Key Takeaways from Our Latest Webinar: The Secret to Transforming AI from Threat to Opportunity for Your Agents and Supervisors.
In today’s dynamic world of customer service, artificial intelligence (AI) stands as both an asset and a source of concern for employees and managers. With the ever-growing prediction that by 2030, 70% of contact center leaders believe agents won’t handle any simple tasks, the spotlight on optimizing the agent experience has never been brighter (CMP Research).
As the balance between technology and human interaction shifts, the question remains: How can businesses and their employees adapt and thrive?
On September 20th, in partnership with CMP Research, Pathstream delved into this topic during our webinar, “The Secret to Transforming AI from Threat to Opportunity for your Agents and Supervisors.”
This discussion demystified the evolving narrative surrounding AI, providing leaders with actionable and research-backed strategies to view AI as a tool to empower their teams.
Table of Contents
- Crafting a Superior Agent Experience
- Strategically Leveraging AI
- Redefining the Role of Supervisors
- Conclusion: Balancing Humanity and AI
The New Paradigm: Crafting a Superior Agent Experience
Customer service is changing, and the ripple effects on customer expectations have shifted the dynamics of customer service. Agents today are expected to handle more intricate and complex customer issues, making the role of a well-trained and adaptable agent more critical than ever.
Building an experience tailored for agents and supervisors that matches these growing demands is essential. As Managing Director of CMP Research, Nicole Kyle emphasized the need for companies to cultivate nurturing environments for their agents, citing that “…the reason [CMP] has spent so much time and energy studying agent experience is because the stakes are so high.”
“CMP research showed that a satisfied agent is at minimum 15% more likely to over-perform on CSAT, and a happy and engaged is twice as likely to stay at the organization. If we can engage our agents effectively, we save money and avoid cost.”
Nicole outlined three essential factors for boosting agent engagement and retention:
- Supportive Supervisors: CMP’s findings revealed that supervisor support significantly affects an agent’s job satisfaction. Their guidance and understanding are pivotal in the agent’s professional journey.
- Clear Career Paths: Agents want to see a growth trajectory in their roles. It’s not merely about the present but the potential for growth and future advancement.
- Flexibility: The evolving work landscape means flexibility isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s essential. Today’s agents crave flexibility and mobility.
Evolving Dynamics of Manager-Agent Relationships
Building on Nicole’s insights, Gordon Schleffer of Molina Healthcare provided a closer look at the changing manager-agent relationship in flexible work environments, emphasizing supervisors’ dual role as performance and life coaches.
With the shift to remote and flexible work, those casual catch-ups or quick problem-solving chats at the desk are less common. Supervisors and agents might never meet in person, so supervisors must maintain positive and frequent communication to keep engagement high without coming across as “Big Brother.”
“It’s truly about nurturing a connection,” he shared, “Supervisors need to engage in proactive, ensuring discussions more than once a month. There needs to be a budget for more 1:1s where they can ask employees about their well-being and career aspirations. We need to help them see why what they do matters.”
While flexibility is a clear priority, employees seek a deeper connection and a sense of purpose within the company, especially in remote settings.
The Importance of Personalized Agent Experiences
Eleanor delved into the more profound pivotal role of personalized experiences in acknowledging agents’ unique aspirations and needs.
“They [agents] need to see a future, not only in the internal career pathways available but also in their evolving roles as technology, such as AI, becomes more integrated. The expectation for agents to be dynamic in customer interactions and adaptable to the future necessitates giving them the context and information they need to feel empowered.”
She pinpointed a common challenge: although organizations offer various resources and growth opportunities, there’s often a disconnect in making these accessible and meaningful for each agent.
“There’s a significant opportunity to unlock the overlap between where the agent wants to go and where the company needs them to. Many organizations have robust career benefits and resources, but individuals often struggle to find them. We need to assemble these pieces into a meaningful, achievable personalized experience — where we recognize individual strengths and potential and align the resources to help them grow in a way that benefits both their goals and the company’s needs.”
Strategically Leveraging AI: Expert Insights
As call centers evolve and AI becomes more embedded in daily operations, How can businesses ensure that their AI investments genuinely benefit their agents and supervisors?
Our experts emphasized three pivotal areas in how AI can amplify human capabilities and elevate the agent experience:
- Maximizing AI for Enhanced Agent Efficiency
- Redefining Agent Training with AI
- Building Employee Engagement Through Training
AI’s Role: Enhancing, Not Replacing Human Capabilities
One of the main takeaways from our session was that integrating AI in the workspace is not about replacing but enhancing it. AI has become a powerful tool that streamlines routine and mundane tasks and frees up agents to take on more valuable work.
Gordon provided a clear example, “ChatGPT is excellent at summarizing. In call centers, accurate documentation is key. Why not have agents review ChatGPT’s summaries while they invest their expertise in customer interactions? This elevates the customer experience and offers operational efficiency, turning a 2-minute task into a 1-minute one.”
Balancing AI Tools & Training: Evolving Roles and Skillsets
Our experts also agreed that AI complements training but is no substitute. Brian highlighted the potential risk of the “GPS Effect” – an over-reliance on AI that might dilute core expertise. The objective is to alleviate agent stress, enabling them to channel their expertise into forming meaningful connections with customers, not to lose the expertise.
According to Gordon Schleffer, this is why “training is paramount for agents to evolve into the experts and the problem solvers, and not just checking boxes based on the guided workflow on the screen.”
Eleanor expanded on this, discussing the evolution of an agent’s role and the necessary adaptions in training. As technology progresses, so does the role of the agent and the core competencies required. Traditional training emphasized tactics, the right opener, where to find different resources and efficiency, but agents now play a higher value role with AI carving out more space.
This shift demands a new skill set, focusing on deep listening, time management, critical thinking, and problem-solving – all aimed at enhancing customer loyalty.
Shifting Training Resources and Building Engagement
Addressing the evolving needs, Eleanor talked about the imperative transition to training resources that build foundational skills, something currently lacking in the market. Aligning the skills of next-gen agents with their career paths, potentially through certificate programs, is pivotal for motivation and engagement.
“When someone feels like they’re succeeding, they’re happier in their role. They’re more engaged. They want to learn; they build a positive relationship with learning.”
Activating AI Tools Effectively
However, it’s about having the right tools and activating them effectively. Despite the buzz around AI, CMP’s research suggests its full potential is yet to be realized, with a mere 11% of companies experimenting with AI.
Nicole emphasized the significance of a holistic approach, highlighting managers’ critical role in fostering engagement and ensuring seamless AI integration.
Redefining the Role of Supervisors
While AI integration in the workforce is evident, our experts believe the human touch elevates these tools. In this era, supervisors are more than managers; they’re catalysts, leveraging AI to enrich agent experiences and guide their growth.
As Nicole put it, “The tool is the tool… the supervisor or the manager activates it,” highlighting the irreplaceable human element in leveraging technology effectively. She also shed light on the changing dynamics of leadership in today’s digital, often remote, work environments. It’s about connecting the dots — from individual performances to team objectives.
Challenges & Solutions: Understanding the Supervisor’s Position
The conversation took a deeper dive when Gordon and Eleanor explored the many hats a supervisor wears. Gordon’s assertion, “The supervisor has the hardest job in call centers,” underscores the balancing act supervisors play — meeting organizational benchmarks while understanding and addressing agent requirements.
Gordon emphasized the significance of supervisors understanding their place within the organization’s tapestry. This comprehension isn’t just vital for self-awareness but plays a pivotal role in team communication, ensuring everyone’s goals are synchronized with the company’s vision.
Eleanor elaborated on the critical focus Pathstream places on enhancing the supervisory experience, noting that even small investments can yield significant results. “It’s one of our biggest focus areas as an organization just because there’s such low-hanging fruit of how much a little bit goes such a long way,” she commented.
Eleanor shared Pathstream’s commitment to boosting the supervisor experience, emphasizing the ripple effect of small enhancements. “It’s one of our biggest focus areas,” she said, “because there’s so much to gain from minor adjustments.” She offered a three-tier strategy to enrich the supervisory journey:
- Identifying and Preparing Potential Managers.
- Providing Continual Support and Training
- Leveraging Real-time Insights for Strengths-based Coaching
“We have to have personalized relationships between the supervisor and the agent,” she stated, reinforcing the idea that this personalized approach is crucial for the success of an organization.
Evolving Competencies and Empowering Supervisors
Nicole delved into the need to personalize supervisors’ experiences to better engage agents, especially in remote working scenarios. She introduced CMP’s innovative competency model, a nuanced approach to understanding and supporting agents based on intrinsic traits and environmental characteristics.
Nicole championed the model as a bridge, especially for newcomers, to understand their team dynamics faster, reaching an impressive “80% of the way to perfect personalization.” She argued that in today’s world, where personal and professional boundaries often merge, knowing your team member beyond their role becomes even more crucial. A successful supervisor, she opined, acknowledges this new reality and molds their approach to fit it.
Explaining this rationale, Nicole highlighted the blurring line between work and life, necessitating a more holistic understanding of agents as individuals. “When that line between work and life blurs, you must understand your direct report as a full person,” she emphasized. An effective supervisor, she noted, needs to comprehend this reality and adapt accordingly.
This comprehensive approach underscores the importance of evolving competencies and empowering supervisors, ensuring a conducive environment for supervisors and agents to thrive through personalized engagement and support.
Conclusion: Balancing Humanity and AI in the Modern Age
The transformation of the manager and agent experience in the age of AI is multi-faceted. Personalizing supervisor-agent interactions might appear overwhelming, especially in large organizations. Yet, we can retain that core human touch by capitalizing on AI for data and scaling training.
Our experts shared five insightful takeaways for our audience:
- Enhance Supervisor Experiences: Empowering our supervisors with the right tools and competencies directly impacts and improves agent engagement.
- Chart Personalized Growth Paths for Agents: As AI becomes more integrated into contact centers, agents must see a clear and customized path for their future. Organizations must bridge the gap between agent aspirations and company needs.
- Leverage Opportunities in Contact Centers: Contact centers are uniquely positioned to utilize their deep understanding of customer experiences to improve agent and managerial experiences.
- Harness Tech & AI for Your Teams: AI is here to enhance, not replace, human interactions. When harnessed correctly, technology amplifies human capabilities, benefiting customer interactions, agent performance, and overall contact center operations.
- Invest In Training: Agents and supervisors must receive training that reinforces core expertise and equips them for emerging technological advancements.
Dive Deeper with Pathstream
Are you eager to explore how these insights can be applied to your organization? Request a demo with Pathstream and witness how our solutions can drive inclusive growth at your organization.
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