When faced with a customer challenge, great people see a clear path through the complexity

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Sally Earnshaw 10th December 2018 5 minute read

When faced with a customer challenge, great people see a clear path through the complexity

It’s a talent that will become even more important in the search for tomorrow’s exceptional customer experiences, says Sally Earnshaw, MD of development and performance specialists Blue Sky. (From an article originally published in our April 2018 edition of Intelligence.)

A lot of the excited talk around contact centres this year has been based on getting the technology to do the work – AI, Big Data, all of those incredible innovations that are going to support channel shift and personalisation.

But as amazing as they are, as we head towards 2019 and further into the future, we are still going to require great people to deliver great customer service. Key to that will be finding the people who have the skills, attitudes and cultural mindset that can both embrace an artificially intelligent future and still have the ‘human’ conversations customers want to have.

There’s little doubt that those conversations are going to become more and more complex as the years go on. As self-serve increasingly handles the simple enquiries, it will be the tricky ones, the emotional ones, the hard-to-decide ones that baffle the chatbots and can only be dealt with by skilled agents.

That’s not new. Agents have always handled complex enquiries within the general mix of calls. But now those tougher calls are likely to make up the majority of the contacts they handle, and that will require new conversational skills. So how are we identifying them at Capita?

Great agents make the complex simple…

One of the important talents we regularly see driving high CSat and NPS scores is the ability to explain complexity: to break down the issue for the customer, to express it in ways they easily understand, to summarise well, and to make it really clear what’s going to happen next after this interaction.

For example, in a multi-siloed environment such as utilities, long and involved customer journeys may be the norm. It’s not impossible for one individual’s experience to be chopped up across a dozen different teams, potentially a contractor as well, each responding to different elements of the enquiry. Bringing all of that together in one conversation will require versatile, problem-solving agents who can think beyond a script and know when the process isn’t working.

…but organisations need to step up too

Recruitment, training and empowerment all play their part, but vital too is the willingness of organisations to recognise that process can only get them so far. To deal with this degree of complexity, where no script, however well written, can cope with all the possibilities, organisations will need to adopt a permission culture if they are to improve the quality of their customer service. It will be a crucial differentiator.

It won’t be easy. The industry has always exhibited a bias towards the tangible. Ideally organisations would like to put everything into a process: ‘if you write it down, they will do it’.

But even when surrounded by AI or Knowledge Base support, there will always be an element of the agent saying, ‘in this instance, I need to do something different for this customer, even if the process tells me otherwise’.

The companies who get that right are those who have real clarity on what they are about. They are able to create a permission culture where their people know what to do, know what the business stands for, and are empowered to have the conversations that deliver the best outcome for the customer, when the process might have dictated something very much worse.

I think that ability to deliver perceptive, empathetic, human judgement is a skill we will need to harness from our great people for many years yet, however clever the AIs become.

Great people are integral to our business. To find out about how our teams and individuals have helped to make a meaningful difference to our clients and their customers, read our September 2018 edition of Intelligence here.

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