Adaptability in the contact center

Posted: 09/28/2015 - 11:51 | Inova Solutions
Adaptability in the contact center

Successful contact centers have a number of traits in common. Some of these are fairly obvious - for example, you won't find many effective contact centers that operate inefficiently or slowly. Other traits, while not necessarily so intuitive and clear-cut, are equally important.

Adaptability is a case in point. While it may seem at first glance like a contact center can function in a very mechanical way, the fact of the matter is that successful contact centers - and, therefore, successful contact center agents and supervisors - need to be able to react immediately as conditions change. To this end, both the right strategy and the right tools are essential.

"Contact centers have changed tremendously in the past decade and a half."

Adaptability and leadership
Writing for Furst Person, Daniel James recently emphasized the importance of adaptability for contact centers. As James explained, contact centers have changed tremendously in the past decade and a half. He noted that the introduction of email, online chat tools and, more recently, social media support has added complexity, requiring contact centers to handle a more diverse range of support needs. Any contact center that cannot adapt to these and other, ongoing developments will struggle to satisfy its customers.

Adaptability is just as important on a day-to-day basis, especially in light of this growing complexity. As call volumes fluctuate or agents run into unexpected problems, the contact center needs to have the adaptability and responsiveness to make adjustments to account for these developments quickly, before they snowball and create even bigger complications.

James emphasized that while this adaptability is important throughout the call center, it's particularly needed for supervisors. This may seem counterintuitive, as its agents who actually have to handle quickly evolving and complex support requests, but supervisors' influence extends throughout the entire contact center. 

"[Supervisors] must be able to not only have themselves adapt to these changes, but work with their agents and teach them how these changes affect their roles so that the agents can continue to turn out optimal performances and keep customers happy," James wrote.

An adaptable supervisor will be able to create and maintain a contact center that is more responsive and flexible across the board. 

"[F]inding a supervisor job candidate who thinks about what's coming up ahead will ensure your agents keep up with the times - rather than trying to have the times stay behind with them," James added.

Adaptable personnel
However, this does not mean that adaptability should be ignored in the context of the agents themselves. On the contrary, these workers need to have the awareness, temperament and skill sets to react to dynamic, surprising developments within the contact center.

This is particularly important in light of the growing significance of omnichannel support. Customers are not only reaching out to businesses through a more diverse range of channels - they also increasingly expect to be able to switch between these different mediums as needed. Agents must therefore be able to accommodate such switches, or at the very least have the ability to pick up a client conversation on one channel after it was started by an agent on a different medium.

Contact center agents need to be flexible. Contact center agents need to be flexible.

While this level of fluidity in customer support is not yet universal, the trends are certainly moving in that direction. If they haven't yet, now is the time to initiate moves in this direction. Otherwise, companies will risk falling behind their more agile, flexible industry rivals in the realm of customer service.

Tools needed
Of course, adaptable contact center supervisors and agents can only reach their full potential when they have access to the necessary contact center solutions. 

Obviously, this includes a unified communications platform which incorporates the different support channels into a single, easy-to-navigate system. Any obstacles or latency in this area will undermine the adaptability of the contact center as a whole.

Just as importantly - or, arguably, even more importantly - contact center personnel at every level need to have resources that can make them fully aware of the situation within the contact center at all times. After all, there is no way for an agent or supervisor to adjust his or her performance and tactics in light of changing conditions unless the personnel can see these developments as they occur.

"Wallboards and dashboards vastly improve the potential for adaptability."

This is where wallboards and dashboards featuring real-time performance tracking become essential. These resources can provide both instant and overarching views of the state of the contact center as a whole, along with metrics and statistics relating to individual agents. Wallboards can make this information widely available throughout the contact center, while dashboards provide select data to specific individuals. All of this vastly improves the potential for adaptability.

For example, a supervisor with access to real-time performance management displays can recognize immediately if a spike in volume demands the activation of more agents or a realignment of the talent currently available. Supervisors can also zoom in on individual agents and recognize when a worker has run into a rough patch, which may be alleviated with timely assistance or a change in focus.

Without real-time displays, supervisors may have to wait hours, days or even weeks to discover the extent of agent performance issues, and only then when they dig into dense reporting. Wallboards and dashboards, on the other hand, can deliver the most pertinent, important information directly and clearly, thereby encouraging contact center supervisors, as well as their agents, to embrace adaptability in every aspect of the contact center. 

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