tools that tell them, in real time, why customers are making contact rather than just counting contacts and monitoring quality. If the website is down, they need to work with the web team to, firstly, alert them of the issue but also manage customer expectations as to when things might be resolved, as well as rapidly getting the resources in place to take the inevitable deluge of contacts.

All good super heroes need a mentor. SuperManagers will need solid back up from their senior management to ensure that customer experience is given the priority it needs. This will undoubtedly be helped if customer experience, and the contact centres’ increasingly strategic role in it, is recognised at board level. Above all they need to resist falling back on traditional cost/resource optimisation measures, such as call handling time (CHT) when the going gets tough.

Are your agents and managers ready to leap tall buildings?