You’re Training Your Customer Support Agents All Wrong

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You’re Training Your Customer Support Agents All Wrong

By Pradeep Rathinam - 03/27/2018

Everyone knows the best way to learn to ride a bike is to take off the training wheels, fall a couple of times, and learn from every mistake. Onboarding customer support agents is no different. Specifically, the demanding job of an agent requires hands-on experience to learn complicated macros, but ultimately this job leaves very little room for error if you want to preserve CSAT scores. Afterall, no customer wants to be the guinea pig for an agent in training. How can this lasting conflict be reconciled?

It’s simple: the old way of onboarding agents is outdated —  even worse, it is very inefficient — and the industry must evolve. Customer support teams rely on antiquated processes like training videos to teach agents processes that can only truly be understood through practice. The customer support industry is known for high agent turnover, and is marked by ineffectual onboarding processes, and thus destined for decline. Something must be done very soon.

The vicious cycle of agent onboarding

The customer support industry is faced with a dangerous contradiction —  a costly 1-2 punch that is negatively affecting efficiency and CSAT scores alike:

  1. High turnover Globally, agent turnover in large call centers can be as high as 45 percent annually. That’s one of the highest turnover rates in any industry. Average turnover for all industries hovers around 15 percent.
  2. Difficult onboarding process Onboarding support agents is especially time consuming due to a steep learning curve. Agents are expected to become product experts very quickly. This is especially challenging in industries like retail where agents need to field many different types of inquiries and become familiar with many products fast.

Faced with the recursion of onboarding inefficiency, CXM managers are faced with a decision: remain ensnared in a loop of poor training processes or evolve with the times. Many CXMs remain static, and their obsolescence is reflected in low CSAT scores. But, there’s hope: a better way to onboard agents is here.

Streamline onboarding through AI technology

You might think, “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” right? Here’s the hard truth: agent onboarding processes are broken, and it’s negatively affecting productivity, efficiency and morale. But, all hope is not lost. Emerging artificial intelligence (AI) technology for customer service is the new standard for agent onboarding and addresses all of the problems plaguing the industry today.

New agents benefit from AI integration in the form of recommended responses — suggested macros derived from historically-proven responses. This offers new agents a “map,” as it were, to guide them through the uncharted territory of customer experience and ultimately cut down on keystrokes. According to AnswerIQ data,  recommended responses reduce handle time between 30% - 40%.  AI technology is able to research a company’s catalog of successful tickets, digging into the nuance of what made a resolution work, and pass that acute insight on to agents.

AI technology also identifies and subsequently automates redundant processes, freeing up agents to focus attention on more pressing concerns. Customer support agents are meant to be sympathetic, helpful product experts, but when faced with the monotony of overly repetitive inquiries, it’s nearly impossible for them to lend that crucial human touch.

On average, 15% - 30% of tickets can be automated through AI integration. This greatly alleviates new agent workload and allows them the freedom to hone important skills in empathy and patience, rather than fix the same customer problems over and over.

It’s time customer support managers faced the facts: agents do not have the tools they need to succeed when onboarding. CXMs must evolve to compensate for growing agent demand, and finally bring onboarding into the 21st century. AI greatly improves the efficiency and speed of training, and gives agents the tools necessary to provide customers with quality, memorable support experiences.

Pradeep Rathinam, CEO, AnsweriQ, regularly writes articles about the evolving world of customer support. AnsweriQ specializes in the creation of AI applications for customer support.