Thursday, February 22, 2018

Knowledgeable Agents Are Key to Great Customer Service

By Sean Hawkins

I recently spoke with an agent for my insurance company, in the hopes of clearing up a misunderstanding concerning my policies. Well, things didn't go as easily as expected. For starters, I called the wrong the number. It seems the contact number on my statement was not the correct for me to call. Mind you, it was correct, but having two policies in two different states seems to cause some internal confusion on their part. I'm used to this though.

Unfortunately, the problem was compounded when the agent attempted to answer my questions. It was apparent to me, the information was not correct. After I questioned the validity to the response I received, I was transferred to someone else. I could tell the agent escalated for THEIR sake and not mine.

Sadly, the agent had been placed in the uncomfortable position of not knowing the answer, nor was he capable of finding the proper resource to assist him in providing resolution. He was looking to bail as quickly as possible once things became difficult. While I was upset, I couldn't blame him. Having worked on the front lines, with limited training and resources, I KNOW that feeling!

Knowledge, in my opinion, is probably the most important factor in providing excellent service. This is not to suggest their aren't others, there are. What I do suggest, is at the moment of truth, the best aid a support agent can have in their repertoire, is a deep understanding of their role, product and/or service, processes, and company policy. In the event they are lacking in these areas, they should know where to go, to get the answer. Better yet, they should not be assisting customers. It leads to frustration on the part of the representative and the customer, and quite possibly results in losing a customer.

Agent knowledge is key in three areas:
  1. Trust- Customers will trust you, when you provide accurate information. When your staff is fully trained, they are better prepared to give customers the correct answer. In the event they encounter an issue they've not faced, proper training and procedures will point them in the right direction to find an effective and timely resolution. Trust makes no excuses, it finds solutions.
  2. Great Experience- I get excited, when in the course of assisting a customer, the agent transitions to the next step in the customer's journey. This could be a simple notification of what is to come, advise on a product that will meet additional needs, or anything else of value to reduce the customer's effort.
  3. Improved KPI's/Metrics- In almost every instance, a well trained, knowledgeable agent, will have a positive impact on metrics. Whether it is satisfaction, handle time, quality, or first contact resolution, the agent's expertise IS the prevailing factor in achieving high marks.

I know it is fashionable to have the latest software solutions, unlimited data with incredible insights, and specialist doing cutting edge, innovative work. Who wouldn't want that? Yet, from the customer's perspective, none of this is important, if the representative was not helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable, at the moment of truth.

I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.

I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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