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Agents Are Key: Top Trends from CCW Digital

By Maggie Faust

November 10, 2021

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For over 20 years, CCW Digital — the global online community and research hub — has brought together the customer contact community for a hands-on interactive event, including inspiring keynotes, in-depth discussions, and networking opportunities. This year, CCW Nashville highlighted key discussions in the CX community with speakers from companies such as JetBlue, Airbnb, and Care.com.

Agent care is more crucial than ever  

In the wake of the pandemic, it’s never been more clear that by taking care of the welfare of your agents, in turn, you’re better ensuring a next-level customer experience. A few key tactics to alleviate the pain points of your CX agents were highlighted this past week at CCW Nashville, including measures to reduce cognitive load for agents so they can shift from reacting to issues and responding/closing tickets, to proactively driving customer loyalty and advocacy. This is the ideal space to leverage NLU (natural language understanding) and AI technologies.
 
A few areas these technologies can assist in are: 
  1. Automating interactions and tasks to streamline agent processes
  2. Providing real-time agent assist technology, ensuring agents say the right thing at the right time

As Renee Dawkins, Director of Customer Care at Alpha Foundations said in an empathetic and eye-opening session, “It starts at home” — four short words that crack open the heart of customer experience. Encouraging empathy and kindness, among all team members, ultimately influences and spurs empathy towards your customers. 

Similarly, Matthew Caron, Head of Customer Support at OpenTable advised on the importance of mental health support for CX teams. Ensuring your team knows about the mental health resources available to them is key to supporting happy and emotionally healthy employees. The pandemic, and the nation’s subsequent awakening to the necessity for mental health support, has highlighted the need for companies to support the emotional well-being of their employees. 

Finally, in the current job market, where employees hold the upper hand, employee engagement is crucial.   Adam McCreery, Associate Director Customer Care at HelloFresh, highlighted in his session that implementing gamification into agents’ processes can help drive and maintain engagement with and among teams. 

 Data continues to be king (but only if it’s shared)

One thing that has not changed, is the need and importance of data. Heard in just about every session we attended: There is and will continue to be, a focus on personalizing your customers’ experience with data. 
 

However, data needs to be shared across your organization to be truly effective. Data that is siloed in and across different systems and teams tends to be a common challenge. When data is siloed the key learnings that an organization might gain in one department (ex.Customer Support) isn’t shared with other divisions that could benefit from the shared data (ex. Marketing, Sales, and Product teams). Siloed data also prevents you from developing personalized experiences for your customers. Breaking down these data silos will allow your business to build a complete profile of your customer base, allowing your whole organization with the necessary insights needed to improve customers’ experiences.

Recommended steps to help ease this data struggles:
    1. Assess what data you have access to across multiple platforms
    2. Work on centralizing/establishing a ‘source of truth’ for your data 
    3. Determine how data can be leveraged to tailor interactions with customers automating interactions and tasks to streamline agent processes
Another key data take-away: communicate needs to the rest of the business using language they understand – not just with the CX metrics and data.

For example, it’s more powerful to tell colleagues in Marketing, Sales, and Product that 90% of service calls are the result of a specific issue that needs to be fixed, as opposed to talking to them about an increase in Average Handle Time (AHT) or Speed to Answer. Metrics such as AHT are important to run an effective CX organization, but not typically sufficient to communicate across functions effectively to drive change needed to improve your customers’ experience
 

Industries are evolving, as are the expectations of customers

Even before the pandemic, the service industry was rapidly evolving. But COVID not only expedited the need for innovation within the space, but also the need for leaders to quickly iterate. Shannon Martin, Sr Director, Global Consumer Operations at Care.com, said it best in her session on leveraging customer data to influence experience, “10 years of innovation has occurred in the last 18 months.” 
 
Just think about that for a moment — that’s an astronomical amount of innovation in such a short period of time. But it’s warranted. Customers across all industries expect fluid interactions across channels and teams, and between service and sales. That drives the necessity for a seamless customer experience. It also means that customers are not as forgiving as they once were, which we’ll dive into in a future blog post.


Marketing and Sales are CX leaders’ best friends

Just like data, siloed departments are a thing of the past. The most effective CX leaders of tomorrow need to partner with Marketing and Sales to understand their business goals and position CX to help meet their KPIs. 

According to Evan Shumeyko, Head of Customer Experience at Farmer’s Dog, “Everyone’s a customer, even internally.” CX leaders need to approach their Marketing and Sales colleagues as though they are a customer. Then determine: How can you best serve them?

When done well, cultivating partnerships with these functions will help your business acquire more customers, reduce churn, and provide the exceptional experience your customers deserve.

Support is key, all around

In our current high-stress world, customers are expecting (and need) more than the status quo. At the end of a customer exchange, the interaction a customer has with an agent is what is remembered, regardless of what has come before. Supporting your agents and providing them with the tools to succeed, both personally and professionally is key to any CX success.

The key theme of the many great takeaways at CCW Nashville is exceptional customer experience is the new standard and alleviating the pain points of agents is key in achieving success. 

Ready to learn more about how technology and AI can result in more productive agents and better customer conversations? We’d love to talk. Reach out to us with any questions: hello@loris.ai.