Ted Lango knows that providing automated support to front-line agents in the contact center can be an excellent strategy for improving the customer experience (CX).
“Highly trained coached and engaged agents do the best job,” said Lango, vice president and global head of workforce planning and resource optimization for MetLife. “They have emotions, intuition, and creativity – all the things that machines don’t have. But you can make them better at what they do by providing them with the right support.”
Lango provided a case study of MetLife’s experiences in an Avaya ENGAGE 2021 session, “Driving Customer Experience with Intelligent Automation.” In 2019, MetLife’s Retirement & Income Solutions Customer Solutions Center team was recognized by J.D. Power for providing “An Outstanding Customer Service Experience” for phone support for effectiveness in the areas of recruiting, training, employee incentives, quality assurance capabilities and management.
Jennifer Lee, chief strategy officer, Intradiem, hosted the session with MetLife and outlined her company’s services. “Automation is one of the only ways organizations can achieve business agility in their back, middle and front office operations,” said Lee. “That’s one reason why Gartner predicts a 30 percent increase in these solutions in the near future.”
Where to start?
If you are considering adding automated support to your contact center, where do you start? One approach is workforce management, such as checking agents’ schedules to find ways to improve productivity or deliver support services.
“I’m a telecom guy who was put in charge of running contact centers 20 years ago,” said Lango. “Initially, I had focused on cost savings by building automated features. But we have shifted to making investments in our people. Now, we look at everything from the agent’s lens.”
Lango said the simplest use case for automation at MetLife involved agent scheduling. “If someone is off the phone, we can deliver a five-minute up-skilling or coaching session in real time,” he said. “Most agents appreciate the training sessions and respond very positively to the automated service.”
While training is one use case, there are plenty of other workforce management features that can be automated, Lango said. For instance, if an agent ends a call at 4:58 pm just before her schedule ends at 5:00, you can write a rule to deliver a screen pop that says, “You’re done for the day. No more calls.” The same approach can be used just as effectively for pre-lunch break calls.
“It’s important to give your agents a break, so they can do something positive with their time, without hurting your bottom-line metrics,” Lee said. “In fact, surveys show that about three-fourths of employees rank work-life management programs are important to improving their personal well-being.”
Lango added that greater flexibility in scheduling is one of the keys to retaining agents. “After all, the cost of attrition is ten times as high as anything else in the budget,” he added “So, we have to rethink how automation can address that issue.”
Enterprises have other opportunities to use automation tools to improve performance and enhance both employee and customer experiences. “We recently brought our back office and contact center together,” Lango said. “That allowed us to take the benefits we observed in the contact center and write the same rules for the back office team.”
Another benefit is taking away the routine transaction work, Lee said. “Let your agents handle those ‘moments of truth’ with your customers, rather than checking on payments or order status. Automation allows you to make the most effective use of your resources to deliver the best possible customer experience.”