July 28, 2020 By Simon Shaw 3 min read

If there was ever a chosen year for contact center transformation, it would be 2020. The vast majority of companies have had to shift their business models in light of COVID-19. Subsequently, their customers have been forced to adapt to new ways of interacting with their brand – new ways that have spurred an influx of service requests to call centers. COVID-related requests have clogged every channel of customer service, whether it’s through chat, email, social, or phone. To combat the sudden uptick of customer inquiries, companies are implementing more advanced technologies, including automation, machine learning, and AI.

As more companies embark on journeys to digitally transform their contact centers, the bulk of the agents’ work will deal with cases that have already been passed through from a self-service channel. In order to manage these cases effectively, agents will have to tap into their emotional intelligence and creativity to effectively help customers looking for assistance in uncertain times. Service is fundamentally a people-oriented function. Employee experience, maybe even more so than customer experience, should be at the heart of an organization’s contact center transformation – how a company enables agents to deliver an exceptional level of customer service is a reflection of the brand’s values. Technology can be an enabler of transformation, but it’s the people who must be the driving force.

Focus on employee experience to accelerate customer experience

Contact center agents inherently want to put the customer first; it is a key trait for their role. If agents are uncomfortable or feel ill-informed through any part of a digital transformation project, it can feel as though they are already failing the customer on some level. As more companies turn to AI for support to mitigate overloaded contact centers and simple, routine requests are offloaded to self-service channels, capabilities. Given that they are already expected to skillfully navigate customer care amidst times of high emotions, agents must also feel empowered with the tools needed to create the best customer service possible.

Unfortunately, contact center agents are unfortunately often left out of the conversation when an organization begins to prioritize its business goals and deliver value. But when these same companies are looking at misaligned connections and broken processes, it’s these same links that were deprioritized earlier that often lead to valuable insights. A contact center’s agents are on the front line and are able to identify exactly what’s working and what’s not–those insights should be guiding the priorities of a transformation. Both your top-performers and less experienced agents should be a part of the discovery
phase and ongoing project to prevent misalignment and improve employee adoption.

Here are three ways to support your employees during a digital transformation project:

Involve people from Day 1

Change management and adoption of technology is key to a successful implementation. Ensuring that employees are key stakeholders from the beginning in shaping the project keeps teams invested in a shared goal and ensures that the most pressing problems experienced by front-line agents are addressed with the new solution. These agents regularly interface with customers and understand the intricacies between the contact center and customers, allowing them to provide
invaluable insights and suggestions.

Early, continuous, and open communication

Historically, agents have not been pulled into the planning early on. Instead, they and are instead being told that a change is being rolled out in their organization after plans have been solidified. Many of these communications are met with confusion or resistance to change. Keeping an open line of communication allows teams to come together on a focused goal and also reduce resistance to change later on, resulting in quicker adoption of new solutions.

Identify your champions

We often think of champions as the strongest performers in your organization. However, the best champions can also be the longest-standing or least-experienced members. When there’s a distributed mix of internal champions supporting a digital transformation project from the inside-out, you can capture possible oversights and garner greater enthusiasm for change.

More and more organizations are recognizing that customer service needs to be a business priority in the larger organization. Customers are increasingly engaging with digital and self-service channels, like communities and chatbots. When there is an opportunity for customers to engage with a contact center agent, it is essential to provide a positive experience for both the agent and customer fueled by proper training, skill sets, and technology.

Learn how IBM aligns contact center outcomes with the agent experience in our interactive smart paper

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