Avaya and BT came out this week with the results of a study that found that consumers are calling for smarter contact center agents. According to the research report, 70 percent of consumers believe they often know more than the contact center agents when it comes to company products and services. Additionally, 80 percent of people think agents struggle to answer their questions and 85 percent believe they’d been put on hold because the agent didn’t know how to answer their questions.
This comes several months after a similar study by Motorola found the same sentiment among consumers dealing with in-store associates. In this study, which Motorola released around the holidays, 61 percent of retail managers said they felt consumers were more connected to company and product information than salespeople at the store. This was up from 59 percent in 2011 and 51 percent in 2010.
Shoppers in the Motorola study echoed this sentiment: 46 percent of Gen-Y shoppers, 38 percent of Gen-X shoppers, and 32 percent of Boomer shoppers felt better connected to information than store employees.
Sadly, I’ve also felt this way when I’ve called tech support for my telephone and Internet service providers, who tried in vain to fix my connectivity issues. They went through the basic scripted protocols, and when none of those things worked, I sat on hold for 20 minutes while they talked with a supervisor, or the network operations center, or (for all I know), the Fed Ex guy that they’ve been swooning over for months. I ended up solving the problem on my own—I switched service providers entirely.
We can blame part of the employee disconnect on the fact that consumers are more connected to product information, reviews, and pricing data than ever before amid growing smartphone usage, social media, and wi-fi coverage, even in the stores. But there’s no excuse for a company employee not to know about the products customers are calling to find out about. Consumers expect—and rightly so—to deal with someone who knows what she’s talking about, whether its in the store aisles, on the phone, or through a Web chat.
The contact center situation might also be a fault of improper routing, but in either case, it’s definitely frustrating for customers and agents alike.
One answer to the problem is to step up training and make sure employees are kept up-to-date on all products and offerings. At the same time, companies need to improve the technology at hand. Organizations need to employ technologies that ensure their customer queries go to the right person the first time around, and to connect their employees to collaboration tools that create a network of experts who can share their product knowledge whenever called upon to do so. The cost of not doing so can be too high, as customers who don’t receive the right answers at one store are likely to go next door.