3 challenging roles that the service agent must fulfill in the future
Social media channels are developing rapidly. Instagram Reels, Twitter Fleets and LinkedIn and Google stories are just a few functionalities that have popped up in the past year. The rapidly changing media landscape and the associated communication channels make the customer service agent’s work increasingly challenging. Nowadays, a service agent is more than just a helpful employee. They’re more like a multifaceted asset with a various range of competencies. What roles must the modern customer service agent fulfill these days? Freek Weijtens, Director of ICT at Cendris, is an expert in the field of customer contact and is keeping us up to date.
Technological developments and shifts in the media landscape
Freek Weijtens talks about the rapid developments and shifts in the modern media landscape. “A lot of channels have been added in recent years, and sometimes the volume on certain channels decreases. As a result, there’s a continuous shift in the usage of channels. At the same time, technological processes continue to develop. Customer service agents must remain flexible in working with change.”
Shift of channels
E-mail is one of the lesser used channels these days. Long processing times often cause irritations for the customer, which doesn’t work in favour of customer satisfaction. There’s now a shift towards live chat since it’s much easier to answer questions quickly via live chat. Customers prefer this, according to research by Freshdesk. “I’ve noticed that customer service agents who were involved in answering e-mail can also keep up with the live chats. Answering questions via live chat doesn’t usually require new competencies from the agents”, says Freek.
Development of technological processes
Other technological developments do create new challenges for customer service agents. Freek elaborates: “Major developments are underway in the automation of customer contact with the use of chatbots, voice bots and robot-controlled process automation. For example, with the help of speech recognition, it is now possible to measure customer satisfaction from a telephone conversation. This is measured based on word use and intonation. The customer service agent can respond directly to the speech analysis by, for example, showing more empathy in a conversation”. Developments such as these require more empathy and social skills from agents than ever before.
What other skills does the modern customer service agent need? Below, we will discuss the challenging roles that the service agent of the future must be able to fulfill.
1. The consultant
Today’s customer service agents no longer have to answer the same questions a hundred times a day. Repetitive questions can be easily handled by smart technologies, such as chatbots. Knowledge management systems also contribute to the fast and error-free handling of frequently asked questions. The questions that remain are more complex and therefore require more attention. Many times, it’s also in regard to questions with a component for advice. As a result, the customer service agent is increasingly assuming the role of consultant; an individual who can provide advice professionally and knowledgeably.
Can we conclude then that the quality of customer service will continue to increase in the coming years? Freek Weijtens is positive. “I think the quality has increased enormously through automation processes over the past twenty years. It is easier and more affordable than ever before to make customer service accessible at all times. Automation processes will also reduce errors when answering questions.
Because more complex matters are no longer obscured by simple and repetitive questions, the customer service agent will be able to give their undivided attention to the more complex questions. The quality of their service will improve thanks to new technology in the field of speech analysis. Take for example a customer who calls and requests to arrange a payment. Because the conversation is analysed in real time, a pop-up will appear on the screen for the customer service agent where the various payment arrangements are explained. The customer service agent doesn’t have to spend time investigating first, so they are able to help the customer immediately. These new technologies contribute to greater customer and employee satisfaction and thus to the overall quality of customer service”.
2. The Salesperson
Sales through e-commerce channels have skyrocketed in recent years. Sales in physical stores will undoubtedly suffer because of this. The in-store seller has somewhat been replaced by the online customer service employee. But is it really so easy for the service agent to take on this task? Because selling is a profession in itself.
Freek Weijtens explains: “Selling and offering service are certainly two different competencies. You have people who are very good at service, but who probably shouldn’t be trying to sell a product. The same applies vice versa. Of course, you often deal with cross sell and upsell in the online environment or on the phone. It’s important for service agents to get the hang of this, but don’t lose sight of the reason why the customer is contacting you. They’re looking for service! If they’ve been helped enough, an offer is often welcome, but be careful with this. Sales skills are important, but in the case of cross selling or upselling, only use them if they are used in combination with excellent service competencies”.
3. The IT expert
Chatbots, voice bots, speech analysis, knowledge management systems… Nowadays, so many tools are used to simplify and automate the service process that you will need quite some IT knowledge. According to Freek Weijtens, this must be handled by customer service managers.
“Lots of tools have been added in recent times, and I believe every customer service department can benefit from these. I think that recognising and researching them is the customer service manager’s responsibility. Managers must ask themselves the question: How do I employ the best approach to application use? Customer service agents shouldn’t have ten applications open at the same time, continuously switching between them. This process must be automated by the customer service manager, for example with the integration of social media, publishing, messaging, review, live chat and chatbots in OBI Engage. It would also of course be practical if the customer service employee has some understanding of new technologies and can discuss optimisation.”
A challenging and versatile job
The customer service landscape is subject to rapid automation and robotisation. Should the service employee be afraid of losing their job? Nope! On the one hand, customer service is facilitated because simple questions can be answered by chatbots and voice bots. On the other hand, the work of service agents only becomes more challenging and exciting because they can now really focus on the more complex questions. The service agent has become a jack of all trades, who must be able to provide customers with professional advice and smart offers – and not lose control in an increasingly complicated technological landscape. It is a challenging and versatile job that is by no means for everyone!