Rise of the Awesome Agent

July 7, 2020

Deborah Furey, SVP Solutions

Recently I was reading 2020 research on one of my favorite topics – customer experience (CX). Much of it was focused of the same stuff that has dominated this trend – the need to know your customer/prospect, to connect the channels, use of AI to predict customers’ needs, use of intranets to drive exceptional employee and ultimately customer experience. None of these are easy to do and all are important to stay competitive.

But mention of the call center agent was mostly focused on measuring change in the number or length of calls as a metric for CX – versus how the agent can impact optional CX. Perhaps this is because call center tactics have been discussed extensively – especially in the 80’s and 90’s when they arose to prominence; the term "call centre" was first recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1983. This was intriguing as I had recently had two extraordinary call center agent experiences that likely would not have happened even a year ago and they were clearly fueled by strong data and digital capabilities.

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This first was with Amex – a company with a long history of call centers and strong CX. What struck me was that the call was quickly answered by an agent that was articulate, patient and frankly, engaging, as I inquired about registering my daughter’s credit card. He went on to assist with anticipated needs I had - registering my points program and syncing my contact information. Knew pretty much everything I needed to do and did not miss a beat - and seemed to be as interested in the conversation as in the transaction. It was WEIRD- very contrary to my expectations - and had a very positive after effect and very productive.

The other experience was with RVCA, a surf ware company. I was inquiring about a package that went from UPS to the post office but never to my home – yet both insisted that the other one – or perhaps even I – had the package. The RVCA guy (after a bit of a wait, alas) went right to my ideal solution – no research into where the package was, who to call etc. He focused on checking the availability on my entire $175 order in order to resend it to me. Which he promptly did – with no mandate on what to do with the original package if it arrived except to suggest that I decline it. The efficient focus on my needs and the respect (e.g., trust in my good will) that he demonstrated was unusual and memorable to say the least.

So maybe these folks are not getting a lot of calls these days due to COVID and digital change or maybe I have not had a lot of call center interactions of late. But the combination of strong insight on my profile, needs and the ability of the agents to strike the right tone – and the right decision – in my interactions made clear to me how much impact agents can have in customer experience and ultimately brand loyalty. The takeaway here is that awesome call center agents can play a huge role in CX, especially if they:

•  Have access to timely and insightful call activation data – know who you are, what you need and what likely has happened recently – regardless of channel

•  Are engaged with their jobs – no other way to put this – both agents seem interested in the work they were doing and problems they were solving, likely very disarming for a frustrated caller

•  Have a customer-in perspective – clearly, they “got” what customers want and need from this type of interaction and had multiple tools available to them (e.g., re sending a full order) to ensure a positive experience.

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