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Customer care in information laden industries like IT or finance relies heavily on help resources that agents can refer to when troubleshooting tricky issues.  The conventional wisdom around help resources is that they act a bit like training wheels for newer employees, providing prompts and guidance that enable trainees to start taking live calls sooner.   What most firms are surprised to learn, however, is that it’s the better, more experienced agents–and not the novices or even average employees–who make regular use of job aids and assistive resources.

Why don’t the novices use job aids?

There are two key reasons.  The first is that novices fresh out of training are often too overwhelmed with handling the basics of a live customer interaction to have the mental bandwidth to be able to add another component to the mix, even if it would help them with call resolution.  

The second reason is that often a novice doesn’t understand the customer’s problem well enough to know what help to search for.  

What about the average agents?

Agents who provide good but not great service tend not to use help resources either.  While they’re perfectly competent at handling common issues, average agents are often overly focused on the wrong metric–reducing the handling time of individual interactions instead of the number of repeat calls, for example.  As a result, they’re far more likely to hand out pat answers regardless of the underlying issue, and far less likely to investigate a tricky problem.

The master tool wielders  

Top-level agents, on the other hand, are efficient enough to dispatch common questions quickly, and conscientious enough to thoroughly investigate complex problems.  In the hands of these experts, job aids evolve from training wheels to precision tools that allow them to go much deeper with problem solving.  The results are measurable reductions in customer call-backs and improvements in customer satisfaction.

Building precision tool competency

A few strategies can promote the use of help resources among weaker agents:

  1. Raise the status of help resources by reframing them as the precision tools that they are.  This will also help to reduce frustration among novices, since the expectation will be that the use of aids is a skill to master over time, and not a novice crutch.
  2. Encourage peer-to-peer learning.  Even the best performers can learn new approaches.  Temporarily pair top agents with weaker performers (and with each other) to inculcate top-level work ethic and skills.
  3. Provide agents with regular feedback on key metrics.  If you want more than the bare minimum out of your average agents, you’ll need to set the bar of minimum expectations higher.  (Needless to say, this should be done in such a way that it generates motivation and not undue stress.)

For a customized approach to improving your interactions with customers–or your employees–don’t hesitate to contact me.