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Three lessons I learned while shadowing customer support reps

I’ve never worked in customer service. Not even in retail. I had one stint as a historic interpreter that required me to speak to community members, but when it comes to really understanding the daily routine of a customer service professional, I’m at a loss.

This meant that when I joined Ada to help market its customer service chatbot, I could only leverage my experience as a customer. I could speak about what delighted and frustrated me about dealing with support and yet, my understanding remained one-sided. In order to properly demonstrate the benefits Ada’s AI-powered chatbot brings to businesses, I needed to understand the challenges faced by the other side of customer support: the agent.

Fortunately for me, empathy is one of Ada’s values and is at the core of how we build our customer service chatbot platform. We don’t simply ask ‘does this work?’ but ‘is this the easiest and best experience for all parties?’. As part of this strategy, members of our team are invited to shadow our clients’ customer service representatives for ‘a day in the life’ experience.

This opportunity provides us with:

  • an in-depth look at the agent’s routine
  • insight into how our automation is helping
  • a chance to identify ways to improve the CX model

I saw this as an amazing chance to fill my knowledge gap, not with facts and data, but with real conversations and first-hand experiences with agents. I headed to our clients’ call centre, grabbed my own headset, pulled up a chair, and joined three customer service representatives for a day of invaluable lessons that I’ve shared below:

Lesson One: Agents must be provided with the time and tools to show the customer they care.

Terms like ‘impatient’ or ‘frustrated’ are often associated with customer service agents, leading to an overall impression that they’re disengaged, disconnected, and disorganized. What I found, however, was exactly the opposite.

The representatives, driven and fulfilled by their passions for solving problems and helping others, chose to pursue 25+ year careers in customer service. Both when speaking with me and live on calls, each rep acknowledged and empathized with customers’ complaints, and showcased their dedication to improve their experience. From changing their tone and choice of words when speaking with elderly customers, to sharing personal anecdotes that humanize themselves to stressed callers, to going the distance by providing discounts and upgrades to maintain loyalty when required, I witnessed each agent use their own unique problem-solving strategies, all rooted in a genuine desire to help the customer.

Lesson Two: Agents’ expertise should be prioritized, and maximized.

My customer service reps were like encyclopedias of product, process, and pricing information. If they didn’t know the answer themselves, they knew where to find it, even if it required them to navigate through complex internal support tools.

I had the pleasure of watching the agents apply their decades of expertise to handle escalating issues and heated customers, shifting customers’ negative experiences to positive ones that maintained their loyalty. But, I also witnessed many conversations where the value of the agent’s knowledge was lost when they had to waste their valuable time and effort answering simple inquiries like password resets and basic FAQs.

Lesson Three: Agents are embracing automation

An agent’s desk is not sterile, grey, or lifeless. Instead, it’s covered in motivational quotes, pictures of families, flyers for upcoming socials, thank you cards, and more. Because for many the position of a customer agent is not a ‘side gig’, but a full-time career that provides stability, flexibility, and opportunities for growth. That’s why, after introducing Ada’s chatbot, I wanted to understand if AI-powered automation had strengthened or weakened their day-to-day routine.

I wanted to know: Is Ada a friend or foe of the agent? And the answer was unequivocally the former.

As customers turn to Ada for self-service, the volume of repetitive questions entering the call centre has dropped. With the potential for commission and awards for quality of service on the line, this means Ada empowers agents by limiting the number of inquiries in their queue. This grants them more time to handle higher-profile opportunities that expand their skill set and earn them these recognitions.

Even more interestingly, one rep shared than many members of her team are actually using Ada’s chatbot to automate answers, and then relay them live on the call to the customer.

As we continue to evolve Ada’s brand, we’ve started sharing the line, ‘Use your humans wisely’. After just a day of joining challenging conversations, witnessing the volume of inquiries, and getting to know the passionate agents leading the charge, I see more value than ever in this sentiment.

The use of customer service chatbots will only continue to rise, and if businesses learn to use their humans wisely, this shift will allow agents to re-invest their time, knowledge, and care into moments that matter - to both them and the customer.

As our clients introduce Ada across new channels and with greater functionality, I will continue my commitment to building our brand with expertise, empathy, and understanding, and look forward to visiting more clients in the future.

Reach out to learn more about how our empathy-based platform can benefit your team.

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