“One of the other indispensable elements of a modern customer engagement capability is a highly skilled, motivated workforce.”

In the most recent blog in this series, Can Kekevi talked about the rapid evolution of the virtual assistant and the incorporation of these capabilities into Accenture’s Applied Customer Engagement (ACE) offering.

One of the other indispensable elements of a modern customer engagement capability is a highly skilled, motivated workforce – one that understands the organization’s priorities but also has a clear view of the new opportunities and career paths created by technological innovation.

As basic, transactional activities are assumed by virtual assistants and other forms of automation, contact center people will have to participate in high-touch interactions and serve as trusted advisors and problem solvers. They will need to be more entrepreneurial (with appropriate incentives in place) and they will work with new technologies to maximize results.

To develop this kind of workforce, contact center organizations should:

  • Create a vision of the workforce. Leadership needs to understand where technology is going and what that means for contact center people. The vision should encompass automation initiatives and use of alternate resources, but the primary focus should be on the people strategy.
  • Reskill and mobilize people. This means identifying the skills that people will really need – not only technical skills but “soft” skills such as listening, organizational ability and empathy – and then assessing the organization to identify where there are gaps and how those gaps might best be filled.
  • Revamp communications activities. At the most basic level, people need to understand “what’s in it for them” – not only what sort of incentives will be available, but how their everyday jobs will become more challenging and more interesting. Detailed communications and change management initiatives should address employee concerns and describe new opportunities and rewards.
  • Redefine metrics and tools. The new contact center, as exemplified by ACE, is not so much about handling high volumes of calls (virtual assistants enabled by artificial intelligence will do that) as it is about successful resolution of customer needs. Staffers should be judged on customer outcome metrics rather than on their ability to handle calls quickly and tightly following scripts. The context gathered and tools driving via ACE facing the customer are also proving helpful in supporting these increased expectations on staffers.

In the discussion about automation and its impact on jobs, the emphasis should be less on displacement and on the upskilling and reskilling that will be needed to fill new roles. Another key point: The evolution of customer engagement will also create many new positions. Contact centers, for example, may need knowledge engineers to integrate human insight into the AI experience, resolving customer queries that require intervention while serving as holistic advocates of the end-to-end customer experience. Similarly, expertise in AI, in machine learning and natural language processing will be at a premium.

It is also important to recognize the vital role that culture plays in successful contact center transformations. All large organizations have their own cultures (whether they realize it or not) and positive cultural attributes can be leveraged to help design a superior customer experience. Workshops and design thinking sessions can explore how the organization can enhance its culture to attract and retain top talent, improve performance and increase productivity.

Customer expectations are higher than ever and the line between sales and service continues to blur. A well-structured, trained and motivated contact center workforce can deliver major benefits to the enterprise, including increased sales, greater customer satisfaction, and better morale and retention.

In the fifth blog of this series, we will look at how to design the customer experience within the ACE concept. For more information, read our report: Accelerate growth with Applied Customer Engagement. 

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