Time to Fix Your Customer Support Representatives

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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  1. Katie Wapniarski April 3, 2015 - Reply

    It is a necessity that problem solving is a key skill that all employees in our industry possess. Normally an “outside of policy” action is required to gain true customer satisfaction and protection of the brand. Thank you for voicing what our world has shaped into, no longer is it the good old days where all we were accountable for was changing a phone number, taking a payment or a price plan!

  2. Brian April 8, 2015 - Reply

    I agree 100%, in order to provide good customer service we must get away from scripts and allow critical thinking with reasoning. If our reps feel they are limited in their ability to assist the customer not only will they become machines no better than the automated system itself, but they well also feel their job has no importance thus losing all passion for their position. We have support to guide and coach these reps through the decisions they make therefore we must enable there growth not as a script reader but as a critical thinker. I also find focus groups are a very big proponent to successful customer service. However a focus group is not productive if feedback given is not followed through on. In closing we can empower our agents to be critical thinkers with our customers but at the same time we must continue to try and improve on processes that agents believe are holding them and their customers back.

  3. Monserrat Ames April 12, 2015 - Reply

    Agree, and thank you for sharing. A missing element is “attitude”
    Many companies are experiencing major challenges which dictates change. In order for a company to be successful, the workforce at all levels must embrace change (internal and external support); endorse team-effort, and above all, “can-do” attitude.

  4. Roger Shillow May 21, 2015 - Reply

    Love it!!!!

  5. […] This blog post was written by Christine Landry, group president of the Communications Industry at Xerox, and originally published on Xerox’s Simplify Work blog. […]

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