Traditionally, contact and call centers have a competitive, fast paced culture. Agents are encouraged to spend the least amount of time assisting a client, while also striving to deliver the best results possible. Each agent is typically scored based on their individual performance, including the number of calls in a certain amount of time, and the length of calls.
On one hand, this individual focus helps drive up productivity. But, on the other hand, this competitive environment creates a different mentality from other work environments, one that might actually be detrimental to success.
We are beginning to see a bit of a paradigm shift within the culture of contact centers. With modern tools making it so easy to stay connected and, in the loop, while saving critical seconds, it makes perfect sense to adopt a more collaborative culture. Team collaboration can be seen as one of the critical aspects into solving complex issues, while improving existing processes.
Collaboration Is Critical to Success
We've spoken about it time and time again, but in this digital age, every single contact center must strive to provide the absolute best customer experience possible. This not only means providing customers and clients with the support they need, but offering it in a timely manner without requiring clients to jump through excess hoops.
Simply put, support needs to be agile, readily available, and a friction-less experience. Collaboration has become an integral part of almost every work process, and contact centers are of course no exception. With contact centers focusing directly on individual performance more than a collaborative culture, agents can feel more pressure to solve issues as quickly as possible, and without having to escalate an issue to a more advanced agent if possible.
This "every man for himself" culture creates barriers to success, preventing agents from working with one another to discover more creative or effective solutions. By embracing this new paradigm of agents working together, your contact center can introduce an entirely new organizational culture, one that supports and encourages teamwork.
The Benefits of a Collaborative Contact Center
While the main goal of an individual focused contact center is to boost productivity, it can absolutely have the opposite impact. In a standard contact center, if an agent is attempting to resolve an issue that is: unfamiliar to them, not touched upon in training, a bit more complex than their training, or even just completely new, it can throw a wrench in the gears.
As the agent has to pause to scramble for proper information, or place the caller on hold to then escalate to another agent, the customer will grow frustrated or dissatisfied. These are all examples of friction within the customer experience. While the idea might seem counter-intuitive at first, encouraging agents to collaborate amongst themselves can foster a new culture while enabling agents to provide a better customer experience
Some of the largest benefits of a collaborative contact center include:
Provide A Better Customer Experience
Of course this was already touched on a bit, but it’s worth highlighting as a major benefit on its own. By enabling agents to work together, allowing them to discuss inquiries or customer issues, new solutions can be discovered to not only new problems, but common, reoccurring issues as well. With the proper Unified Communication tools in place, agents can communicate with each other without ever having to leave their CRM application, or live chat window with the client.
Agents will no longer have to force clients to wait on hold while they consult an administrator, and real-time collaboration between agents should reduce the number of elevations a case would normally go through. Simply put, when agents are able to collaborate with each other, they find more efficient and effective ways to serve the client and receive the information they need to solve an issue on-demand, right away.
Reduce Training Intricacies
Now, I will preface this by saying that just because your agents can work together does not mean it removes the need for training. No matter what training and onboarding is still a necessary process, especially when the new agent is unfamiliar with your organization's solution or application. However, when agents are encouraged to work together, training does not need to focus on every single little detail.
Instead, agents can train each other and work together to grow their knowledge over time. With agents working together, less time has to be spent focusing on certain aspects of training as well -- for example by removing the escalation process, and instead encouraging agents to collaborate and work together, training can instead focus on teaching agents to work together to find the best solution.
Happier Agents Leads to Happier Clients
A major selling point of a collaborative contact center is the large culture shift that occurs. By fostering a collaborative environment, agents are much more likely to work together and see other agents as part of the same team. When a contact center focuses too much on the individual performance, agents will be racing to compete against their own team, which not only leads to less satisfying interactions for clients, but also a decrease in morale throughout the contact center.
When agents feel that they are working together towards a common goal, they are more likely to foster positive relationships with their teammates. At the end of the day, a happier contact center means happier contact center agents, which means more pleasant interactions for clients.
Improved Agent Productivity and Efficiency
The marriage between Unified Communication and Contact Center solutions will breed a new level of productivity and efficiency within agents, despite the lack of competition. Since UC and Contact Center tools can integrate with each other so seamlessly, you are providing agents with the tools to not only get the job done, but get it done faster.
A UC solution integrated with a CRM solution will enable agents to multi-task much more efficiently. For example, an agent can look up a client's information, without ever having to remove themselves from the interaction -- everything can be done from the same screen on the same application. Of course, agents collaborating together can also mean faster resolution times with the faster sharing of information.
Implementing a Collaborative Environment
There will be no one set-in-stone right way of implementing a new collaborative environment within your contact center. However, there are a few major guidelines we can offer to assist in the transition. Of course, this all starts with adopting the proper tools for your contact center -- and if you haven't done so already, call center software has evolved quite a bit over time.
But beyond investing in new tools, your team can make some organizational and structural changes to ensure agents are encouraged to collaborate and solve inquiries together.
1. Equip Agents with The Right Tools
The first, and probably most obvious, step would be to introduce the right tools into your contact center. Modern business solutions are so agile and easily integrated with each other that it makes collaboration a second-thought process that doesn't distract from the main task. With UC tools directly integrated with CRM solutions, for example, users can send messages and check the presence of other agents without even having to leave their CRM window.
Some solutions will even enable agents to share files, or co-edit documents to work collaboratively. Screen sharing is another great tool that enables agents to directly interact with the client, or even other agents, working alongside each other on the same computer or mobile application.
2. Encourage and Initiate Collaborative Efforts
Workers will need to be encouraged to work together, as this will go against the traditional paradigm for contact centers. Aim to set team goals, as opposed to strict individual employee goals. Formulate tasks that require agents to work together, and establish an "open door" policy that encourages agents to reach out to supervisors and administrators for assistance. Hold team-wide brainstorming sessions and meetings on how to improve and grow as a team to provide the best support possible.
3. Promote Transparency
The goal is to build trust not only between agents, but also between agents and supervisors or administrators. Transparency in the contact center will help agents feel as if they are receiving the correct information, and transparency will simultaneously increase the sheer amount of information agents have available to them. Company wide internal online knowledge bases are a great way to keep the information flowing and accessible, and administrators should be willing to share information and keep these resources updated as frequently as possible.
4. Establish a Team of Subject Matter Experts
Subject Matter Experts are specific individuals with an authority and expertise in a particular area or topic. These Experts will serve as valuable resources for agents handling more advanced inquiries and issues. Instead of asking another agent or supervisor who might not be 100% familiar with the solution or product, a Subject Matter Expert can provide detailed information and explanations into complex issues. Utilizing UC tools with Subject Matter Experts enables agents to send and receive documents and data sheets as well as standard communications.
The Bottom Line
In this day and age, your contact center should absolutely be searching for anyway to gain a leg up over the competition. The latest trends circling around contact centers focus directly on the customer experience, with clients and prospects placing such a high importance on how they feel the organization treated them.
Of course, money can be poured into new training, new strategies, and hiring new agents -- but that doesn't ensure a greater level of satisfaction at the end of the day.
Rather, it takes a paradigm change, like the one we have discussed. By opening up contact center agents to collaborate and work together, and reducing the focus on individual performance, agents can work together to resolve issues at a lightning pace while drastically improving morale.