The New Social Care Agents

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On my last post I wrote about the disruptive effect of digital transformation on customer service. More specifically, how Social companies are shifting customer service to the core of their value proposition and using it as a competitive advantage. This will massively affect how calls centres operate, disrupting the incremental evolution of responsibilities that is leading to a disconnected and roboticized service. A new format is being potentiated leading to real-time, omni-channel and customer-centric service culture.

I have always dedicated a lot of effort to motivating call centre agents: they are the face and ears of the company. How they interact with customers has a deep impact on results and their feedback is priceless. For example, they take on a lot of disgruntled customers wanting to leave. Let’s face it, if everything was OK they wouldn’t be getting any calls. Yet, there is hardly a true meritocratic reward system in place. Despite the huge impact to brand equity and bottom-line revenues, it is often a very poorly paid job. And so call centres fight with employee turnover. Simply put, the low salaries and type of work attract mostly youths that see the job as just a stepping stone in their lives and careers. I believe that the job of a call centre agent can be radically improved by the digital transformation, to the benefit of everyone: the customer, the employee and ultimately the company. It is time for the new Social Care Agent.

1. Mobility. Call centres do not have to be fixed to one place. For a long time we have been seeing outsourcing to lower cost locations.  To a company, saving rent seems like a no-brainer. A major OPEX driver of call centres is the physical space, which can be responsible for 20-50% of operational costs. This nevertheless reflects itself on the quality of the service and on the happiness of call centre agents – everyone can see the cost cuts. However, with digital technologies, agents can perfectly work from home. Call centres will massify the home-office movement, improving a lot of peoples’ work/life balance. This is also the ultimate rent-saver for companies!

2. Skill set. Digital technologies will increase the attractiveness of call centre work, particularly to generation Y. This workforce values mobility and is bond to Social Media. I can see a social agent in a Bali coffee shop answering social media queries in real-time for a company like British Telecom. A network of these agents can spread out over Social Media platforms and interact remotely with a Marketing team for guidance and feedback. I believe that, as customer service improves, agents will be more handsomely paid. The capability to measure and track customer satisfaction per agent will allow companies to lean on the more talented people and finally skew incentives according to real “happy” metrics.

3. Software.  Social media allows the move from reactive problem-solving to proactive care. To go beyond answering a query and to leverage the interaction and relationship. Options tailored to customers are win-win: customers get access to unique insights and deals that fit their profile, and companies get higher margins and longer life-time from happier customers. The objective should be to build relationships between customers and agents. Imagine it could go like this: “Thank  you John for solving me this. You are welcome Angela. I’ll catch-up with you again after the World Cup!” Angela knows that John understands her problems, and John knows that if the company lets him go they can lose Angela. Relationships are the way to develop and retain talent.

Whichever the pace call centres change, digital transformation will undoubtedly re-invent the job of the old call centre agent into the New Social Care Agent.

(Post was published first on LinkedIn)

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