Why great customer experience marries technology and culture

How to balance culture and tech for CX excellence

By Tanya Clark, Ubiquity

The average turnover rate in U.S. contact centers is 30-45%1. And it’s no wonder. BPO call centers are usually seen as a stopgap rather than a serious career path—as places that chase aggressive CX metrics with a revolving door of burned-out staff.

Meanwhile, new technology initiatives empower your customers to connect with staff in more ways than ever.

And your staff have options too. They can take calls at a contact center, from a home office—from nearly anywhere (within reason).

But here’s the thing.

Technology is only an enabler for service agents. It puts customers front and center so they can interact with the right people at the right time, as easily as possible.

But it can’t offset the CX deficiencies that arise with a highly transient workforce. There’s a cultural vacuum at the heart of BPO contact centers today—and rather than fill it, technology exposes it.

Think about it. A seamless experience with an IVR won’t boost your NPS and CSAT if it flawlessly connects you to a disengaged, disenfranchised customer service agent.

What if we prioritized the agent experience as highly as our self-service technology? What if we redefined the strategy and incentives that underpin a BPO’s innerworkings? What would that do for agents, customers and businesses?

Maybe it’s time BPOs focused on culture as much as tech.

Here’s what that looks like—and how it creates better customer experiences, more engaged employees and a platform for growth.

Invested agents + technology = improvement everywhere

A big reason customer service agents don’t stick around for long is a lack of purpose.

Transaction-based BPO is almost completely numbers-driven—whether that’s maintaining a low average handle time (a really unhelpful metric if you’re helping a customer solve a supertricky problem, such as helping them dispute unauthorized transactions) or focusing only on calls handled.

Service agents in these kinds of BPOs are cogs in a machine—they never stray outside the confines of their prescribed tasks (or think about improvements).

When that’s the norm across a contact center, you’re missing out on huge opportunities for potential upgrades and revenue-generating initiatives.

The best service agent training programs do more than train for metric boosting—they imbue agents with purpose.

Today’s advanced BPOs treat agents as stakeholders in the business they serve. Stakeholders show up to work every day for more than a paycheck. They’re responsible.They crave ownership.

And with ownership comes a desire to do things better on behalf of your customers, fellow workers and your business partner.

An ownership mindset manifests by improving your immediate environment. Ownership requires care. And caring service agents move in a different way—in how they interact with each other and the systems around them.

Growth-oriented BPOs cultivate care by incentivizing feedback and knowledge-sharing to build a clearer picture of how their current tech (and processes) can better enable their agents (and better serve their customers).

Self-driving industry experts

Another benefit of invested agents emerges in the softer side of CX: How they interact with customers changes. Empathy comes to the fore.

Self-improvement goes beyond the operational: Personal bonds are formed with every interaction. When you become invested in your partner’s world, you’re not tethered to a script.

You become knowledgeable in ways that you simply couldn’t if you moved from basic training to a stagnant script.

And with that knowledge—of industry nuances and customer needs—comes assurance, confidence and competence.

That can’t be faked or scripted. Customers can sense it. You can, too.

We’ve all spoken to someone who knows what they’re talking about and someone who’s reeling off lines.

To have more natural, productive experiences between agent and customer, we need to get recruitment right, putting the right people in the right roles and giving them the tools to develop.

Making personal development a codified incentive changes the caliber of service agents and their customer interactions.

Growth-centric BPOs foster a culture that rewards proactivity and personal development. And service agents repay the favor by staying longer and doing better work.

Charging toward your hardest problems

What processes are causing friction and making your brand less sticky?

Tech initiatives combined with empowered customer service agents and investment are unstoppable. Get all three together and the potency of your BPO’s CX capability goes up exponentially.

Aggressive business growth is hard, especially if you’re a new market entrant. It’s about experimenting. Doing things your peers aren’t willing to do.

That’s scary—for you and your customers.

And sometimes experiments fail. When that happens, you need more than top-down instruction.

The most powerful and agile BPO operations run on front-line ambassadors who are empowered to present ideas and identify opportunities to the service leaders who work collaboratively across departments.

During these periods of trial and error, there will never be a greater need for confidence, clarity and composure. You need your service agents and their team leaders to have that in spades.

So when the inevitable turbulence comes along, your CX will be unflappable.

The most effective BPO contact centers today—the ones that equip their agents to do more and better things for customers—are treating culture as seriously as any digital transformation initiative.

At Ubiquity, we’re obsessed with finding and motivating the right people. It’s what allows us to help ambitious brands level up their CX into a growth driver.

We call it Return on Outsourcing.

If that sounds like something you need, let’s talk.

Tanya Clark is the SVP of Human Resources at Ubiquity, where she spearheads all aspects of hiring, developing and rewarding top talent.

[1] Exploring Call Centre Turnover Numbers, Quality Assurance and Training Center, 2015.