Service agents are critical to customer success. The bar for good customer service has been raised incredibly high in the new normal. Nearly every consumer has now experienced the convenience and ease of ecommerce. Today’s customer expects rapid, personal and highly connected engagement across whichever channel they choose. 

Faced with these new customer expectations, service agents are taking on more strategic roles. They’re no longer expected to just handle mundane, routine tasks; instead they’re expected to create meaningful relationships, grow revenue and build the brand.

So how can service agents succeed in the new normal and beyond?

 

How service agents are adapting to a new business landscape

When we surveyed over 7,000 service professionals worldwide, over half of service agents were working from home. That’s nearly three times as many before the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority either expect to work remotely or remain uncertain about their future work setting. Customer service, IT, and other teams experienced a massive transition to remote work. As a result, the pace of remote collaboration and customer service delivery increased. 

In Belgium, for instance:

  • 81% of respondents tell us their service teams have shifted workflows and processes
  • 76% percent have changed policies to provide customers more flexibility
  • 73% of decision makers have invested in new service technology 

In this blog, we share insights as to how service agents are managing new changes and share tips to help organisations better support their success.

 

Service agents are optimistic in the remote work environment

Overall, more than two-thirds of service agents are generally satisfied with the quality of service they’re providing outside of the store, office, or contact centre. 

In Belgium, 80% of service agents say they can remotely access all of the data and information they need. 

Here’s how many service agents worldwide agreed with the following statements:
 


As noted, high performers are even more likely to claim access to the technology and information they need to do their jobs regardless of where they are.

Providing service agents the technology and work-from-home support to deliver exceptional customer experiences has real, measurable business benefits.

Moreover, agents can no longer be expected to toggle between screens to hunt down the information they need to do their job. They need to have a service platform that provides a clear, 360-degree view of the customer journey across departments and functions.

There’s also a significant opportunity for service organisations to leverage AI, which can help provide more personal communication and free up service agents to concentrate on higher-value work.

 

Service agents are sharpening their skills to tackle new challenges

Agents are well aware that their role is evolving and that they’re expected to handle higher-value tasks. The majority of service agents are enthusiastic about taking on greater responsibility, as well as about evolving their skill sets through upskilling and reskilling programmes. These are becoming increasingly popular in the face of technological unemployment and the new normal.

Providing access to training programmes is one of the most effective ways to improve employee retention and boost job satisfaction. It’s also crucial for empowering service agents to take on bigger responsibilities in the new climate. 

Agents at high-performing organisations are much more likely to spend the majority of their time solving complex problems than agents at underperforming organisations. In other words, high-performing organisations are much better at optimising the talent of their workforce.

With such clear benefits, it’s not surprising that service decision-makers are investing heavily in training agents and improving the skills of their workforce.

 

Service agents in action: VIZIO spotlight

When service leaders at VIZIO, the leading HDTV and sound bar brand in North America, began to hear about pandemic-related orders, they knew it was important to act fast. VIZIO needed a solution to keep its team of 380 agents connected and able to support the brand’s 70+ million international customers. 

In 2019, the brand had transitioned to a new service console that provided a: 

  • Simple, contextual view

  • Intuitive interface

  • Embedded knowledge base to help resolve at-home cases quickly

VIZIO’s service leaders took a proactive approach to set up work-from-home environments. With the right technology in place, service agents were able to deliver on customer needs across digital channels like chat, SMS, social, and self-service. 

The company was able to maintain a high level of quality support even as the global pandemic interrupted businesses worldwide.

As a result, VIZIO experienced:

  • 15% reduction in average handle time

  • 4x improvement in agent productivity in online vs over the phone

 

High-performing organisations excel at service agent support

The global pandemic has created challenges businesses couldn’t have predicted prior to 2020. Employee health monitoring, for example, wasn’t even on the horizon and would have been considered intrusive before COVID-19.

Now, 4x as many high-performing service agent professionals say their organisation excels at employee health monitoring, compared to their lowest-performing counterparts. This is also true of organisations’ ability to forecast case volume and demand, then staff for it. 
 

As illustrated above, onboarding new hires remotely is one area where even high-performers struggle. 

Less than one-third of service professionals said their organisation does this well. Meaning, there is a great opportunity for improvement and growth.

In Belgium, you can segment our State of Service report by country and industry and interact with data in Tableau.

 

Organisational structure is changing to meet the needs of remote service delivery

As the very nature of work evolves before their eyes, service leaders are looking to new staffing models that: 

  • Accommodate new fiscal realities

  • Provide employee mobility and opportunity

  • Meet business demands.

Hiring full-time employees is still the default method of expanding the team. However, 51% of organisations are using part-time hires and 43% contractors to meet fluctuating service demands.

Interestingly, 23% of organisations are using job sharing as a strategy for meeting service needs. 

Eighty percent of service decision-makers in Belgium say they’re making “significant” investments in service agent training. 

They don’t seem to be planning on a return to business-as-usual centralised service operations, either. In fact, 74% say field service is a key part of their strategy. For 78%, field service is a significant revenue driver.

These investments in training and commitment to ongoing remote work enable employees to feel confident in their career prospects and the expectations and loyalty of their customers

Eighty percent of service agents in Belgium told us they see a clear path for career growth at their job.

The future looks bright — at least, for those service organisations, leaders, and service agents willing to invest in employee experience.

 
 

The Fourth Edition of the State of Service Report

What do 7,000+ service professionals across 33 countries have to say about the strategic role of customer service today?

What’s next for customer service agents?

The role of service is changing in the new era, and agents are embracing their increased responsibilities. To become true business ambassadors, they’ll need strong support from their organisations: this means on-demand training programmes, robust digital tools and new technologies. 

Learning new skills will not only enable service agents to create exceptional experiences in an era of customer-centricity, it will ease some concerns about the future of the service role in the age of automation. Agility and resilience are important for blazing new career paths, and today’s service agents are becoming more empowered than ever before.  
 

To see more about how today’s service teams are measuring success, download the  State of Service, 4th Edition today.