I recently sat down with Paula Grigsby, Manager of TAP Information, and Gail Harvey, Executive Officer of Customer Care/Communications at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to discuss all things contact center! From agent AND customer care, PCI compliance, and the constantly evolving changes in their industry, we covered it all.
In a contact center that handles 24 different member transit agencies, the TAP Information contact center handles general account inquiries, new accounts, lost Transit Access Pass (TAP) cards, balance transfers, and everything in between. With intentionality around both customer care and agent care, this team works diligently handling thousands of inquiries every month via both telephone and email channels.
Metro approaches customer care from the lens of continual improvement; striving for minimal wait times, shorter handling times, and quick response times for customers who engage with their agents via the email channel. Often seeking feedback from their member agencies and customers, Metro is constantly pushing for improvement.
Metro believes that great customer care and great agent care are not mutually exclusive. To arm their agents with the tools necessary to be professional, courteous, and empathetic, agents are trained to approach every call as if it were the agent’s first, and every customer as if they were a VIP. Training is a focal point. Agent’s jobs are demanding; their knowledge base is extensive; changes are constant in the transit industry (from routes to fares); and of course, there is the occasional demanding customer that chooses to use a tone-of-voice that would make most of us cringe. To help agents, Metro provides technology training, stress management courses, and strategies to handle difficult callers so that every agent can thrive and feel safe and supported in their roles.
Metro doesn’t speak about customer care and agent care without talking about data security. As with any organization that takes credit card payments, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) apply to Metro’s departments accepting credit card payments, including their TAP contact center.
In July 2016, Metro implemented IntraNext’s iGuard™ DTMF data capture software solution to address the inefficiencies of pause and resume, and to descope agent workstations. Selecting iGuard as their solution was a “no-brainer” according Grigsby. The impact on business processes and regulatory compliance have been extremely positive; however, it’s the impact on customers and agents that matters most to Metro.
Since the implementation of iGuard, Metro’s contact center has realized improved call handling times, a decrease in agent stress levels, and increased customer satisfaction. The decrease in handling times can be attributed to agents no longer having to repeat credit card information back to the customer, and now that customers drive the data entry it has all but eliminated data entry errors due to language barriers between customers and agents. Metro also reports that the stress on the agents has drastically decreased as they are no longer in possession of credit card details and no longer engage in the verbal exchange of sensitive data.
The benefits don’t stop at the agent. Customers have expressed satisfaction and report feeling more secure not having to provide numeric details of their credit cards over the phone.
iGuard has been a big win for customers and agents and Grigsby is confident in Metro’s ability to secure telephone-based payments.
Before our conversation ended, we took a few minutes to discuss the biggest changes of the past and future predictions related to the contact center industry. Not surprisingly, technology will continue to be the story going forward. Metro will continue to invest in technological advancements and process automation so that customers receive support via multiple channels. Agents skill sets will continue to evolve, and email and chat support inquiries will continue to increase. Both Grigsby and Harvey concur that the amount of phone inquiries will likely decrease, but they will never go away. Phone conversations are still preferable to most customers. The phone channel is also more effective than other channels, according to Grigsby. Written communication channels (email and chat) don’t provide the “opportunity for agents to provide additional clarification or continually check for understanding with customers like the phone channel provides”. There is so much more that can be “understood and communicated when speaking with an individual” vs. trying to infer meaning from written words.
As Metro and the member agencies continue to find ways to increase ridership in spite of increased car ownership and shared ride services, one thing is for sure, Metro’s contact center team will continue to evolve, and their focus will continue to remain on both their agents and their customers.