In the contact center industry, the customer is king. Discussions within the contact center industry always center on the customer and how to best serve the customer’s needs. Discussions on metrics, integrations, customer journeys, and emerging channels center on how to better connect with the customer. However, the people who often get left out of the conversation are the contact center agents.
Before I entered the world of marketing and contact center software, I worked as a call center agent and provided customer service to clients.
During my time at college, I worked as a part-time IT service agent for my college’s IT department. The position involved working on the phone and through email and talking with clients. My role included troubleshooting technical issues and providing technical support to university staff and students. My goal was to provide quick and excellent customer support through email and phone. If an issue was outside of my scope, I had to route the call or email to a more specialized department.
After working in the call center for two years, I’ve realized there are things that call centers do well, but there are many other things that call centers can improve on for their agents. Agent empowerment in the call center can improve your call center efficiency and lead to an even better experience for the customer. Here are some of the lessons I took away from working as a call center agent.
LACK OF SEAMLESS CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN CHANNEL
When I worked as a call center agent, there were two channels that I had to work with. They were telephone and email. Even with only two channels to cover, I experienced tons of issues with working seamlessly on both channels. Conversations that I had through email would sometimes have to escalate into a phone call, but there was no way for the client to switch onto a phone conversation with me. The client had to call the general IT phone number, wait in a queue, and then get connected to the next available agent. There was a very high likelihood that the next available agent wasn’t me, meaning the agent who received the call had to either transfer the caller to me or had to start the whole troubleshooting process from the beginning.
This created a lot of friction between the client and I, since often they would be disappointed in the difficulty of reaching the same agent who was helping them through email. It also created a disjointed experience for me, since I often had to restart the troubleshooting process with many clients and had a difficult time giving customers quick support through the phone. The lack of a smooth transition between the channels, really slowed down the pace of the call center and led to a very frustrating experience for agents.
OUTDATED SYSTEM OF RECORDS
A lot of the technical support issues that came into our call center required the help of other departments or took multiple days to sort out. Due to this, we relied on a system of records that helped us keep track of customer interactions with our call center and allowed us to take notes on what happened in each interaction.
While the system of records our call center used got the job done, it had many issues that created friction for the agents and customers. Within our system, it was easy for customer support tickets to be lost or forgotten. Often I would receive calls from customers who complained about their issues being left unresolved for weeks, sometimes months. When looking up their support ticket number, I could see that it was left untouched, buried under other tickets that they were working on.
Our system also left many channels out. The only channel that was recorded with any context was email interactions, relying on often inaccurate or incomplete notes by other agents to get context of what the customer’s situation was. This led to a disjointed experience for the call center agents, as we often had to repeatedly ask the client or other agents for more information about the context of a support ticket.
LACK OF CONSISTENCY
Managing a call center is hard, especially one that mixes Tier 1 student employees with Tier 2 contractors. As a result, there was an inconsistency in the level of service a client received when dialing into the IT Service Desk. Sometimes the clients would receive a Tier 2 employee with years of experience in the call center who had access to all of the advanced tools. Other times, they would receive a part-time student employee or an inexperienced employee with only access to the most basic tools.
In many cases, Tier 1 employees had to ask Tier 2 employees for help with customer support cases due to not having access to more advanced tools needed to get the job done. When I was working at the service desk, I often had to put the caller on hold and go to a Tier 2 employee to ask for help. If the Tier 2 employee was busy on a call, I had to wait for him or her to be done with their call. This created friction for me, as I had to leave the caller on hold unnecessarily and spend the time waiting for my coworker to assist me.
This lack of consistency created many bad experiences between the customer and I, who often had to wait long periods of time for proper support. Many callers would call in again, dissatisfied by the support they received from the previous agent.
IMPROVING THE CALL CENTER
Agents are an integral part of the call center, since they are the first point of contact between your business and the customer. From personal experience, agents without the proper tools and training will have a hard time providing great customer support. A combination of outdated tools, lack of communication, and lack of seamless conversation transitions made my job much harder, leading to more unsatisfied customers.
Empowering agents is the first step to improving your call center, and there are many ways to empower call center agents.
Bright Pattern’s contact center software provides all the tools agents need to ensure a seamless, excellent customer experience. Bright Pattern’s contact center software is fully omnichannel, meaning your agents can switch between channels seamlessly while having access to the full context of the conversation. Through our comprehensive CRM integrations, you can track the customer on his or her journey from beginning to end, ensuring that the customer is receiving the best customer experience throughout the journey. All of these features, at an affordable, pay-per-use price.