The Role of Frontline Agents in a Self-Service World

Posted by Rant & Rave

February 8, 2017


When you go to the supermarket, do you go to the self-service checkout or wait at one of the tills to be served by a person?  Chances are, if you’re in a rush and only buying a sandwich, you go self-service. If you’re doing the weekly shop for your whole family you go to the till - or skip the shop entirely and order it all online.

More and more people are turning to self-serve options. Data from a recent Harvard Business Review indicates that 81% of people prefer to use a self-service option, rather than reach out to another person. Customers want to be able to solve for themselves, especially if it’s a simple enquiry. And, for brands, self-service options are a very tempting option, as they typically reduce costs and help to remove simple enquiries from Contact Centre call queues.

But self-service options do throw up problems. As customers increasingly solve straightforward issues themselves (through FAQ web pages, customer portals, forums and other similar platforms), what is the role of frontline agents?

Enquiries to Contact Centres will become more complex

Self-service will mean that customers are less likely to reach out to Contact Centres for simple enquiries. So, as the nature of Contact Centre work becomes increasingly complex (and customers’ expectations of what constitutes good quality service becomes ever higher) the agent’s job is now rarely just reading something off the screen.

Agents have to be empathetic to the customer, use their initiative to solve issues and remain focused on answering the next call just as effectively.

Brands need to invest in the frontline to enable this to happen

Motivating and keeping good agents in a working environment that is often stressful, sometimes repetitive and usually not well-paid is a challenge that Contact Centres have had to face since their inception.

On top of this, as companies have turned towards self-service options, they’ve not invested in improving skills in their frontline. Unprepared or under-trained agents trying to deal with frustrated or stressed customers is very expensive. Complex problems take more time to fix - especially when the agent isn’t in a position to know exactly what they need to do. As well as this, poor training leaves agents feeling out-of-depth and more likely to leave.

Customers will rely on informed and engaged frontline agents

With the growth in self-service options, customers will be turning to the Contact Centre at times when they are in real need. They’re more likely to be stressed, agitated and desperate for answers.

In the self-service world, frontline agents who can solve for the customer are more valuable than ever before. These are the ones who can help the customer when it really matters, creating positive experiences through people to people engagements.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Contact Centre

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