The Contact Center Freedom Paradox
Throughout time, philosophers have pondered the true definition of freedom. On the surface, more freedom seems better. However, absolute freedom leaves room for unintended consequences. Absolute freedom from law would allow stealing, oppression and plenty of other unfortunate acts to take place.
However, creating a basic framework of rules may actually allow people within a group to enjoy greater freedom. Not having to constantly worry about theft and death, for example, frees a person up to pursue a family, career, hobbies and more. That’s the paradox.
More freedom can feel like less, and less freedom can feel like more. The trick is finding the balance between the two extremes.
This applies to contact centers as much as any other group of people. Debates about how much freedom call center agents should enjoy have been raging practically since the first agent picked up a phone.
Some advocate giving agents carte blanche to say and do what they think is best—relying on their common sense and solid training to produce results. However, hiring only the best (highly paid) contact center agents and providing them with extensive (expensive) training is impractical for most organizations.
Even if you could hire and retain the best agents and prepare them with the best training, there are downfalls to absolute agent freedom.
Treating each call as a new, novel case means that agents have to expend a lot more mental energy per call—meaning their productivity will decline as a shift wears on. They’ll need to constantly consult their manuals, instructions, crib sheets and support materials, which will lengthen call times. Pausing frequently to think and review materials can lead to stilted, unnatural conversations that can frustrate callers and stress agents alike. And best practices become difficult if not impossible to implement. In short, agents are likely to find themselves feeling unsupported and aimless without some basic framework of rules on which to base their interactions.
Overly-broad agent freedom ultimately hamstrings agent performance.
The opposite is also true. If your agents have a clear set of rules and procedures to follow that are seamlessly embedded within the systems they use daily, they have less to remember and less to worry about. Some of these rules can even be automated so that agents aren’t aware of them (like sending emails, text messages, letters, access to web services and so on).
Having some pre-set rules that don't need to be questioned or derived each time can be a liberating experience. It can free contact center agents to focus on delivering a better customer experience. Instead of trying to figure out how to address a certain type of problem, the agent can focus on quick resolution and a friendly demeanor. Instead of sorting through reference materials, they can easily access information through automated systems and scripting—lowering their stress levels. They can work more efficiently and calmly knowing there’s always a guide to help them get to the next step. And they can even boast greater performance with the benefit of best practices at hand. And the contact center gets great results without having to over-invest in agents or training.
So, while having too many rules can choke agent productivity and morale, having too few can do exactly the same thing. The best outcome is to determine the right balance between agent freedom and rules for your contact center.
Already have your perfect balance of agent rules figured out? Looking for a way to try out a new set of rules or optimize an existing set? A structured tool like MiContact Center Outbound can make it easy and efficient.