In recent years, the nature of a contact center agent has transformed from that of a reactive role to a proactive one. In addition to responding to customer inquiries, it is now the responsibility of the agent to also consider the customer’s needs, additional up-sell opportunities, and identify potential issues proactively.
The introduction of new customer technology, different communication mediums, and customer expectations adds a layer of complexity that is a far cry from the days of a simple phone call. Now, in addition to phone calls, customer service agents must contend with online chats, social media, and emails.
On top of that, agents are tied up by manual, repetitive tasks such as consulting with secondary agents, looking up customer information in applications, additional screens, or databases, and post-call wrap up, as well as having to troubleshoot if an application fails or an error occurs.
In other words, the agent is expected to do more towards providing excellent customer service with less tools, less resources, and higher-than-ever expectations – all in an already unforgiving industry, with agent turnover at 35-40% pre-pandemic and nearly doubled post-pandemic.
from the customer’s point of view
To better understand the intricacies of the contact center, consider this customer experience with a contact center agent:
- Scott receives a targeted sales email from a retail company he has previously purchased from, reading something like: “We haven’t heard from you in a while and noticed you haven’t been using X product you purchased from us. Here’s a discount to get you back in the saddle.”
- Scott jumps at the deal and heads to their website to make a purchase. Flash forward two weeks later and Scott speaks to an agent about the status of his order, as it is has not yet arrived. The customer service agent apologizes for the order’s tardiness and offers another discount as an apology.
- The product does finally arrive, but the hardware in the product does not work.
- Scott calls the contact center again, and the agent schedules a technician to come out and service the product. The technician arrives and correctly installs it.
In this scenario, the contact center agent played a valuable role at each point of the customer exchange. In addition to updating Scott about the status of his order and setting him up with a technician, the agent provided a level of customer service that will ultimately be the difference between Scott never purchasing anything from this company again and being a repeat customer. In general, 80% of consumers indicate they would rather do business with a competitor after more than one bad experience.
These days, the competitive landscape means that a company cannot afford to lose even one regular consumer and as contact center agents can be a common first point of contact, this means that they can make or break a consumer’s overall perception.
automation in the contact center: shifting focus back to the customer
The above also illustrates the complexity of a customer service agent’s job. On average, an agent navigates anywhere between 7 to 12 applications to complete a single customer inquiry. This means that throughout the exchange with Scott, the agent had to put Scott on hold while visiting several different applications to locate and track his order, verify order information, and schedule a service appointment with a technician.
When the contact center agent is pulled in several different directions, this takes away from the overall customer experience, as the agent is unable to provide those personal touches that take customer service to the next level. With contact center automation, however, the agent can put the focus wholly on the customer.
Automated solutions not only empower the agent but also fuel the customer service experience by handing off the repetitive, application-based, and oftentimes, frustrating tasks, to a virtual robot. While the bot looks up the necessary customer information – such as order number and tracking information – the agent can converse with the customer in a more interactive and personable manner, while the customer sees a resolution much quicker.
automation in the contact center: making an agent’s job easier
92% of employees admit they waste up to 8 hours a week searching for information they need to serve customers.
Imagine instead a world where the time agents spend on the phone is productive, customer-facing time. Imagine a world where the customer hangs up the phone in a timely manner and has a good experience.
Seems like a no-brainer, right?
Automating the contact center involves applying robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline the call process.
RPA software robots take over repetitive tasks, and the human agent is free to answer other calls. Among other things, bots can be instructed to:
- Navigate various applications to pull order and customer information
- Send a follow-up email to the customer following the call
- Initiate a return and/or customer refund during the call
Imagine the possibilities!
And yet, only one third of contact centers even have this on their radar or are planning to invest in automation.
the bottom line
There is no doubting the important role that a contact center agent plays, but also the unique new challenges that the pandemic presented in being able to deliver a positive customer service experience. When a bot can fill in the more time-consuming gaps of handling a customer interaction, though, the agent’s ability to make that customer’s experience a more memorable one goes up.
When you equip customer service agents with the automation tools to handle customer inquiries more efficiently, some amazing things can happen:
- customer service agents will be happier, and their work more satisfying, as they are able to dedicate their time to the tasks that really matter: customer interaction
- customers will be more satisfied, as wait times and queues will decrease
- contact centers will experience economic savings, allowing them to invest in and concentrate their time on more diverse and innovative company areas
If you’re a numbers person, consider this: contact center automation can reduce processing costs by up to 80%, and call volume by up to 50%. In addition, with Robotic Process Automation, your contact center could see savings of 40% on average.
Learn more about Neostella’s contact center solutions.