What's the Right type Service Rep in the Age of Self Service?

An article in the January-February 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review says that “Across all industries, fully 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.”

If you’re running an HR Service Center, that should be music to your ears.

If you don’t already have a fully equipped Employee Self Service Portal with access to a well-curated knowledge base, that statistic should be your motivation to make 2017 be the year you make it a priority.

And if you’ve already put a portal and knowledge base in place, but are not seeing results above 50%, perhaps it’s time to take a step back, reevaluate, recalibrate and put some more rigorous processes in place to drive higher results.

But let's go back to the key findings in the article.  

2 Dynamics that Affect Service Quality delivered by Service Center Reps

The article goes on to point out two dynamics that result from this high use of self-service:

  1. As customers handle more of the simple issues themselves, front line service center reps get increasingly more difficult ones.
  2. While companies have invested heavily in self-service technologies, they have not invested proportionally in training reps to handle this higher concentration of complex issue.

The Challenge

So, here’s the challenge:  You’ve been successful in driving employees to self-service.  Employees are using it, and solving all those easy problems on their own.  So now, when they need to speak with a live rep, it’s because the problem is more complex.  Consistently resolving more complex issues requires a team of Tier One service center reps with a different set of skills than before the days of dominant self-service.

What's the right type Service Center Rep to hire in in the Age of Self Service?

To determine the optimal service rep profile to address the challenge, CEB conducted its 2015 Frontline Workforce Fit and Engagement Survey.  The survey results found that reps fall into one of seven profiles listed in the graphic at the end of this article. Then contact center managers were surveyed to determine which of the seven types they preferred to hire.

What types of Service Center Reps do Managers Prefer?

42% of managers interviewed preferred to hire and manage Empathizers, with their empathic and sympathetic demeanor with customers, and their service orientation.

Each of the seven rep types were also rated on their ability to make service interactions as effortless and painless as possible for the customer.  Customer satisfaction, and productivity measures were also factored in to the ratings.

There's another type of Service Rep - the Controller - who tend to be more outspoken, don't follow scripts, but are very solution-oriented.  As you'll see, these reps were not exactly preferred by managers, despite their high scores in productivity and customer satisfaction.

Are those Managers Getting it Wrong?

Here’s the big surprise: The “Controller” reps – those who are outspoken, and more solution-focused than empathy-sympathy-service focused – were the top performers in terms of bottom-line results.  Yet service managers prefer this profile less than all the others.  In fact, only 2% of all service managers said they would hire Controllers ahead of any other type of rep.

Here’s the point:  While an increased use in self-service has changed the requirements for Tier one service representatives, most managers have not changed their hiring practices.

What type rep are you most likely to hire, and how well will they do in resolving today’s more complex customer requests?