Delivering consistent and effective customer service is key within any contact centre, but providing exceptional Customer Experience and personalised journeys for individual customers will set you apart from the competition and build lasting relationships.

For most companies, transformation of the contact centre, therefore, becomes instrumental. There are two sides to the equation – what the customers want and what contact centre representatives need to be fully engaged and empowered to provide great experiences. To get the transformation started, you’ll want to consider these best- practices to get started and to assess where you are today and what areas you want to work on.

Get and keep the right people

“Getting the right people? Well, I have a team full of agents and don’t need to hire anyone else right now…”

Sound familiar?

If you’re trying to transform your contact centre, start at the heart of it – the people. Frontline agents that have the most impact on Customer Experience and loyalty – less the back-end staff, so spend more time getting the right customer-facing team. Take a step back and look at the wider picture – the first challenge is getting the right people through the door and making sure they fit culturally.

While it can be difficult to assess someone’s true essence and ethics in the hiring process, there are things you can do to help you crack the shell of an eager candidate in order to get to what really makes them tick. Try incorporating behavioural or situational interview questions into your agent interview process.

Ask questions that can help get a feel for their personality and a candidate’s true willingness to provide exceptional service. Such questions will help you identify better candidates the first time, ultimately ensuring a better experience for your customers and a more positive contact centre culture.

Another idea is to schedule a call in with them first. Why? Because they’re applying to work in a call centre, so why not get an initial sense of how they sound on the phone. This will help weed out the ones that don’t quite give you that sense of enthusiasm you may be looking for.

And lastly, we all know that strong candidates provide specific examples and walk you through the situation, the action they took, and the result. But even the ones that appear strong may just be good at presenting or ‘selling’ themselves. Bear that in mind and watch out for candidates who speak in generalities and hypotheticals, which can indicate a lack of experience.

Ask customers what they want

There’s been a tendency in the past for businesses to focus on pushing product, with many choosing this approach over anything else. But with the rise in digital channels, customer interactions have changed. Now those same businesses are realising that a product strategy alone won’t work. Since customers are engaging with companies while on-the-go, businesses have to be available across many channels – consumers now expect it. It’s all about the experience, and regardless of the channel, customers expect to have easy and seamless experiences when they interact with companies.

Businesses simply can’t rely on what they feel customers want or need. Customers want to have an experience tailored to suit them rather than something that’s targeting the masses. Recent customer service research data backs this up. As part of our NICE inContact Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark Study, we found organisations are misaligned with customers’ desires.

For example, 21 percent of consumers studied rated personalised service a top priority compared to 13 percent of businesses. This is quite a gap and indicates that businesses are not thinking as much about personalised services as consumers are – whereas it’s top of the agenda for consumers. This means they’re not investing in an area that may increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, or perceived value.

While bigger companies can splash out on certain activities, smaller companies are typically more agile and can make changes to their customer service processes and engagement strategies more easily. Smaller businesses can also provide a more personalised experience for customers, which helps them compete with the bigger firms.

If businesses just asked what the customer wanted instead of guessing, it would result in better alignment between customer and business priorities, and help improve overall customer loyalty.

Provide omnichannel experiences

Are you delivering omnichannel customer experiences for your customers? Every channel has the potential to add value, but if your organisation isn’t currently competing in the core four – voice, chat, email, and social media – then you should consider incorporating them into your customer journey. Typically, each channel has a time and a place for its use.

For example, voice may be used if a customer needs to speak to someone to get their issue resolved quicker, while email may be appropriate if they don’t need something sorted in a hurry. While we tend to put customers in different boxes or communication categories, since you’ve already empowered your agents to make decisions based on an issue a customer is facing, you can also empower them to adapt to the customer’s communication preference based on the specific scenario. While the agent can’t control which channel the customer uses initially, they can make the decision to direct the customer to a more effective channel as needed.

There’s no doubt that customers want to be directed to the channel that resolves their issue the quickest. While the Customer Experience Transformation Benchmark Study reveals the emphasis customers place on wanting omnichannel service, it also found that the leading indicator of successful customer service is speed. Customers place resolving issues in the quickest way possible as their top driver of channel performance – whether agent assisted or self-service.

Empower agents through coaching

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the most impact, and nothing is truer than empowering contact centre staff. Every customer issue is unique, and this means every solution will be unique too. While it’s possible to anticipate potential issues and create processes to address each scenario, if you can coach agents to confidently handle outliers, within specified guidelines, it’ll go toward creating exceptional customer interactions.

Coaching means that the agents won’t have to put customers on hold multiple times or call their supervisor to be told what to do next. They should feel and be empowered to resolve an issue and provide customers with a solution which will result in a quick, easy, and low-effort experience for the customer. Coaching helps give the agent a sense of authority in their role, while also allowing for customer queries and issues to be rectified seamlessly.

Bring on gamification

Now that you’ve made sure your contact centre staff are the best, a great fit culturally and are empowered to make decisions, you just have to keep them motivated them to deliver great customer service all the time. One way to do this is through gamification. It’s one of the latest buzzwords and hot topics circulating contact centres. So, should you implement gamification or not?

Gamification is a new way of incentivising staff and measuring their performance, growth and individual achievements – while at the same time adding a little light competition to keep them engaged. Gamification uses game mechanics to influence behaviours and activities which companies can apply to connect and engage employees. It can effectively drive employee engagement by addressing three main areas of how an employee interacts with his or her work and colleagues: commitment, competition and collaboration.

Now there’s no set standard – each contact centre should implement their own reward system – but it may consist of things like leader boards, badges, or physical prizes like trophies once agents have completed a series of tasks in their day-to-day role.

This sort of incentive scheme can take some time to implement if you’re planning on doing this manually. It’s possible to integrate a gamification programme system with the contact centre software and make it easy and fun for agents to do their work.

With these key steps, you’ll be able to ensure an ongoing process to transforming your contact centre. It won’t happen in a day and will take some time to get it right, but at least you’re on the way to a more effective and engaged contact centre, workforce, and customers.

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