Subject matter experts (SMEs) are valuable information resources within a customer call center. SMEs are the go-to people for specific information on products, services, policies, quality, marketing, call center technology and more. The good news? SMEs can be developed from within, which helps create a new career path for agents, promotes stronger employee engagement and ultimately boosts retention.
“Think of your subject matter experts as “tier 2 or tier 3 level” in a call center. They are the people that tier 1 escalates their calls too, because the information needed will come from a real subject matter expert. The benefits are endless, but handling the call right the first time is giving the caller a fabulous experience!” says Sharon Tsao, EVP Sales & Marketing, Contemporary Staffing Solutions.
The Benefits of Call Center SMEs
Developing internal subject matter experts has enormous benefits to the business, call center employees and customers who need information and assistance. SMEs are in-house experts on particular processes, products, services, etc. SMEs in a customer call center can assist leads and managers when it comes to training, dealing with escalated calls, and helping transfer knowledge to other team members. Utilizing SMEs also frees up supervisors to spend more time coaching and working with agents, since team members will rely on SMEs for questions related to their area of expertise.
Subject matter experts:
- Feel more engaged in their work as they become the go-to person on a specific topic.
- Can often be developed into team leads or managers over time.
- Promote learning and knowledge transfer – as end users and peers learn from and SME, it creates a ripple effect.
- Improve outcomes for the center.
- Have a positive impact on resolution time.
Identifying Potential SMEs
Identifying potential SMEs requires call center managers to know their team members’ talents, skills and strengths. Talented agents usually have at least one area in which they stand out. Some might be excellent at recalling product specs, others may be procedure wonks, you may have someone who is a whiz on the CRM platform and phone system. It’s important to choose people who already have a solid knowledge base and an interest in the area in which you want them to be an SME.
Formal training on the subject matter is ideal, but call centers just getting started with SMEs are more likely to rely on informal training and knowledge transfer to help SMEs develop their expertise. This includes strategies like shadowing in other departments, attending conferences, sponsoring certifications, assignment to special projects, and one-on-one training with business leaders and managers.
It is also important to think about developing industry-specific SMEs. For example:
- Benefits call centers: Have SMEs shadow members of the HR team to learn the “whys” behind the “hows” of benefits. The can also take classes on HR processes and HR law.
- Insurance call centers: Consider offering insurance license training for agents to help them gain a more robust understanding of how insurance works, what the regulations are that govern it, etc.
- Credit card call centers: The rules and regulations that govern credit are always changing. Develop SMEs that are experts on everything from laws to consumer rights. It also pays to develop SMEs in identity theft and other security-related issues.
- Telecom call centers: Agents that understand the technology of the company they work for can be an invaluable resource to callers.
- Mortgage call centers: Develop sourcing experts, underwriting experts, closing experts, etc. Mortgages are complicated, and customers will benefit from being able to reach people who are experts at every step.
Are You Looking For Subject Matter Experts For Your Call Center?
If your call center is looking to develop SMEs, or if you already have a program in place but you’re looking for the best and brightest SMEs in your nice, the experienced recruiters at CSS are ready to help. As a market leader in customer service call center recruitment, we have cultivated a deep pool of talent who are ready to tackle new challenges. Contact us today to learn more about the ways we can help you achieve your goals.