Contact Center: The New Breed of Super-Agents

December 6, 2017

Transformation is required for contact centers to keep pace with business and consumer trends. The centerpiece of this transformation is a shift to a different type of agent – Super-Agents! Contact centers need new approaches to attract, select, onboard, and engage agents who can engage customers. If you expect to develop the best agents, you may need to rethink your expectations and processes.

Start with the end in mind
What are your growth objectives over the next three years? Begin developing a workforce plan that outlines the type and number of agents you will need to meet your goals. Evaluate the talent you currently have now, the systems produced it, and what is working and not working. This will provide insights on gaps and opportunities.

Clearly communicate your growth strategy and the talent strategy that will support it. Articulate a compelling Employee Value Proposition for target candidates that will support these strategies. Now you’re ready to operationalize your plan, by revamping your processes and systems.

Construct personas and competency models for your ideal agent
Who is your ideal agent? Your workforce planning will provide a macro view, but you need to develop a profile for agents. There is substantial research from firms like CEB on skillsets that fit changing market needs. For example, people who need constant direction may not be your best candidates. Instead you should be looking for problem-solvers and critical thinkers who take initiative, operate autonomously, and can engineer great customer experiences. Identify a competency plan for both new hires and experienced agents.

Develop a talent attraction and acquisition strategy
Consider new ways of thinking about talent acquisition and new candidate channels. Could you be better off employing college students for 2-4 years on a part-time basis? Might you move to a virtual model where you can source great home-based talent that might not fit your current model? Have you tapped into veterans and persons with disabilities? You may find new and valuable talent.

Engage your best career agents and team leads in the interview process. This will help paint a more complete picture for candidates and get the team invested by including their voices in the selection.

Implement onboarding that accelerates proficiency
Now that you are attracting the right talent, it is time to onboard them. Rapid and effective onboarding not only accelerates proficiency, it also increases employee engagement and drives retention. Doing this the right way is heavy lifting but the return on investment will be significant.  Advances in cognitive science should be reflected in how learning is delivered, applied, and spaced. Effective agent learning pathways may include micro-learning, micro-simulations, videos, safe sandbox application, and adaptive learning.

Take the longer view
Many contact centers focus exclusively on onboarding and fail to continuously develop career agents. Once agents are fully proficient, it is time to shift to the next development phase, if you want to keep them. By continuing to develop career agents, you can expand organizational capabilities and develop a pipeline for team leads, supervisors and managers. Furthermore, career agents can generate useful learning content and serve as role models and mentors for newer agents.

Ongoing change starts now
Creating Super-Agents requires care and planning: attracting and hiring the right people, onboarding and engaging new hires, and providing ongoing development for experienced agents. As technology and customer expectations evolve, it will be increasingly important to reskill career agents and to adapt your onboarding for new agents. Hire life-long learners and your contact center can iterate to keep pace with the changes. Are your Super-Agents up to the challenge?

To learn more about PDG’s point-of-view on Contact Center Transformation, visit our Contact Center page.


 

Ed Holinski is Senior Director, Solution Strategy and Development for Performance Development Group.

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