Focusing on the up: upskilling the modern contact centre

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Why leveraging technology and best practice to invest into people and operations will increase agility and resilience

Upskilling has become a critical business imperative, a tool that allows for the organisation to modernise, transform and grow because it has invested into its people and the skills they need to thrive. The Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report by PwC and the World Economic Forum (WEF) found that upskilling can significantly improve a company’s odds of success, it can also unlock its people potential by empowering employees with the right tools and technologies. According to Henriette Potgieter, Customer Success Executive at Callbi Speech Analytics, the forced industry move from traditional systems to highly digitised platforms is an opportunity to give people the skills they need to make the most out of remote offices and freshly minted digital contact centre operations.

“The pandemic has pushed companies to make the jump from the traditional contact centre approaches and methodologies towards more integrated and digital environments, and this has introduced both complexity and opportunity,” she explains. “Manual spreadsheets, QA tools and paperwork have been replaced with artificial intelligence and smart systems that are designed to minimise admin while improving access to information and insights. However, this does mean that your people need to be given the opportunity to learn how to really leverage this technology so they can make it their own.”

One of the biggest fail points of digital transformation is people. McKinsey’s report on The New Digital Edge underscores the importance of putting talent at the forefront of digital innovation and investment to ensure that the gaps are filled, and the value of the technology is felt. As the report says, there is no silver bullet that will fill the talent holes that digital has poked in the business, but retraining and upskilling are a priority for top performing companies.

“Over the past year there has been a shift in agent dynamic as companies focus on upskilling contact centre staff and giving them the right tools, and this has seen the rise of the super agent,” says Rod Jones, Industry Analyst and Callbi Brand Ambassador. “These are employees who have been empowered by the technology and know how to use it to maximum effectiveness. They are absolutely dedicated and passionate, and they see their roles as part of their long-term career plan. They actively engage with the customers and fundamentally shift the contact centre narrative.”

The super agent is exactly what the modern contact centre needs. Individuals who understand the business, know the rules, and respect the customer. People who have been empowered with the right skillsets to recognise the value of customer conversations and who deliver value across every touchpoint of the business. 

“If you invest into people, then you are retaining the knowledge in the business,” says Potgieter. “If you focus on your people, then you are reducing your attrition rates and you are ensuring that customers are engaging with informed, engaged and interested contact centre employees. If you keep turning staff over, then every new person has to start at the beginning. They have to learn everything all over again, and repeat. This will never deliver long-term value to the business and it will have a negative impact on customer engagement and satisfaction.”

Historically companies have not focused on the true cost of attrition in the call centre and have a high turnover every year, staff rotating in and out of the digital doors because they’re unhappy, stuck or disengaged. This high level of staff turnover costs the company on multiple levels – the cost of recruitment, providing entry level training, and customer satisfaction. If contact centre staff are constantly on the back foot, they will never engage with the customer and rarely stay for long. Without a sense of belonging or significance within the company they will simply move on to the next job when they’ve had enough.

“The trick is to retrain your staff, to constantly invest into their skills and to translate this development into long-term retention and engagement,” says Jones. “With the exception of BPO operators, surprisingly few contact centres calculate the cost per minute or second of processing customer interactions in the call centre. Even shaving a few seconds off a call can mount up rapidly and manifest as significant cost savings. Well-trained, upskilled and empowered agents who can make quick decisions and have short handling times are going to have an immensely positive impact on customer experiences, costs and staff retention.”

With many contact centres  handling up to 25, 000 interactions per day, and employees dealing with frustrated customers and problem solving, it makes sense to make the contact centre easier. To invest into technology and training that engage with people and make them feel that they are part of a company that values their contributions. “Incorporate training into every part of the working environment and invest into technology that makes this environment easy to use, access and manage,” concludes Potgieter. “The remote and hybrid contact centre workforce is a reality so why not make it a successful one?”

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