Industry Commentary

Evolving Agent Profile an Opportunity for Front-Office BPOs

By August 8, 2018December 14th, 2022No Comments

Change is a fact of life.  Consider how peoples’ daily lives have been irreversibly impacted by mobile technology, gig work and the sharing economy.  In the realm of contact centers, enterprise executives are facing their own challenges. Consumer needs are also shifting and generating customer loyalty is now more difficult.  But this is an opportunity for outsourcers that embrace disruption.  The first step in working toward this end is a recognition that the required agent profile is changing. It is an evolution that should be at the core of a new outsourced customer experience strategy, and seized upon as soon as possible.

In today’s contact center, end-user support is vastly different than it was even five years ago.  Consumers engage enterprises with issues that are increasingly complex, with little patience for agents reciting canned responses.  Higher end-user expectations are the norm, and if contact centers drop the ball, lost business is the result.  This highlights the need for enterprises to be represented on the front lines by individuals who can go beyond ca. 2010 expectations of customer experience delivery.  Agents who take brand ambassadorship to a new level, those that relish problem-solving and who have the initiative to use this skill during consumer interactions will be the differentiators for contact centers going forward.

For enterprises, recruiting and retaining such individuals has never been so challenging.  In fact, the recently-published Ryan Strategic Advisory 2018 Front-Office Omnibus Survey indicates that finding and keeping qualified agents is among the most important challenges for enterprise contact centers.  This is compounded by CRM budgets that are either flat or shrinking in a majority of enterprise contact centers. Quite simply, investment in this aspect of operations is a problem for many firms.

Third-party providers need to carve out a strategic opportunity by offering clients the chance to be represented by proactive agents that are willing and able to resolve consumer challenges.  However, the question remains as to how the outsourcer avoids current problems around recruitment and retention.  A logical starting point is to recognize that sourcing a new style of agent demands a fresh approach.  Expanding customer experience management roles to agents who are willing to take on increased levels of responsibility will require outsourcers to rethink how they look for team members.  Moving forward, it is unclear if broad-based social networks will suffice in attracting the proactive team members of tomorrow in decent volumes and creative thinking will be needed to source new talent.  For example, with the retail sector in tremendous shakeout, finding a way to tap into the high street’s best and brightest would be a solid starting point.

And once the new profile of agent has been recruited, outsourcers will need strategies to keep them.  While compensation and benefits cannot be ignored, providing agents with a clear career path that they feel meets their objectives will be equally if not more important.  Process realignment will also be crucial.  Self-starting agents will want more flexibility to make decisions in front line interactions with consumers, and BPOs need to figure out how to accommodate such a re-balance; without this capacity, providers are unlikely to retain this profile of team member for long.   To be clear, cultivating a team of canny and versatile agents will not be achieved over night. It will certainly bring some bumps in the road. But, for those that take on this mantle early, they will be carving out an important competitive advantage in a market ripe for differentiation.