Every January, people set personal resolutions for the year ahead. The same is true of organisations. Whether it is better serving customers, or commencing a long-awaited project – there is something cathartic about wiping the slate clean and starting afresh in the New Year.
Amidst the current cost-of-living crisis and financial uncertainty, it feels as though resolutions this year should be about how to make existing systems and practices better, rather than starting afresh. For Contact Centres, resolutions should be about supporting customers who are feeling the pinch and being able to field an influx of calls and communications from worried customers, particularly in sectors like utilities.
Contact Centre bosses should also be thinking about how they can be supporting their own. Agents may also be under pressure, struggling to pay their bills and worried about the cost-of-living crisis – something that will likely have a knock-on effect on their engagement and productivity.
January is therefore the perfect time for Contact Centres to look within and consider what they can do to support agents through these challenging times so that both their engagement and wellbeing can flourish.
Here are IPI’s five resolutions for 2023 to do just that:
Resolution one: Prioritise wellbeing
Staying fit and healthy is a New Year’s resolution for many, so it only makes sense to prioritise it during working hours too. Whether it’s providing a healthy breakfast in the Contact Centre, organising company-wide wellness days, or getting people moving as a team with schemes like IPI’s ‘5k your way’, there are plenty of ways to ensure agents feel like their wellbeing is valued.
Taking care of our mental health is equally as important. Hybrid work has made it increasingly difficult for managers to keep in touch with agents so it’s important that managers take the time to schedule regular virtual check-ins with hybrid or remote workers to ensure they’re feeling supported. Mitigate feelings of loneliness, isolation, and stress by ensuring agents have the capabilities to communicate and socialise with one another if they’re working remotely. Alternatively, arranging company-wide events such as summer parties or Christmas dinners are great initiatives to refocus energies into employee wellbeing and get people socialising and feeling like part of the team.
Resolution two: Focus on right place, right time
The cost-of-living crisis follows hot on the heels of the Great Resignation and labour shortages, putting added pressure on customer service teams to deliver great CX despite limited personnel. This is compounded by the rise of hybrid working – where agents want to work flexibly anytime, anywhere.
Having a Workforce Management (WFM) system in place for forecasting demand and scheduling employees is essential to optimising resource planning when customer enquiries are up and staffing levels are down. In a hybrid environment, WFM enables agents to self-serve schedules to fit work styles, and for managers to optimise staffing levels to fit requirements.
IPI’s Workforce Engagement (WFE) solution, for example, uses AI to power its forecasting and scheduling capabilities to build accurate forecast models and optimal schedules and staffing across the board – wherever agents are working. It ensures service levels are met by scheduling bots as well as humans, and forecasting across a multitude of channels – including email, social media, and messaging applications. This ensures the right resources are working at the right time, so agents aren’t overburdened – enhancing their overall wellbeing.
Resolution three: Get analytical
When agents know what works and what doesn’t in their customer interactions, they can resolve a customer’s query more efficiently, and reduce their own stress and workload in the process. Luckily, customer conversations are filled with valuable information that can be analysed to improve CX by building on successful elements and mitigating any issues – so agents always know the best path to choose for smooth sailing.
Speech and text analytics, like IPI’s solutions from leading vendors Genesys and Verint, enable Contact Centres to quickly gain insight into customer interactions across voice, text, and digital channels. Our Verint-powered solution for example, that comes as part of our WFE suite, uses an AI-powered transcription engine and automated text conversation analysis to provide Contact Centres with the intelligence to investigate new avenues and innovations. It can also provide agents with “in the moment advice” notifications based on real-time, contextual interaction analytics so that they can deliver an exceptional CX there and then.
Resolution four: Give agents an automated helping hand
Agents will inevitably have to face some difficult customer conversations over the coming months. So, it’s important that agents not only have the support and skills needed to handle vulnerable customers and more sensitive topics, but also the time – this is where automation and AI tools are invaluable.
Luckily, automation solutions like voicebots and chatbots can divert traffic away from the Contact Centre by resolving routine customer questions through self-service and AI, rather than escalating issues to agents. Customers can control their own journey as bots are accessible 24/7. As a result, agents no longer have the burden of completing mundane, repetitive tasks and have more time to deal with more complex, sensitive enquiries.
Additionally, automated quality monitoring helps with coaching and preparing agents to have the skills necessary for handling difficult customer queries. IPI’s WFE solution provides an automated end-to-end quality management process, from scorecards to training – so that supervisors get time back from monitoring activities that can be re-invested in coaching and upskilling. Quality assessments – for both human agents and bots – can be fully automated so that managers can receive insight into quality and compliance effortlessly. Managers can then use this insight to ensure agents are fully prepared to handle more sensitive conversations.
IPI’s WFE provides real-time assistance to improve productivity and compliance, making it as simple as ever to ensure quality, compliance, and security. For agents, this means one less thing to worry about.
Resolution five: Make it fun
Work doesn’t always have to feel like work. Implementing systems like gamification can make mundane workdays more exciting by bringing a competitive edge to workloads and motivate agents to stay engaged and productive.
Gamification is the application of game play principles (point scoring, rules, and healthy competition against other participants) to other activities to increase engagement. For example, KPIs or metrics can be put into a bingo grid, and agents must achieve certain goals to get a full house. Whether it’s a physical award, performance scorecards or virtual leader boards, individual or team awards, agents can then be rewarded and recognised through these pseudo-games for a job-well done whilst staying productive and engaged.
The benefits speak for themselves as countless surveys have consistently highlighted that when agents are rewarded for their work, they are not only more enthusiastic about work but are more likely to over-achieve on targets.
New year, new Contact Centre
Happy employees equal happy customers so prioritising agent wellbeing is a must. Every Contact Centre is unique, and the make-up of its agents should act as the compass for what best steps should be taken to ensure engagement, experience, and wellbeing are optimised. Whether it’s social events, company-led initiatives to support physical wellbeing, or implementing automation technology to reduce the burden on agents, 2023 should be the year Contact Centres focus on ensuring a happy and engaged workforce.
Craig is Head of Solution Consulting at IPI. With over two decades of experience in the dynamic world of contact centres, he’s seen the industry evolve, and evolved with it. Craig’s journey began with hands-on operational roles, focusing on technology, resource planning, and leadership.
Throughout his career, Craig had the privilege of collaborating with global brands, empowering them to harness cutting-edge technology and streamline their operations. Today, Craig leads Solution Consulting at IP Integration, where we leverage our extensive industry experience to help clients deliver exceptional customer experiences.