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Holiday Travel Simplified with Agent Empowerment

By: Mayur Anadkat

As many of you will be traveling this holiday season, I'm sure you can relate to this. I've traveled internationally plenty of times, been in many airports, but this time, recently traversing the Toronto airport, it was different. As I was leaving GTACC, Canada's premier event for the contact center industry, I was blown-away by my horrific experience in this airport. I find it ironic that I just came from GTACC speaking about how customer experience is so critical to business, and then end up with the exact opposite. So here's what happened...

All computers that ran the customs process go down for many hours early in the morning. How long will this take? Will I miss my flight? I still have to go through security after this. Here I am with hundreds of other travelers having the same concerns and anxiously waiting for the customs employees to check passports, fingerprints, and answer questions. Since the computers were down, their best system for backup was one employee manually checking one traveler at a time. I finally asked a customs usher to be moved to the front of the line to avoid missing my flight. They said "don't worry, the airlines are aware we are running late and are holding the planes for passengers." I was lied to. I missed my flight while standing in the customs line. I proceed to call my airline and make a new flight before making it to security. I tell the security usher I missed my first flight. She tells me I have to go back out to the checking counter to get a new boarding pass. Once again, I was completely misinformed. I didn't know this at the time.

I wait in the manual customs line once again, this time a little bit quicker. I tell the new customs usher this is my second time through this line after I missed my first flight. He was very surprised by all the miscommunication and wrong information I received from each person. After this unnecessary 5 hour journey through Toronto airport, I finally make it through customs, miss my flight, customs again, security, and then to the airline gate. I have to let the airline attendant know what I have been through to arrive at this gate. She said "we don't hold planes for passengers, even if there is a hold up at customs or security." So what does all this mean?

It means I encountered 4 agents and none of them will talk to each other to solve a problem, and they all point the finger at someone else when something goes wrong. Sound familiar? Put yourself in any silo-ed contact center's position during a peak volume and it's almost the same. This is an example of why agent empowerment is so critical, regardless of the type of environment or technology. The agents are only trained to know their portion, once a customer moves past their portion, the customer is no longer a concern. Most agents today are not given the right tools or knowledge to solve a problem by working together. There is clearly room for improvement in most organizations that provide customer experience. I say we begin with empowering the agents.

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