While the constant drone about high turnover and low job satisfaction among customer service professionals, particularly contact center agents, may be factually correct, I think it is a smoke screen; a distraction that masks the real issue and misplaces blame for customer service shortcomings.
Jeff Toister, a customer service author, consultant and lecturer, recently published a blog post with the brow-arching title, “Why You Should Stop Trying to Motivate Customer Service Employees.” Curious about where he was going to take this, I bit.
Turns out that Jeff does not suggest that engaging or inspiring contact center agents is an exercise in futility or not worth the effort. To the contrary, he asserts that motivating contact center agents is not the problem. I heartily agree.
One sentence in Jeff’s post succinctly captures an endemic problem in the customer service industry: “…research suggests that most contact centers make it really difficult for employees to do what they want to do most – make customers happy.”
Low agent morale is an effect. Lack of support and empowerment is the cause.
My many interactions with customer experience and contact center executives, managers and agents surface three important challenges:
- Inconsistency and inflexibility in setting, managing, and adjusting business processes and information flow
- Lack of investment in applications that help contact center agents meet the volume, velocity and complexity of customer inquiries
- No parity of voice for customer service/customer experience leaders in the boardroom
Sure, world class contact centers within enlightened organizations are showcased at ICMI and other industry conferences, but they are the exception to the rule.
If customer service is the new marketing, as many pundits say, then customer service teams need and deserve the benefits of business process rigor and enabling technology that automation platforms brought to marketing years ago. Companies that barely blink at six-figure marketing or sales force automation price tags can be reluctant to invest in customer service operations.
The result is that many contact centers struggle to manage a lightning fast, multichannel world with familiar but ineffective tools. Call scripts and decision trees are not the answer. Neither is requiring an agent to navigate through eight to 10 or more screens to find information while connected with a customer. Businesses cannot deliver consistent, high-quality customer care if agents don’t have immediate access to the right information every time. And agents need the autonomy to adapt within acceptable parameters. This is essential to actually providing personalized customer service, not just talking about it. A common technology platform is the only way to facilitate, monitor and improve performance metrics and customer satisfaction.
So let’s not blame the victims. Customer service professionals cannot maximize performance and customer satisfaction without the right infrastructure and support. And that frustrates them more than it does the C-suite.