In the contact center arena, well-informed and skilled agents are critical to successful relationships with your customers. But training time and budgets can’t always keep up with rapidly changing environments. Finding effective ways to communicate important updates quickly and encouraging lateral support and communication among front line personnel can pay off in a better trained, more knowledgeable workforce – as well as less time spent in the training room.
Here are four tips that will come in handy in any customer service environment, including ones with at-home agents or distributed locations.
Make new information POP!
Agents are so busy navigating through screens, meeting quality guidelines, and selling that if updates don’t stand out and demand attention, customers could be seriously misinformed. The traditional method of standing up and having everyone mute their headsets so a supervisor can shout at them doesn’t scale well in today’s distributed workplaces.
Use the capabilities of your existing systems. If your system has an always-present agent home window, many have a flash ticker or other means to send out short updates or alerts in real time. If you use a web chat system, most have the capability to send an internal “broadcast” message as well. Keep alerts short and provide a mechanism for requesting clarification for agents who are confused.
Provide a place for informal knowledge sharing
If you have agents working all hours of the day, you know that they don’t often get a chance to discuss client updates and learn from each other. Create standing, subject-specific discussion forums where agents can ask clarifying questions and discuss their customer service experiences with each other, and review past discussions. Assign someone to periodically review these communications for appropriateness and best practices to share more generally.
Make past updates accessible and searchable
New information rapidly becomes old information. Agents should be able effortlessly assimilate recent updates because they have been archived in standard and comprehensible ways. An interface that provides for viewing recent updates in a compact, reverse-chronological order allows for rapid scanning for agents coming on-shift or during lulls in call volume. A simple blog-type interface can be ideal and provide search functions as well.
Using social networking skills on the job
No, this doesn’t mean having everyone keep their Facebook page open! But simple, low-cost internal only services like instant messenger networks and wikis let people interact informally in familiar ways and share information and advice with each other. Monitoring such interactions is a must, but these peer-to-peer channels build team identity, connect geographically distant workplaces, and help foster leadership and coaching skills in your future supervisors and managers.