Each time I visit a contact centre I normally set aside time to chat with the contact centre agents as, they normally tell it as it is in respect of the actual workings and performance of the contact centre – normally much to the disgust of their Managers!
Within seconds of receiving a call they have the ability to either increase the profile and reputation of the company or on the other hand the ability to destroy years of loyalty and goodwill.
– Most contact centres would invest heavily in the training of the agent to ensure that they each perform the best to their ability.
– Most contact centres would invest heavily in sofware suites to ensure that they have information to hand to process the calls quickly, efficiently and to the standards set by the company.
– Most contact centres would closely monitor the contact centre agent’s performance for example length of wrap up time, sales techniques etc, and although I believe it to be an urban myth (or is it?) even monitor toilet breaks.
– Webhelp UK even arrange annual ‘Star Awards’ to highlight the outstanding contact centre agents and support staff within their operation.
– In some contact centres which I have visited they have creches for the agents pre-school children and some even arrange transportation.
So what point am I making?
The fact that contact centre agents, in my humble opinion, are the lifeblood of any contact centre operation? Perhaps.
What annoys me with both the industry and contact centres which I visit is the simple fact that the word ‘Agent’ does not in any way shape or form reflect their importance that they have within their contact centre.
It would appear that my views or opinions are also shared by leading companies and individuals within our industry.
Calling someone a contact centre ‘agent’ really doesn’t highlight just what these unsung heroes of the customer service industry do each and every day.
No longer are they just providing quick and basic technical support or processing enquiries. They are now much more – they are the ‘voice’ of a brand. Not only do they gain customer feedback on the product or service and can provide sales and marketing departments with valuable consumer research but they also play a critical part in shaping the customer experience – when good, that customer will keep coming back, but when bad, they can make or break any future transactions.
These brand specialists are also now dealing with much more complex enquiries, as consumers turn to self-help for quick fixes to their basic problems and rely on the customer service representative to problem-solve their more complex issues.
Being a technical specialist requires a wealth of knowledge and with that comes expertise, which is not expressed effectively enough by the use of the term ‘agent’.”
“Customer-facing staff working in contact centres have had all kinds of job titles over the years, starting with the very American “Reps” and extending through “Customer Advocates” to “Players”.
“The key is for them to be properly trained, properly motivated and properly rewarded – any organisation that fails in any of these areas is failing both their Brand and their employees. As was recently said to me; “if they do all of that then they can call me Tinkerbell as far as I am concerned.”
I started my career as an agent or, to use my official title then, a customer service representative. I agree that they (we!) are the lifeblood of a contact centre operation but without the backing of team leaders and managers above them and a company that buys into this theory, nothing gets that lifeblood pumping. The title or categorisation of agents is less important compared to the training, talent development and recognition schemes that are in place. Agents, like all of us, just want to matter – whether it’s an awards scheme, skills development or bonus programme, get those right and the title is incidental.
Surely to God the Industry can come up with a suitable Job Title for ‘Agents’ or perhaps we should take a leaf out of Jabra’s book of Job descriptions and call then all Chief Happiness Officers!
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Have a good week ahead