November 19, 2019 | By

New Study: Empowering Your Frontline Employees to Keep Up With Customer Expectations

If there’s anyone who has a good handle on what makes customers happy, it’s the frontline employees (e.g., call center reps, chat agents, retail associates, etc.) and managers who assist them day in and day out. A new global survey of customer-facing employees by Ovum, in partnership with Bold360, reveals that while frontline employees understand customers’ rising expectations, they don’t have the tools and technology they need to fulfill them—and it’s taking a toll on their morale. Here are the key takeaways:

Higher customer expectations are making frontline employees’ jobs more complex.

Today’s customers expect frontline employees to be more than just helpful. They assume frontline employees will have detailed knowledge of products and services. 42% of survey respondents cited this expectation as a high- or medium-impact factor in how their role is changing. Another new challenge for frontline employees is juggling the expanding mix of customer support channels—email, phone, mobile, SMS. Only 19% of managers say their firm is able to provide consistent levels of responsiveness and quality across channels.

Frontline employees understand the importance of first contact resolution (FCR) but struggle to deliver.

Survey respondents confirm that FCR is what makes customers very satisfied or satisfied. But only 35% of frontline employees say they can resolve issues on first contact. Many of them (29%) have to seek out colleagues for help, and in many cases have to call customers back or transfer their calls, both of which heighten customer frustration.

Knowledge gaps are a major pain point.

Customers are savvy these days, and they expect frontline employees to provide answers fast and accurately. This was noted as a high and medium pain point for 55% of survey respondents. Many frontline employees said they don’t have and/or can’t readily access the detailed information they need. Respondents also noted that they lacked information about customers that would let them personalize their interactions.

Training isn’t up to par.

As one might expect, given the knowledge gap issue, many survey respondents don’t feel their training adequately prepares them to meet customer expectations: 44% of customer-facing frontline employees say that initial job training is just right, and this falls to 35% for the ongoing training that’s so critical given the pace of change.

Frontline employee frustrations are eroding morale.

Fully 63% of customer-facing employees say they’re either very frustrated or extremely frustrated by the fact that they can’t meet customer expectations. Not only does low morale lead to more frontline employee churn, but it can lead to less positive experiences for customers.

Clearly, these employees want and need to be better set up for success. The managers and frontline employees surveyed recognize that AI-powered solutions could go a long way toward achieving that, by providing guided assistance in real-time, driving more personalized customer engagement, and enhancing knowledge management. Unfortunately, adoption and implementation of AI is still in its early stages at most enterprises. As the research points out, however, an increasing number of businesses are leveraging AI-driven solutions in their customer service operations, and getting transformative results.

To learn more about the challenges customer-facing employees are up against and learn about potential solutions, download the complete report now.

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