Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Customer Service Staff: The Last Investments

I listen to a lot of webinars focused on how to improve the delivery of customer service. I read lots of analyst reports about the state of customer service and where investments are being made and expected to be made in the future. As I am sure you can imagine, a lot of focus is on adding new and better technology to improve the service delivery model.

What I rarely hear is how investments in improving the level of knowledge within the service staff is a priority. I’ve given this question a bit of thought and have come up with a couple of answers.

First and foremost, vendors have a well-known agenda; sell more products. Vendors sponsor many of the webinars being conducted on a daily basis. Obviously, the purpose of these webinars is to highlight a customer service problem followed by solving that problem using the vendor’s products. Sadly, the vast majority of the technologies offered to solve the problems are based on the assumption that agents are most effective when they learn to use tools. “Buy more tools and have less problems” is a common theme but a misleading solution. New tools do little to address the customer service problem without appropriate training. Training. Rarely is this term heard amongst the discussion of customer service solutions. Perhaps that is why the conversation continues on without abating.

Training customer service staff is a necessary evil in too many companies. Why is this? Simple. Humans are messy! Humans bring problems with them when they come to work. Humans want fulfillment from work, want acknowledgement and want the opportunity to succeed. Humans are expensive.

The standard metric in North America and Europe is that personnel costs are 60-70% of the cost of running a contact center. Want that number to skyrocket? Chase off your best talent on a regular basis. When an agent leaves, all the investment in training goes right out the door. Ever see an IVR walk out the door? Web server?

The sad fact is that many companies seek to use technology as a way of shifting the knowledge burden away from the agent and put it on the back of technology; technology designed to allow the agent to move closer to an interchangeable part than ever before.

Self-service systems like the web and IVRs have, in fact, turned the equation back 180°. Agents are once again getting a continuous stream of challenging questions as the easy stuff is being captured in the self-service options. As you would expect, agent training is moving back up the priority list. Training for the sake of training is as wasteful as no training at all. So what’s the solution. Yes, it’s a bit of technology.

What every contact center needs today is technology to help identify what each customer service knows as compared to what they need to know. The technology needs to also help program a career path for each and every employee so that the training investment does not walk out the door. Most employees like staying with a company as long as they know they have a future, know what steps they need to take to better their future and can track how they are progressing towards that future. To do anything less is to invite your most expensive company assets to seek fulfillment elsewhere.

If you are unsure where to look to find technology that can address the problem of managing the training needs of your customer service staff, I invite you to take a look at Silver Lining Solutions. They have a complete set of tools designed to help every business address each agent’s unique training needs. If you are concerned with optimizing the value each customer service resource brings to your transactions, you need a complete skills management system

If you would like help designing a skills management system into your Customer Service Delivery System, please call me regarding available consulting services: 602-492-1088

No comments:

Post a Comment