3 Ways Digital Customer Service Makes Agents (and Budgets) Happy

Implementing digital care solutions that offer automation driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help reduce training time for new agents, resulting in cost savings while reducing agent attrition and turnover.

How much do you invest in training new customer care agents? Is agent attrition and turnover a major issue for your organization?

According to Screensteps, customer support centers spend approximately four to six months training new care agents, including orientation, classroom training, shadowing, and the transition phase to working independently. Additionally, customer support centers have a notoriously high turnover rate—nearly half of employees ages 20 to 34 are most likely to stay for only a single year. This presents a “leaky bucket” problem for organizations and training managers, as they have to invest significant resources into constantly training new agents who have a high probability of leaving soon after being fully ramped up.

Implementing digital care solutions that offer automation driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can help reduce training time for new agents, resulting in cost savings while simultaneously reducing agent attrition and turnover.

How They Work

In order to understand where these training, time, and cost savings come from, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how automation, AI, and ML work in the modern care world.

The use of AI and ML allows certain aspects of customer care to be automated—take chatbots as an example. Powered by AI and ML, chatbots can answer simple customer requests, route customers to agents who can best resolve their issues when they can’t solve them, and even provide suggested responses for agents during customer conversations. This technology has become increasingly popular as consumers branch out to new digital channels and businesses look to scale and improve their customer care.

3 Ways Digital Care Solutions Can Help in Training

So if you’re an organization or manager looking for ways to improve how you train and retain care agents, here are three ways AI-driven, digital care solutions can help:

1. Consolidate and simplify workflows.

A survey of 422 businesses by the Aberdeen Group found that 51 percent of companies use at least eight channels to communicate with customers. In many cases, customers will start an inquiry on one channel and move to another. When this happens, 77 percent of consumers want agents to communicate and collaborate with each other so they don’t have to repeat themselves.

The need for care agents to follow customer inquiries across channels can create a complex workflow that’s difficult for new agents to learn and requires training on each support channel. Additionally, hopping between channels to view previous interactions increases the time it takes to help customers on a day-to-day basis.

By using AI-powered technology to seamlessly connect channels, managers can reduce training time by teaching new agents to use one interconnected platform instead of several. It also enables agents to provide faster support for higher productivity and customer satisfaction. But, most importantly, it empowers organizations to deliver a cohesive customer journey across channels.

2. Deflect call volume to more efficient and less stressful digital channels.

One of the most common reasons for agent turnover is stress and burnout from dealing with upset customers on a daily basis—which is especially problematic for businesses that rely on phone support. Over-the-phone care requires constant attention from agents, who must provide immediate answers or risk further frustrating customers who are already upset from long hold times and transfers.

By investing in automation support for digital channels, you can reduce dependence on phone service by deflecting calls to other asynchronous channels where issues can be handled in a more efficient and less stressful manner. Rather than asking customers to call, wait, and potentially deal with several transfers, digital care enables customers to leave a message and respond at their own pace. This also makes interactions less stressful for agents, as they can take longer to think or collaborate with peers without making customers wait.

In terms of how long customers are willing to wait for a response on digital channels, our 2020 Social Media Customer Service survey found about half of social media users expect brands to respond to, but not necessarily resolve, a message within three hours. That means companies have quite a bit more time to start a positive conversation with a customer and begin resolving their request.

While phone interactions demand an immediate response, support through digital channels gives agents more time to think, fostering less stressful interactions and more thought-out solutions. This not only reduces stress-related attrition from the job, it enables managers to significantly reduce the amount of training time for new agents in the shadowing and nesting phases, so they can start working independently earlier.

3. Let AI handle common issues and improve agent productivity.

In many cases, common issues can be automatically addressed through chatbots or self-service solutions. By resolving predictable issues through automation, new agents won’t have to be trained on these matters, which further cuts down the ramp-up time toward working independently. This also helps improve the productivity of the entire agent force, giving them more time to provide personalized care for customers with complex issues instead of getting bogged down by common requests.

Over time, addressing common issues can make an agent’s job seem repetitive and tedious, contributing to burnout. Automating the resolution of common issues allows agents to focus on more complex and satisfying tasks that add diversity to their role and keep their job fresh and exciting, reducing attrition and turnover.

Implement AI-Driven, Digital Care for Your Business

As a training professional, if you’re looking to reduce the time and costs associated with leveling up new customer care agents, it is critical to provide them with the right tools for success. In 2021, that means tapping into technological advancements such as automation-focused digital care solutions that are proven to simplify workflows and make agents’ jobs less stressful and more fulfilling. As highlighted above, these improvements also help reduce the turnover of fully trained agents, which means even more training time and costs savings for you. Talk about a win-win!

Additionally, automation, AI, and ML capabilities are only getting better year after year, so investing in and implementing digital care solutions that utilize this technology now will provide exponential benefits later down the line. So if you’re looking to keep your bucket full of skilled, happy agents—and healthy budgets—taking a digital-first approach to customer care offers a reliable, watertight seal with a guaranteed ROI.

Chris Tranquill is the Chief of Strategy at Khoros (https://khoros.com/), where he is responsible for Khoros product strategy and business development. He has spent more than 25 years in leadership roles focusing on the customer experience and helping companies gain insights from their customer data. He spent most of that time in business process outsourcing, where he worked with many of the world’s best known brands. Tranquill's business units have been recognized as industry leaders by both Gartner and Everest.