By Chuck Koskovich

Just as technology has transformed the methods by which people communicate, work and learn, it has also changed the landscape of the call center industry.  But call centers are not going away. In fact, they are the preferred channel of 1 in 4 consumers worldwide, and 1 in 3 in the United States.

Chuck KoskovichListen to this podcast that features Chuck Koskovich, Global Customer Care Lead for Xerox Services. He discusses his thoughts on the evolving customer care industry, and his plan to keep up with these changes.

Today’s customers, while deeply embedded online, still like to pick up the phone and have a conversation with an agent. Even with businesses deploying alternate channels, such as websites, webchat or email, people still call the 1-800 number because talking to an agent can be the fastest way to communicate and resolve a complex problem.

Defining a new role for customer care agents

The customer care agents on your end of the telephone (or webchat)  represent the most significant change  in your contact center. Your agents play a key role in building customer loyalty and, ultimately, determine  your customer’s experience.

Equally important to know: Disgruntled customers no longer want to call an agent who reads a generic script with the hope that the answer is buried in there somewhere.

Advancements in self-service customer care technology and automated tools help customers find answers to routine questions quickly and efficiently. As a result, your customer care agents are no longer consumed with routine and repetitive tasks. As the contact center continues to evolve, your agents will perform high-level tasks that could not be resolved with self-service.

A byproduct of this shift in responsibility is increased job satisfaction, because agents feel more challenged and enjoy the opportunity to add value to the customer’s experience.

This new generation of agents must be more customer-focused, and they must be able to sympathize with customers who have exhausted all other options in their search for a resolution. Your agents must also be comfortable enough to advocate on behalf of their customers in order to find the right answer. Problem solving will be key, as well as an innate sense of curiosity that drives your agents to keep searching for a better solution.

Your call center’s survival depends upon the ability of a new generation of workers who can adapt to your customers’ changing needs, and solve problems with an expanded skill set.

Xerox’s place in this new world of contact centers

Xerox will continue to develop this next generation of agents, which involves recruiting, training and retaining those who can flourish in this new environment.

Certain personality types gravitate toward customer service, and it is easy to determine who will be a good agent. The key is finding people who are genuinely interested in helping the customer. Once they are hired, the next step is to develop them, not just by giving them the right tools — like computer programs that allow them to access customer information quickly and efficiently — but also giving them the proper training.

Xerox looks for agents who are coachable and have a love of learning. Our internal training capabilities help them learn problem resolution, gain product knowledge and sharpen general customer service skills. There is a distinction in how different generations of workers need to be managed, and it is important to give agents the tools to provide service that is in line with their priorities and aspirations.

Not only is it important to find and train the right people, but it is also important to retain skilled agents by providing them with a clear career path that is rewarding.