Christine Landry

“The best person to solve any given customer issue competently doesn’t necessarily sit in customer care.” – Christine Landry, group president of Communications Industry for Xerox

By Christine Landry

The days of the customer support representative as underpaid and under pressure are numbered. Today, customer care metrics such as Average Handle Time and Churn Rate protect the business’ bottom line. Unfortunately, the conditions that such forms of scrutiny build don’t always produce the best customer, or agent, experiences because they’re designed with a focus on “operational excellence.”

As wider business activities revere customer centricity, an inward-focused customer care operation is counter-intuitive. To fit in, today’s support rep must be re-imagined as an empowered customer advocate, or even not a “customer support representative” at all.

The best person to solve any given customer issue competently doesn’t necessarily sit in customer care; they could be the CEO, R&D, finance, or any role in between. The next frontier in support is the distributed responsibility for delivering great customer care.

How will this work in a climate of ever-evolving customer touch-points?

Kill the Stupid Rule

Customer support representatives’ (CSR) primary role is to support customers.  As such, they have unique first-hand knowledge of which shortcomings incite the most customer frustration, and which policies and ”stupid rules” force them to tell the customers “no” and not “let’s fix this.” This is powerful, game-changing information.

However, agents, especially those in outsourced contact centers, are often voiceless in corporate structures. In order to kill the stupid rule, brands can take a lesson from swarm intelligence, which values the insights from the decentralized, self-organized individuals over top-down knowledge.

With CSRs free to use their human agency — and with robust feedback loops established and nurtured — only then can brands truly champion customer centricity.

No Longer the Front Line

With the proliferation of digital channels, CSRs are under no illusion that they are the customer’s preferred support channel. More and more, technology-savvy customers try self-help via digital channels; when they fail, they turn to the trusty contact center – in fact, this scenario accounts for approximately 20 percent of contact center volume.

When your customers call the contact center, they don’t want to talk to a machine, they can choose other channels for that: IVR, web chat, and even virtual assistants.

In contacting a human, customers expect a troubleshooter, and personalized expertise from someone who will go the extra mile to understand and resolve the issue. Long gone are the days of the support agent whose remit is to read a script.

With a changing contact center, the role and profile of the care agent is changing. The rise of digital and automated customer care will see the value allotted to the CSR’s humanity, expertise and vocation skyrocket.

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