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With advancements in technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), the customer experience landscape is rapidly changing. Instead of needing live contact center agents to answer every call or respond to every live chat, your Cobot (powered by AI and ML) is, in many cases, ready to assist the customer. But brands need to realize that they can’t rest on innovations alone to deliver the customer experience and build the loyalty necessary to meet and exceed the demands and desires of today’s consumers. Believe it or not, the more technology we have, the more we need humans too.

Skill Up or Giddy Up

Not any ol’ person will do. Your agents need to be smarter, more courteous, and more adept at successfully resolving problems and finding solutions for complex issues. By the time a customer needs to connect with a human, they have a next-level problem. And therefore, they need a next-level expert. Or, as I’m considering coining the term, a “next-pert.”

In the past, and this is rapidly changing, contact center agents were the ones handling tactical questions – account balance details, how to manage a return, how to send in a warranty, etc. And there was an upper-level agent with a higher skill set dealing with the complex issues. “I want to speak to your supervisor” was the common phrase heard by contact center agents who couldn’t or didn’t solve a problem to the customer’s satisfaction. That supervisor, if they were good, would simultaneously offer empathy, calm frustrated customers, and solve problems.

Today we have technology-powered bots helping us with the easy stuff, which means that pretty much every human agent is asked to deal with escalated issues. Therefore, all agents must possess the skills and know-how of a “next-pert.” It’s up to you to make sure your agents are building the skills they need to be successful. Some organizations see Cobots as the answer to their bandwidth or budget issues and think they need fewer employees to deliver the customer experience. Well, even if you do need fewer humans, you have to invest in building the right capabilities for them to become next-perts.

The New Contact Center Agent

The agent of tomorrow is building customer loyalty by solving problems, offering solutions, and acting as a trusted advisor to customers who need help determining which product or service to buy in a crowded marketplace. They’re not space-fillers sitting in cubicles answering calls and putting people on hold. They’re experts in their field who have the brains and the hearts to give disgruntled customers the elevated level of empathy and information they need. Because if a customer is reaching a human agent, there’s a real problem – something a tech-powered bot just couldn’t answer or fix.

Don’t assume that all your customers would rather to connect with a bot. Quite the contrary. Generation Z, a demographic that only knows a world driven by and powered by technology, actually craves human interaction more than most. In other words, human interaction isn’t and won’t be going away. So organizations can’t build a strategy that removes human agents from their CX.

Change Your People’s Skills as Fast as You’re Implementing New Technologies!

As you build and hire more skilled and better-equipped agents, your managers need to up their game as well. Managers’ jobs and skills are changing because the people on their teams are changing and they must coach their frontline agents in ways they didn’t need to before. The customer service manager of today needs to help their agents deliver both the hard and soft skills that customers need. This isn’t optional. You can bet that all the top organizations will arm their people with these skills to win the long game: customer loyalty. Your competitive advantage now lies in how good (or not) your team is at resolving problems. It lies in your ability to fix issues consistently, leaving nothing but pleased customers in your wake.

Your strategy for extraordinary problem resolution is two-fold, with a focus on your tech and your people. Yes, bots are taking over the tactical, but they won’t replace the humans – they’re here to help the humans focus on the bigger and more strategic issues of CX. Companies that are upgrading their technology but not upgrading their people will lose. Adopt a dual-pronged focus that makes technology and people equal partners, and you’ll be set up to win.

January 6, 2020

More deeply rooted thinking

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