Unexpected item in the learning area: self-service checkouts in a contact centre setting
Debates on the future of technology are becoming more focused on the area of automation. In many areas of business, however, automation can only get you so far; for the rest, you’ll need some clever human intervention.
The appeal of Self-Service
A few years ago, a study on the self-service economy found that consumers are starting to prefer self-service to human interaction. 70% of respondents had come to expect a self-service option, whilst 40% actively preferred self-service to human contact. Now, we only have to examine a passing teenager to see that society is lurching towards a non-communicative smartphone-tethered apocalypse, but is there anything else driving this anti-social upsurge?
The concept of self-service began with businesses looking for efficiencies, and it’s a straightforward enough premise – if you can be convinced to scan your own groceries, the supermarket doesn’t have to pay someone to man the checkout. Now, however, the move towards self-service options is being driven by consumer preference.
People have come to enjoy the sense of control that self-service gives them. They want direct and immediate access to the product or solution needed; they don’t want the complication (and potential frustration) of dealing with an actual person.
Contact Centres: A case in point
Moving swiftly from broccoli to broadband, let’s consider how the concept of self-service has impacted the call centre sector. Chatbots have become a familiar feature of most big companies’ websites, an attractive alternative to the customer service number and listening to ‘your call is important to us’ ad nauseum. However, evidence suggests that the age of Total Chatbot Domination remains a distant prospect. Not all queries can be resolved automatically, and a significant number of us still prefer the human touch.
So, how do we make the most of available technology to facilitate and support contact centre agents? Let’s begin by identifying the weak points. Reportedly, there are three main reasons why customers get frustrated:
- The agent is unable to assist or resolve their issue.
- They experience a long hold or delay in response.
- They’re given the wrong answer.
So we can see that, to a large extent, it comes down to a knowledge gap. Agents either don’t know the product set or aren’t up to speed on processes, and this is the area to which the diligent L&D department will turn their attentions. Technology can assist in this endeavour, but some clever and nimble learning design is also required.
It’s not enough to provide call centre agents with a series of FAQs or quick tips; that route takes us back to the shortcomings of customer-facing chatbots. Rather, the agents need two things: a sound working knowledge (which we’ll call ‘the baseline’), backed up by resources that can be interrogated and used effectively at the point of need (the sort of performance support that can be provided by a Learning Experience Platform, or ‘LXP’).
The baseline: good eLearning
Before letting a new call centre agent near a headset, they need to be trained in some core skills. eLearning courses (such as Learning Pool’s own Contact Centre Catalogue, details below) provide a tested way of delivering that training.
It has to be good, though: if you’re able to adopt a story-led, scenario-based approach, for instance, putting the learner in relatable settings, you’ll see engagement levels and knowledge retention rates soar. Gamification, too, can be added to increase motivation and offer learners a challenge.
In addition, there’s nothing to stop you breaking down the traditional 60-minute eLearning course into microlearning content. This material can then be used in spaced practice, to aid knowledge retention and make learning more of a continuous process (rather than the oft-cited ‘forgettable one-off event’ that it can be).
As we’ve ascertained, one of the critical problems for contact centre agents is having the knowledge at hand while the punter’s actually on the phone. We need to bring the digital content into the workflow.
As cited above, one way of achieving this is with a Learning Experience Platform (or LXP), such as Learning Pool’s Headstream. The interface is immediately familiar (mirroring services like Netflix or Spotify) and it facilitates the self-service approach to accessing content. You can find what you want, where and when you need it.
LXPs can host a wide variety of learning content, from eLearning courses to online books, blogs and vlogs, embedded links, and user-generated content. It’s been designed to appeal to differing learner needs, preferences and contexts.
Content can be updated dynamically on a regular basis, and the LXP allows you to curate both internal and external content. Microlearning materials can be disseminated as spaced practice, to cement core concepts with the audience.
Headstream comes with a Google-grade search facility which makes finding this content easier. It also comes with Learning Pool’s Chatbot Flo embedded: Flo allows a user to interrogate the content in a more nuanced and refined way than a general search; the question-and-answer approach makes use the bot’s natural language capability and enables users to quickly locate the required information.
The eLearning zeitgeist, with its focus on performance support (and the technology that we can now bring to bear on this area), seems particularly well-suited to the contact centre environment, where real-time application of learning and access to knowledge is imperative.
It’s not just customers who are looking for the self-service till. When contact centre agents are challenged by customers for a quick resolution of their issue, those agents need to find the right answer quickly. Having an entire knowledge base at their fingertips, in the form of an LXP environment assisted by a chatbot, means that they can deliver a solution in real-time on the first call.
The Contact Centre Catalogue
Our Contact Centre Catalogue has been authored by proven experts and offers industry-leading core content. Everything’s presented in an engaging manner, using multimedia elements, and all the content can be readily customised to suit individual organisations.
New modules on key, hot topics are continually added to build the training suite, and it’s all completely responsive to different devices – meaning learners can learn on the go and at work.
To find out how Learning Pool’s Contact Centre Catalogue and Headstream could help your organisation, simply fill out the form below.
About the author
Senior Learning Designer Ryan joined Learning Pool in 2015 and has contributed to a variety of solutions for organisations as diverse as the Houses of Parliament, KFC, Royal Bank of Canada and the Special Olympics.
He places the customer at the heart of the process, working closely with stakeholders to analyse performance needs and create enduring, effective learning solutions.