This blog post is based on an interview with Lali Lobzhanidze, a Senior Interaction Designer, at ChaiOne.
Have you ever been overcharged on a utility bill? It probably made you upset. What did you do next? Did you contact customer service? Did the agent put you on hold for a long time? Did you get the issue resolved? If you’re like most people, you would have probably gotten frustrated or upset because you had to wait a long time just to find out that the agent couldn’t resolve your issue.
This isn’t only frustrating for you, but it’s probably not much better for the agent on the other end of the line. It’s even worse if every single agent is having problems trying to resolve issues because all of this adds up to upset customers, unhappy agents, and poor customer retention. These factors spell disaster for any energy company.
So how can an energy company fix these issues? To start, the company can figure out the source of the problem and then start brainstorming solutions. One problem that energy companies face is the fact that agents are using old applications or systems that are hindering their performance. Call center agents complain that programs are too complicated, aren’t logical, and everything is cluttered. Since there are so many things going on in one screen, it’s easy to lose time trying to figure out the next steps to take or where to click.
Even though many companies have tried to replace these old CRM/ERP systems with newer ones, agents continue to use the older ones or both, which wastes money and time. This happens because agents can’t find the data they need in one system and have to defer to the other. All the data an agent needs might not be stored in the new system or it may just be because the agents don’t know how to use the new system to find this information. This can cause real headaches and elongates the process of finding information and resolving issues.
To resolve this issue of having various CRM systems, energy companies should focus on creating one system that will hold all information and is user-friendly. All data should be in a specific place that is easy for agents to find. Programs need to be logically sound and intuitive so that it won’t take too long for agents to learn the new program. In order to make a more simple, user-friendly call center application that is designed well, user research is needed. User researchers need to go and observe agents doing their work to see how tasks are being done and how agents are handling calls. They need to take notes on things such as: how long certain tasks are taking, how many clicks are required, if there are any distractions, etc. With all this research, designers can build a better call center application and user experience.
The design of an application goes beyond just making it prettier. For example, we found that a common problem call centers had was not connecting well with customers and a lack of knowledge on them, which makes it hard to build a strong relationship. To build better rapport, a call center application could have a custom background that changes based on a customer's zip code. In addition, a local weather widget can help agents by giving them something to talk about with customers. This allows agents to carry on a conversation with customers while they are waiting for information to load.
Another problem that call center agents have to deal with is a cluttered screen with too many notifications and alerts. Agents would receive pop-up notifications that would cover up valuable information on windows until they were closed out or pop-ups would transfer agents to different pages. A solution to this problem would be creating designated areas for specific notifications and alerts in convenient and helpful modules. For instance, if a customer’s contract is ending soon, the agent would receive an alert to remind the customer to renew. The alerts could come up as modules that agents can drag to a second screen and arrange there, which wouldn't block the main view. This redesign would allow agents to multitask better and find things easier. In addition to this, you could redesign workflows to decrease the amount of clicks it took to perform certain tasks.
One thing that call center agents may not realize is how colors on the screen are affecting them. It's common for old systems to give agents the ability to customize screens and use whatever background they want. However, some would choose backgrounds that had bright colors which would cause eye fatigue. To alleviate this issue, you would need to conduct research and create a screen with specific colors that are better for people's eyes. The color schemes need to make it more comfortable to stare and read text on a screen for long periods of time.
By redesigning the application and creating a better UX, agents are able to find information quicker, solve problems faster, and provide better service to customers.
Conducting research is a key part of designing applications. Without that information, it will be hard to come up with a well-designed solution that helps businesses meet KPIs and goals. Designers and researchers have to really understand all the issues, problems, and frustration points. Remember to approach the design by considering all these factors. Make sure the design is logical and not just a prettier interface. This will be a tool that people use every day and any small mistake can cause many problems.
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