Why problem solving matters in the contact centre
In recent years, South Africa has established itself as a prime location for outsourcing services for global organisations operating across industries and sectors – in May this year, the country was named the second most favoured offshore location for contact centre delivery globally for the second year in a row, behind India and ahead of the Philippines, according to Ryan Strategic Advisory’s annual 2020 Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey. This achievement is based on several factors, such as the country’s neutral accent, cost effectiveness, and, importantly, the country’s large and skilled talent pool.
The need for individuals working in contact centres who have the right personable skills, can manage stress and are excellent problem solvers cannot be over emphasised – especially today. South Africa’s national lockdown and continued social distancing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a further necessity for consumers to engage with contact centres more regularly, and the agents in these organisations will have to adapt quickly to the ‘new normal’ and require excellent problem solving skills.
A world of faceless interactions
“There has certainly been a spike in the number of calls coming through to contact centres worldwide in the last few months, as consumers seek to make faceless contact with their service providers in search of support, information or assistance. When contacting a business or service provider, the contact centre agent is seen as a direct link to the business. It does not matter to the consumer whether they are directly employed by the business in question or by a BPO provider – they are a direct representation of the business the consumer seeks to contact. As the needs of consumers change and evolve, the contact centre will need to do the same – focusing on the agents first,” says Mathew Conn, Group CRO at Merchants.
A recent Merchants survey found that one of the biggest frustrations amongst respondents was having to contact a business multiple times to resolve a query. Similarly, for those who had had a positive experience with a contact centre, 72% said this was due to the agent solving their problem, while 69% said the agent was friendly. It is no surprise then that when asked that the most important trait is in a contact centre agent, the top result was ‘problem solving ability’.
A nation of problem solvers
“South African contact centre agents are known for their problem solving ability, and I believe this is what puts the country at the forefront of becoming the next BPO destination of choice as businesses look to outsource into multiple regions,” says Conn. “While customers often point out the empathy of South African agents and their ability to understand the client concerns and problems, which results in an improved customer experience, I believe the ability of local agents to understand a problem, analyse it, develop resolution options and then implement these steps is what truly sets the country apart in terms of its BPO offering. This problem solving ability is certainly driven by the wide range of talent available and is the reason that South Africa has a reputation for delivering superior customer experience scores when it comes to Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Key Quality Scores (KQS) and First Contact Resolution (FCR).”
South Africa’s large talent pool is wide ranging in terms of age, race, cultural affiliation, language, and skills set. Job creation is going to become critical for economic recovery post-COVID, and the expected growth in the BPO industry means it is well positioned to play a positive role in this regard. The introduction of best practice and digital recruitment platforms, which incorporate behavioural profiling, can assist businesses in understanding how this talent pool can work best in terms of their specific needs – such as MyCalling from Merchants.
The human touch
The second most important trait, according to the local survey, was personality, followed by knowledge of products and services. “While technology is able to fulfill many roles and automate most end-to-end processes, the contact centre will always be an environment where the human element is critical – and I believe this is going to become even more important as we move into the ‘new normal’ and faceless interactions between businesses and their consumers continues to increase,” says Conn.
Businesses and BPO providers alike will need to focus on hiring, training and upskilling agents specifically around problem solving as they look to provide the best possible CX in order to hold on to market share in an increasingly competitive environment.
“There is no doubt that the contact centre agent of the future is a problem solver first,” concludes Conn.