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By Jonathan Mobbs, Head of Finance Vertical at Maintel  

Recent events, especially the rush to enable remote working, have impacted the operations of all companies and customer service is no different. However, in the midst of the Covid related changes, contact centres have going through a radical overhaul. More organisations are embracing digital channels as a way to drive efficiencies, while at the same time improving customer care.

With reduced numbers of contact centre agents available, and many now working from home, it’s necessary for organisations to try and drive down phone transactions and encourage faster first-time resolution of the issues to reflect business’ reduced headcounts. Enabling customers to self-serve through improved digital channels, such as chatbots and online forms, helps organisations to reduced calls.

However, whilst fewer customers are calling through thanks to self-service, the ones that do ultimately reach an agent tend to be experiencing more complex issues that digital channels can’t resolve. Therefore, agents need to have a higher level of skill when dealing with customers over the phone, especially when it relates to sensitive information such as outgoings and earnings, for example. Using training alone to get agents to the necessary level is costly and often inefficient, especially in the financial services industry.

This shift in customer expectations means that the human side of your business is more important than ever. But what can be done to both secure and enable the very best teams to provide excellent customer experiences in an industry with an average agent attrition rate of 40%?

Why reducing agent churn is a must?   

Companies now have a plethora of digital services and solutions at their fingertips which open new avenues for customer self-service. Investing in such innovations can help you drive down calls and reduce costs. However, you must, at the same time, invest in your staff. Agents that feel unsupported and ill-equipped to handle increasingly more complex customer concerns are more likely to leave. In fact, a common concern for many Finance and Insurance organisations is agent retention; 83% of agents quit within three years, 30% quit within three months, and in some cases attrition in the first two weeks is as high as 22%.

There are three ways in which you can reduce attrition levels within your organisation by creating better skilled and more valuable agents internally that will, in turn, improve the external customer experience:

1) Building the foundations: Recruitment and training are key

Many financial organisations will have initially employed people for traditional contact centre roles, but as the market has changed and we’ve evolved to an omni-channel digital model, we must remember to adapt recruitment processes. Have your HR and Talent Acquisitions teams re-evaluated the skillsets required and induction processes available to bring in people with the right skills?

Customers increasingly want to engage across asynchronous messaging channels (Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, etc.) for sales or service. Solutions are available to enable all these channels to be dealt with in the same way, classify the customer’s intent, answer their queries if possible, and if necessary (or desired) escalate to an agent. Using these types of services removes the need for multiple point solutions, reduces agent training time, and provides broad reach to customers across multiple channels.

2) Don’t hold agents back with bad equipment  

Jonathan Mobbs

Jonathan Mobbs

New technologies such as knowledge portals and AI, have unlocked a new level of service for customers. Agents can now seamlessly access detailed information or process and compliance requirements. For example, knowledge portals can give an agent guidance on how to change a customer address, policy type, or even how to onboard. Access to this information can also be given to a customer via web portals, so if your customer wishes to change their own address, they can be guided through the process by information adapted for external customer use. Putting in place the appropriate tech not only improves the customer experience but significantly reduces agent training time and average call handling time. It also ensures that if your agent does deal with a complex customer call, that they can quickly and easily access the necessary information

3) Create a positive workplace 

While having the right training and tools is important, it can only go so far. Companies must ensure they build a team of effective and knowledgeable agents whilst simultaneously making their it easier for them to perform efficiently. But ultimately, agents are human, and creating a workplace culture that values them will improve happiness and reduce the number of people leaving. In turn reducing hiring costs.

As a business, be sure to revisit your agent’s career enhancement opportunities. By ensuring they have access to easy and simple development tools and are being encouraged to grow, agents will feel empowered, valued, and more likely to stay.

Agents that are well trained and have access to the right tools and knowledge will provide a far more efficient and effective customer experience and create happy, satisfied customers. Net promotor scores and CSAT’s will improve, customer retention will increase, and agent attrition will reduce alongside average handling time.

When it comes to people finances there is no room for error. Therefore, agents need to be well prepared to deal with any situation that comes their way. Financial services firms also now contend with the prospect of tougher economic conditions which means the potential for more negative or complex calls. Therefore, now is the time to invest in those at the heart of the contact centre, the agents.

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