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How to Develop a Team of Successful Service Agents

How to Develop a Team of Successful Service Agents

Managing agent tasks is where AI technology can come into play. Agents can then use their emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills to build customer rapport.

We’ve all had horrible customer service experiences. You know what we’re talking about — it’s that feeling when you hang up the phone and shake your head, wondering why companies just can’t get it right. And if the service is bad enough, you may instantly decide to never do business with them again.

And that’s not good for companies or customers.

The customer service agent is central to providing good customer service and avoiding the pitfalls of bad customer experiences, which is why they are one of the secrets to growth and longevity for successful companies. While a company’s products and services may be great, it’s often the agent who provides the overall experience surrounding those products and services. In fact, according to our recent Connected Customer Report report, 80% of customers consider the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services.

Finding the “holy grail” of great customer experiences starts at the top with executives who permeate a culture that empowers agents to deliver great customer service. As easy as this might sound, it’s not a matter of flipping a switch; it takes a paradigm shift in two areas:

  1. Technology and artificial intelligence (AI)
  2. Soft skills like emotional intelligence.

The shift from customer service agent to customer advocates is already happening

We identified one of the top trends in customer service as a shift in the executive view of their agent’s role as more strategic, with 78% of companies seeing their agents as customer advocates and 75% seeing them as brand ambassadors. While providing agents with the right technology is paramount, the best tech in the world won’t do any good if a company doesn’t empower its agents to use it to its full potential.

Integrate artificial intelligence to allow agents to be more strategic

The research found 63% of high performing companies have their agents spend most of their time solving complex issues versus just 43% of underperforming organizations’ agents. In the report, high performing customer service teams are those that rate their company’s customer satisfaction as excellent and underperformers rate their company’s customer satisfaction as average or below.

63% of agents at high-performing organizations spend most of their time solving complex issues, versus 43% at underperforming organizations.” "State of Service" | Salesforce Research, March 2019

Effectively managing agent time is where technology like AI can come into play. With AI automating many routine customer service tasks, agents can use their emotional intelligence (EI) and problem-solving skills to build customer rapport. And high performing service leaders realize the transition from helping with mundane tasks to providing more personalized service is based on a customer’s unique needs. AI can help surface answers to help an agent provide that personalized service.

High performers know they need a strong service culture that values soft skills

According to the author of Emotional Intelligence (EI) by Daniel Goleman, cognitive empathy – or the understanding of someone else’s perspective — is critical to maintaining good connections and strong communication. To build affinity and trust with a customer, companies need to build and train agent teams that value emotional intelligence.

85% of service decision makers view investment in agents as a vital part of service transformation.” "State of Service" | Salesforce Research, March 2019

As a matter of fact, 77% of high performing companies believe improving workforce skills is a high priority for transforming the agent’s role and to make sure this is happening, 88% of these high performing service leaders are making significant improvements in training to transform the agent’s role. High performers have a career growth path.

Agents on high-performing teams are 2.0x more likely than those on under-performing teams to have a clear career path.” "State of Service" | Salesforce Research, March 2019

The paradigm shift is here — what are you doing to take advantage of it?

We see these changes already taking place among high performing service organizations, with 79% of agents saying their job is more strategic than two years ago. Additionally, 81% of high performers are focused on building customer relationships and training their agents to help.

To learn about the trends that impact customer service today, check out our recent blog post on how executives have a sense of urgency to transform customer service or download our full State of Service report.

Natalie Petouhoff

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff leads thought leadership for Service Cloud at Salesforce. She is wildly passionate about customer service, equality, diversity, and inclusion. She previously worked as a Forrester analyst, agency executive and a CRM strategy management consultant. Connect with her on Twitter @DrNatalie or Linkedin.

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