When companies engage an external call center to handle their customer service, they always struggle with the dilemma on how much authority should be vested in call center agents. Most companies play safe and get the agents to only answer only basic questions. However, it is inevitable for call center agents to encounter scenarios where their decision making and problem-solving skills are put to test. In such situations, all they can do is escalate to someone with higher authority, most likely someone at client’s end, who can take a call on the matter. This is done to ensure the customer’s problem is dealt with correctly. However, this risk-averse practice comes at the expense of customer’s time. When a customer calls in, he expects to receive a resolution promptly. Being made to wait is construed as bad customer service by your customers and makes them that you don’t value their time. Disappointed customers may take out their frustration on your reps and may get rude or even abusive to them which further demoralizes your reps. A demotivated staff of course under-performs, further deteriorating your level of customer service and complicating the problem of high attrition in call centers. Upset customers may escalate the matters on social media sharing negative reviews and may even decide to abandon your brand. Worst, as a client, when you spend your time handling most of the customers’ issues yourself, it defeats the purpose of outsourcing to save time and to be able to focus on core tasks. The consequences of not allowing your call center reps to settle concerns on their own are mutually counterproductive. Unless you are looking for just an answering service, it is only in your favour that you empower your customer support agents to provide first call resolution.
Empowering your agents, with accountability
This can only be accomplished if teach your customer support agents to take right decisions by comprehensively training them on your products, policies, procedures and equipping them with the requisite knowledge, understanding, logic or guidelines you follow when you take decisions yourself. One way to address your concern regarding risks involved with giving authority would be to give authority gradually in steps and define a framework and set parameters for your call center agents within which they must operate. For instance, they can be allowed to provide discounts or refunds below a certain threshold only. Or allow them to exchange or cancel purchase as long as it was made within x days. If they come across a more grave or sensitive matter which is beyond their authority, they can consult the team leaders or you for advice on how to handle so that next time they are prepared to handle it on their own. You should also thoroughly test them through mock sessions and only when you are fully confident that they are able to make consistent and fair decisions, should you take the plunge. You must implement the right controls and monitoring mechanisms within your systems so you can prevent a mistake before it happens or catch it before any damage is done. If they make any mistake, don’t pull the plug right away and conclude that they are not capable. Instead, coach them and guide them on where they went wrong and how they should rectify it next time, just the way you would do with an in-house person who is assigned with similar responsibilities. You can also have tiers in the team with higher tiers invested with more authority and responsibility. When you observe improvement in customer satisfaction, resolution time and other metrics , may be it is time you permanently and completely trust your customer support staff with your customers.
Entrusting your frontline agents with authority to take independent decisions shows them that you have confidence in their abilities. It inculcates a sense of responsibility and ownership in your support agents. They start taking onus and see to it that any customer issue they take up is resolved fully to the customer’s satisfaction. This also allows your agents to hone their communication, problem-solving, negotiating and thinking out of the box skills, taking the monotony away from the mundane job customer service can be. They start conversing with your customers like humans should instead of parroting scripted answers like robots which can be utterly frustrating for your already upset customers. Motivated and happy staff is key to providing excellent customer support and also a primary factor in improved employee retention.
When the perks of delegating responsibility are so high, why not give it a try?
In most call centres, the quality of customer service agents is such that they can merely follow a set script and struggle they are faced with a situation that needs them to go beyond the script, leading to a frustrated and perhaps a lost customer. At LiveSalesman, our customer service agents go through a rigorous selection process and only the smart ones are carefully chosen. They are then trained and groomed to be able to handle complex customer service issues that require them to strategise and think creatively. Our agents take ownership of an issue and make sure that the customer’s issue is fully resolved. Talk to us today to learn more about how we work to be a true extension of your team instead of just a call answering service.