In business school, one learns about the 4 Ps of Marketing - Product, Price, Place, and Promotion - but the notion of standing out in crowded industries and penetrating fragmented marketplaces via push strategies is a bygone. Granted, selling the right product at the right price in the right places to the right people is ideal, but it’s not what you are offering that matters; it’s what the customer is seeking that does.
The model that has become more useful is the 4 Cs of Marketing, because it puts the customer first. As Bob Lauterborn phrased it when he proposed the 4 Cs:
- “Forget product. Study Consumer wants and needs.”
- “Forget price. Understand the consumer’s Cost to satisfy that want or need.”
- “Forget place. Think Convenience to buy.”
- “Forget promotion. The word is Communication.”
Applying similar thinking to contact center management can be beneficial when supervisors view agents as not just employees but also as consumers - of their mentors’ knowledge and experience as well as the systems and tools they use. Customer service agents must be ready to operate in a multi-tasking, omnichannel ecosystem - often utilizing disparate applications - to serve the needs of customers who can be demanding, impatient, and technologically savvy. The complexity and pressures regularly heaped on agents is a strong impetus for changing the approach to agent training and coaching.
In this post, I will discuss the drivers of change for improving the coaching aspect and delivering proactive customer service: Customers, Culture, Cost, and Concerns.
- Our customers are more technology savvy, they demand immediate attention, want to connect when and however is most convenient for them, and hate to wait on hold or repeat information. Meeting these expectations in an omnichannel environment presents technological challenges, such as presenting a unified customer experience across multiple contact channels. There’s also an engagement challenge that requires agents to become experts in leveraging all these various channels. Satisfying customer needs requires responsive and well-schooled agents performing at peak levels. A confident agent is best positioned to deliver a positive customer experience in any engagement.
- Changes in the culture of customer service and configuration of contact centers are driving new expectations among agent-supervisor interactions and perceptions. Millennial agents seem to be more collaboration-driven, and are at ease with technology. Leveraging these propensities can produce excellent performance when managers adjust from a training to a coaching mindset. Layering on the geo-dispersed nature of many contact centers, this collaborative approach helps build team dynamics and further strengthens group performance regardless of physical location– without substantial investments in the old-style classroom training.
- Top-of-mind for most business managers is cost vs. return. In contact centers, the cost of onboarding and bringing an agent up to full proficiency can be significant, so agent retention is a closely-watched metric. Happy agents tend to stay in place, so facilitating a collaborative culture that empowers agents and helps them become successful reduces attrition and related onboarding costs. Other cost benefits seen in coaching-centric environments include improved agent performance and call handling metrics, and efficiencies in agent-to-supervisor ratios.
- Many of the concerns in a modern contact center can be attributed to complexity. The complex nature of omnichannel operations can challenge agent confidence – a factor in both job performance and satisfaction. This can be exacerbated by ad-hoc use of unsanctioned messaging and communications tools, such as IM or Skype, outside the scope of the contact center. Maintaining privacy and compliance standards within the contact center, particularly in light of our cultural shift to coaching and collaboration, can present other human and technological challenges. Systems must be configured to mask what cannot be shared, while still facilitating coaching and teamwork. And, in the world of BPOs, consolidation, and mergers, cost-effectively coaching across multiple contact center platforms, outside the PBX, or across the globe, are becoming common concerns that must be addressed.
An increasingly complex landscape, coupled with customer sophistication, are driving changes in customer engagement that are best addressed with a coaching-driven environment. This will satisfy customer demands, agent needs, and cost pressures in the contact center.