Emotional intelligence is a vital element to understanding customer needs, Colin Hay of Puzzel, explains how contact centres that blend technology with the human touch will reap rewards in the digital age.
The rise of artificial intelligence solutions in contact centres continues to be a hot technology trend that shows no signs of slowing down. There is solid business reasoning for deploying bots because in today’s ‘always on’ environment customers expect 24×7 service through their preferred channel. Chatbots are a key component in delivering the real-time, on-demand approach that customers expect.
Although technology has altered the way customers interact with contact centres, when it comes to complex interactions, person-to-person communication is still the channel of choice. Good customer service is not just about dealing with enquiries in a timely manner it is about resolving the issue to the customer’s satisfaction and to achieve that, it is important to understand the customer’s emotional state when responding to them. Agents that can understand how the customer is feeling and use that information to find the right words to influence a positive result are priceless.
The value of emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, understand and manage our own emotions whilst identifying, understanding and influencing the emotions of others. This is a beneficial skill to have in any workplace but especially within customer service teams. Some agents may naturally have high emotional intelligence, however with training it can be nurtured and therefore improve the quality of interactions between agents and customers.
Emotional Intelligence training provides agents with the knowledge and skills necessary to cultivate a higher empathy with customers. Understanding and engaged communication between agents and customers develop the right environment for better problem solving.
Adapting to change
Another benefit of an emotionally intelligent workforce is the ability for employees to embrace and adapt to change. The traditional contact centre is rapidly evolving to respond to customer needs and as channels become more digitised, the role of agents will also change. An empathetic well trained workforce will be able to make the leap to higher skilled activities that deliver a more personalised customer centric and revenue rewarding approach.
Creating a culture supportive of training, mentoring and peer level engagement can yield dividends in terms of proactive and engaged customer interactions. When positivity is fostered and performance feedback is given, our experience shows that contact centre performance improves exponentially.
Customers often judge a successful interaction not just by the outcome but by how much effort is required on their part. Agents that can read the situation and manage their own emotions as well as the customer’s are extremely valuable in more complex cases, where out-of-the-box and creative thinking will dictate the customer experience.
A blended approach
Rather than bots and artificial intelligence replacing humans altogether, a more realistic scenario is a blended approach where technology replaces the mundane and transactional interactions. Technology is a fantastic enabler and by merging the best aspects of human agents with automated services like chatbots, contact centres can free up talented and professional agents to do their job even better. With the ability to access accurate information quickly, agents can focus on delivering a more personalised and sales focused service. A happy customer is a loyal customer and a happy motivated workforce is less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
It is important for contact centres to remain relevant and integrate new, innovative technologies to enable more efficient business processes. However, it is also important to acknowledge the role that people play in a customer’s experience of a brand or company. When it comes to complex matters, the human touch is invaluable. With all the benefits that artificial intelligence and bots can deliver, it still cannot compare to the understanding and compassion of human agents. Why have humans who sound like robots when empowerment, training and coaching can make all the difference?