Don’t just provide customer support – meet expectations with agile customer service. With the ability to continuously improve processes, retail gets a boost from agile methodologies.
When one hears the word ‘agile,’ several terms likely come to mind: concepts like project management, support teams, and software development. Many industries have embraced the agile way of getting work done, and are seeing benefits arise from having the ability to deliver value to customers faster. It seems that the agile approach can benefit everyone – so why not retail?
When it comes to providing customer care, at first glance, it might seem challenging to apply agile principles to the unknowns that come with providing customer care. People increasingly demand improved customer service that is personalized; further, they also want their requests resolved instantly instead of being transferred multiple times. While it might seem complicated in practice, the imperative to become more customer-centric and adaptable can benefit from an agile customer service model.
Agility Customer Service
According to McKinsey, traditional contact centers that provide customer-care functions employ a traditional approach focused on standardization, with leadership carefully planning and orchestrating every step. As a result of this top-down dynamic, call centers suffer from siloed functions, with agents adopting a reactive, transactional mindset.
However, thanks to today’s customer-centric environment, the step-by-step customer-care model is not equipped enough to resolve modern, complex customer support inquiries. In order to provide a satisfactory customer experience, today’s call centers should utilize the collective knowledge of frontline agents. When deployed in IT and product development, agile methodologies can be adapted in several ways to significantly meet customer expectations:
- Ownership: many classic care organizations face the challenge that tasks and competencies are very scattered. Rather than constantly forwarding calls and live chats to more skilled agents, with agile principles, a team or department gets ownership of a certain customer group and is trusted to take care of all their needs. This team is also responsible for a customer’s satisfaction, associated costs of service, and revenue.
- Self-managing: self-managing teams guided by common targets like customer satisfaction, response times, and total revenue can provide better quality care through daily performance discussions and the freedom to adjust processes and care strategies.
- Capabilities and team: cross-functional teams can resolve more than 95 percent of customer requests during the first contact, preventing a negative experience or multiple handoffs.
- Enablement: learning is accelerated when customer-care agents are part of the resolution process and the combination of experts with frontline agents leads to a culture of knowledge and learning.
- Agile routines: biweekly routines and 15-minute huddles during the day can help teams embark on a learning journey that is dedicated to serving customers more efficiently and addressing their personal needs.
Getting Started: 4 Best Practices in Providing Agile Customer Support
The following are four best practices into their agile strategies:
- Pinpoint customer-care functions for selected pilots: initial pilot customer-care models should be focused on a discrete area of customer care, such as a product line or specific region. Through mapping customer journeys end to end, agents can more clearly understand how their engagement at any given touchpoint contributes to a positive customer experience. Further, companies need to determine how to best cluster their teams as this arrangement has a direct impact on performance. These decisions serve a common goal: to empower employees and give them the support and perspective to think more proactively and creatively about customer interactions. In some contact centers, teams have more flexibility in rostering and staffing plans; eventually, they transfer part of the profit-and-loss authority to individual teams.
- Build an agile culture and mindset: Moving agents from a purely executional stance to a more engaged, problem-solving mindset is highly important since contact centers have traditionally utilized a command-and-control management approach. When it comes to working in an agile contact center, everyone needs to understand that they should work together and support one another. More traditionally-leaning employees may need to a convincing reason to adopt a new approach. Further, the physical layout of a contact center can encourage employees to embrace collaboration. McKinsey gives the example of one European contact center of a major telecommunications company where all the employees who served specific customers were located on one floor with an open seating plan. Specialists played an active role, sitting next to agents, walking the halls, and sharing customers’ feedback on issues and how to resolve them. These measures reinforce team spirit by making call centers less anonymous.
- Prepare for the global rollout in waves: companies need to pay special attention to preparing employees for the shift to agile in advance in order to scale successful pilots, since selecting the right people to lead the rollout is crucial. It only follows that companies will want to put people who are well respected by their peers at the forefront of the agile movement. By modeling the desired behaviors, these leaders can reinforce the dialogue and collaboration to provide customers with better service. But it doesn’t stop there. Executives also should contact internal work councils to make sure they’re on board and know the new opportunities that agile can offer to motivated workers. Further, companies should boost their workforce through professional development, training programs, teamwork, and mentoring in order to ensure they have the capabilities needed to excel in agile.
- Once you’re live, continue to improve: in order to be effective, an agile approach needs to adapt to changing customer needs. Through their constant engagement with customers, frontline workers at contact centers are the first ones to recognize trends, detect emerging issues, and then develop and test new ways to address them. As workers address customers’ needs, teams need to continue to be flexible and embrace recreating themselves on a regular basis. Thanks to intact teams, companies can utilize institutional knowledge while also maintaining morale among workers, who will proudly own end-to-end responsibility for a product or region. Depending on evolving customer preferences, companies may need to invest in reskilling for agents in certain regions or product segments.
Stefanini’s Agile Squads
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