The universal agent is certainly not a new concept for contact centers. Next-available agent routing models have long relied on the use of experienced agents who have been cross-trained to handle a wide variety of call types, from technical support to billing to sales.
Within today’s contact center, however, several trends are converging and creating a need for a new type of human connection for customers—the contact center superagent. The superagent is an empowered, knowledgeable and highly skilled representative who has the potential to directly impact customer experience, customer loyalty, brand reputation and revenues.
What is the modern superagent’s origin story? There are a few driving forces behind this transformation. It’s no secret that customer expectations have been rapidly rising and evolving in recent years. Younger generations of digitally savvy consumers have little patience for cumbersome call center processes that require multiple transfers, time and effort to resolve an issue.
As self-service channels prove increasingly capable of handling basic transactions, the types of contacts that require human intervention are growing more complex. Live-agent contacts in the modern center typically require different skill sets than those of the traditional universal agent. In many cases, agents are called upon not only to provide support for their company’s products and services; to do so, they often must work through issues created by a complicated digital ecosystem, which demands more creative solutions.
Finally, in today’s customer-centric business environment, agents are called upon to create an emotional connection to deliver a memorable experience and support the customer experience brand promise.
Top Qualities and Skills for Contact Center Superagents
Fortunately, advancements in technology are leveling the playing field when it comes to delivering efficient and effective service. Contact centers can leverage knowledge bases, intelligent assistants and automated desktop tools to endow ordinary, everyday agents with the resources and knowledge to deliver amazing feats of service.
But technology aside, what are the qualities and skills that set superagents apart from the average frontline agent? Hint: They are many of the same skills that companies will need from their workforces to successfully undergo digital transformation.
Problem-solving is considered a fundamental job skill for any customer service rep. Yet, it is the way that individuals approach problem-solving and apply the insights gathered that make superagents stand out to their customers. Superagents understand when to deviate from the script or standard process. They are able to come up with multiple solutions, decide upon the best course of action and apply it successfully to resolve the customer’s issue. Superagents also understand how to turn a frustrating obstacle into a positive experience for the customer.
In today’s omnichannel contact center environment, superagents are adept at effectively sharing information with customers, subject-matter experts (SMEs) and other collaborators across verbal, text and visual media. In addition to providing the appropriate content and responses, they are able to apply active listening techniques across multiple channels to understand the customer’s intent and emotion, and mirror their communication style.
Many work environments stifle creativity in favor of strict adherence to policy and procedure—and there are definitely situations in which it is necessary to go the safest route. But creativity can contribute to innovation and helps service and support staff to come up with new angles for resolving problems. Creative thinking also provides superagents with fresh ways to apply support tools to increase their effectiveness, productivity and service delivery.
While most frontline agents are trained in basic problem-solving techniques, critical thinking involves approaching problems with interpretation, analysis, evaluation, creativity, collaboration, open-mindedness and decision making. Superagents can apply critical thinking skills to uncover solutions to problems that may not be immediately obvious and, therefore, make better decisions.
It may not take a village to support customers with today’s AI-powered desktop tools, but in many cases, it does require collaboration. Superagents must be able to engage with SMEs across the organization to resolve customers’ issues. Cross-functional collaboration requires the ability to communicate clearly with individuals in different roles and functions, active listening for feedback and ideas, ability to brainstorm as a team, as well as the capability to manage time effectively and quickly come to a consensus on resolutions.
Rapidly advancing technology, rising customer expectations, evolving marketplace demands—these are just a few of the reasons why having the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances is a critical quality in today’s fast-paced contact center environment. For many agents, transitioning into a new or expanded role can be stressful, especially when the way forward may not be clearly mapped out. Superagents don’t resist change; they embrace it and manage it.
Emotional intelligence, often referred to as EQ (emotional quotient), is defined as the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. Psychologist Daniel Goleman has described the five core components of emotional intelligence as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. In a service or support transaction, being able to recognize the customer’s emotions and feelings will help agents to make a better connection, personalize the interaction and create that all-important human touch that customers seek from agents.
Social Media Savvy
Social channels are often the last resort for customers who have tried and failed to resolve issues through more traditional channels. It is also the most visible channel. Agents’ responses, voice and communication skills are public, so agents must know when to engage with a customer, how to soothe a frustrated customer and keep the complaint from going viral, when to move the conversation to a private channel, and how to maintain the appropriate voice, tone and phrasing that aligns with the brand personality.
Can Your Contact Center Support Superagents?
Cultivating a team of superagents offers considerable benefits for customers, the contact center and business. But with higher skills comes higher employee expectations—and not every contact center has the environment to support superagents.
Certainly, compensation is a factor since these highly skilled individuals have qualities that are very much in demand in the digital workforce and, therefore, can command higher salaries. However, retaining superagents will require more than a bump in pay. Top talent will seek work environments that provide the latest support tools and technology, ongoing growth and development opportunities, as well as more flexibility to meet their work-life balance needs. Having an employee-centric culture is also crucial, as top-performing frontline agents expect a supportive management team—one that will remove barriers, provide them with the authority to take the actions they see fit to help customers, and will give them a voice in the decisions that affect their work lives.
Providing a human connection in an increasingly automated landscape is a vital role within any organization. As more contact centers expand the frontline’s skills, function and value, perhaps the agent’s job will finally evolve into a sought-after career.