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Are your live agents helping or hurting you with customers?


Randy Saunders had a great post over on the Perfect Customer ExperienceCan I please speak with a live agent? In it he has a great quote:

Forester’s study finds that 45 percent of consumers prefer to speak with a customer service agent to answer questions and resolve service issues, yet most walk away from customer service agent interactions disillusioned, disappointed, and disgruntled.

If everyone is so keen to talk to someone, how come they have such rotten experiences? Well the trick is that, as Natalie L. Petouhoff, Ph.D. says in the report Randy quotes, customers want agents who are:

knowledgeable, patient, friendly, courteous, informed, easy to understand, and responsible for resolving issues

Ha! No wonder they are unhappy. With the turnover typical in most call centers and the prevalence of outsourcing and offshoring, this list sounds most unlikely. Yet need it be? If the systems your agents were using were decision-centric:

  • The agent would seem more knowledgeable as they would be given the write choices to make when critical decisions came up in their conversations.
  • They would be more informed as the systems would be telling them what to do or what the implication of something was not just presenting information.
  • You would be able to make them responsible for resolving issues because the decisions would be controlled by the business but delivered by the agents – they would know what they could and could not, should and should not do.

Now even the most decision-centric system will not make your agents patient, friendly, courteous or easy to understand. They might be nicer to customers if they were not so frustrated with their systems and if their customers were less frustrated they might be more friendly but these aspects of the relationship will require you to do more than just adopt decision management!

The report makes some specific observations that reflect the lack of decision management in most call centers. Clumsy self-service to live service transitions and bad call routing reflect a lack of thought and management of these critical routing decisions. Bad knowledge management can also be seen as a lack of focus on decisions – after all it is the decisions your agents make that the knowledge management process is meant to improve.

Applying decision management can help modernize your call center by giving you business control of critical customer decisions, improve routing and call handling and give a focus to knowledge management. It can also help fix your self-service interactions as I have noted before.

So, are your live agents helping or hurting? If they aren’t helping, applying decison management could make all the difference. You should also read The Best Service is No Service.