Magazine article CRM Magazine

Meet the New Ideal Customer Service Rep: Empathy in an Agent Is Great, but So Is a Take-Charge Attitude

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Meet the New Ideal Customer Service Rep: Empathy in an Agent Is Great, but So Is a Take-Charge Attitude

Article excerpt

WE'RE USED to debating the finer points of the extended call center because we have so many good new options, like omnichannel, machine learning, and analytics, and they are wonderful. But one area on which we haven't spent nearly the same amount of time or brainpower has been how we staff. Sure, we have hiring tools that make the process better, faster, and cheaper, but it can also lead right to a GIGO moment--garbage in, garbage out--unless we also take a better look at who we're hiring.

In "Kick Ass Customer Service," a recent article in Harvard Business Review (https://hbr.org/2017/01/kick-ass-customer-service), Matthew Dixon and his associates from CEB, a consulting group, reveal the results of a study of 1,440 service reps from across the globe and across industries. The results are thought-provoking, to say the least.

From experience we all know that answering the easy customer service questions has been offloaded to a significant degree to automated systems. The authors say that "fully 81 percent of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative," and their success rate with automation is high enough that the problems left tend to be of the hairball variety. That's when customers call in.

According to the report, call centers are staffed by seven types of agents in different proportions.

Empathizers, at 32 percent, make up the bulk of the population. An empathizer, say the authors, "enjoys solving others' problems; seeks to understand behaviors and motives; listens sympathetically." That's exactly what you might expect to find in agents who were brought on board before automation took such a dominant role, but the study ranks this type of agent No. 4 in effectiveness today.

The most effective agent type today, again according to the study, is labeled "the controller," which the study describes this way: "outspoken and opinionated; likes demonstrating expertise and directing the customer interaction."

The study also suggests that when someone finally gives up on a hairball problem and actually calls in, they've been wading through a lot of seemingly conflicting information, and they are exhausted by the experience. …

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