Brian Tuite is co-founder and CEO of Zenaratea leader in developing top-performing customer-facing teams through AI Conversation Simulation.
Training of customer service representatives is extremely important these days. As self-service digital solutions and chatbots handle simple customer inquiries, contact center agents are left with the most difficult problems. Agents are often the only human interaction brands have with their customers and prospects. So contact center and training leaders are looking for better ways to help agents solve complex problems while increasing speed to skill, reducing turnover, and improving critical KPIs like CSAT, conversion rate, and first call resolutions.
And customers demand positive experiences from agents. According to Managers informed“Seventy percent of consumers want companies to spend more resources improving their customer service agents rather than creating better self-help solutions.”
So how can companies develop confident and skilled agents who can solve complex problems and deliver consistently superior customer and prospect experiences?
Put agent simulation training into action
For a long time, people have learned complex new skills through experiential, active learning. From a pilot learning to fly a plane in a flight simulator to a basketball player sharpening his three-pointer at the gym, experiential learning is an effective way to learn and master new skills. And with recent advances in AI, agents can also learn complex new skills in a similar way.
Some are turning to simulation training, where agents can learn through real-life simulated experiences. (Disclosure: My company offers this solution.) It allows agents to participate in simulated experiences before speaking to their first live customer or prospect. With advanced simulation training, agents practice high-profile conversation scenarios they encounter in their own words without scripting and receive tone, soft skills, and feedback on best and required practice. Simulation training provides an environment for agents to practice, solve problems, make mistakes and build confidence through simulated real-life scenarios.
Key metrics to prioritize
The first step in building an agent simulation training program is to prioritize key metrics to improve such as agent rate to skill, CSAT and NPS scores, first call resolution, drive to digital, conversion rates, average handle time, call quality and compliance scores. It’s common for contact center and training leaders to prioritize the top three KPIs they want to improve during training.
To illustrate, here are three popular contact center metrics for improving the customer experience and reducing costs, creating a win-win situation for your customers and shareholders.
1. Increase the drive to digital: save customers time and prevent future calls
By improving the drive-to-digital metric, your customers can help themselves, saving them time and frustration waiting to speak to a customer service representative. The first step in improving your drive-to-digital metric is identifying your high-frequency call types. Then evaluate each type of call to determine if your agents can help your customers handle the query themselves and avoid having to call again.
For example, if customers call to ask how many reward points they have, it’s common for agents to answer and then move on to the next call. Instead, focus on mastering best practices to direct customers to your mobile app to self-identify their reward points, so your customers don’t have to dial in again. This saves your customers time and frustration and provides them with a bridge to your mobile app to experience other benefits you offer, while reducing your call volume and costs – a win-win!
2. Reduce Average Processing Time (AHT): Improve service delivery while reducing costs
To reduce average handle time, focus on your usual call types and prioritize your company’s best practices for speed and providing a superior customer experience, starting on the first day of new hire training. And for tenured agents with high talk times, train them to streamline their conversations by mastering your company’s best practices.
For example, you know how long it takes on average to meet a common conversation type such as “Cancel my late fee” with your best practices such as authenticating the customer, listening and responding empathetically, addressing the late fee objection, summarize and close the conversation. Let’s say you see agents taking six minutes to handle the call type in an average of three minutes using your best practices. In that case, address the weaknesses in the training and you can reduce your costs by 50% while improving your customer experience.
3. Improve First Call Resolution (FCR): Prevent callbacks and reduce costs
FCR is one of the cornerstone metrics for high-performing contact centers. It provides clear insights into customer satisfaction, ensures customer issues are resolved the first time, and reduces unnecessary customer repeat callback costs.
To master the critical skills needed to tackle complex problems, focus on improving skills such as listening, investigating, responding with empathy, clarifying and affirming the problem, proposing the solution, the actions taken, and the next Summarize steps to solve the problem and close the call with enthusiasm. Customers will feel heard and agents will be proud while you save on repeat calls and reduce costs.
I’ve found that the biggest challenge in building a simulation training program is staying focused on key KPIs. To do this, implement the 90-10 rule. This means that on average 50-75 simulation stories will cover 90% of every conversation type you want your agents to be great in (50-75 stories per use case such as customer service, direct sales, fraud, litigation, collections). On the other hand, it may take more than 1000 stories to cover the remaining 10% of conversation types that agents may engage with live customers or prospects. But I’ve found that when agents can handle the first 90% of call types with superior dexterity and skill, they’ll often figure out for the first time how to handle the remaining 10% with finesse and confidence.
Each contact center has different priorities and I suggest taking the time to identify additional key metrics to improve based on your specific needs. By focusing on key metrics, contact center and training leaders can teach their agents how to solve complex customer problems and learn new skills, improving their key metrics while creating a positive experience for their customers and shareholders.
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