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Customer Satisfaction: Don't Tie Your Agents' Hands

Mat Zucker, chief creative officer of the New York-based marketing firm OgilvyOne Worldwide, recently wrote in Faster Times that he was less than impressed with a customer complaint response he got from Rite-Aid pharmacy but more than impressed with the car rental company Enterprise. What was the difference in the two experiences? Enterprise employees are empowered to solve customer issues on the spot, without escalating to a manager or putting the customer into a dead-end hopper of comments and complaints. "Enterprise is connecting with a nerve in the culture and reflecting it authentically through their culture —something successful brands do," wrote Zucker.

Agent Empowerment Statistics

Unfortunately, only about one third of call center's are empowering their agents in the same way that Enterprise does with its employees, according to research ICMI conducted in 2011. That means that the majority of call center agents are not able to satisfy customers on the spot by way of leeway on accounts, credit or other activity (see graphic).Source: 2011 ICMI Balancing Call Center Efficiency and the Customer Experience Report
(Source: 2011 ICMI Balancing Call Center Efficiency and the Customer Experience Report)

Of course, no organization can be expected to give agents total control of customer accounts or business practices, but where can you empower them? It’s an important question that will impact your contact center’s first-call resolution (FCR) rate and overall customer satisfaction (C-Sat) scores. One way to find the answer is to create and maintain a formal process for agent input on the customer experience. Nearly half of the centers surveyed said they do this, but the trick is to make sure that you do something with it. Agents can tell you if there’s a frequent issue or complaint: Once you've understood what so many customers want, you’re better able to create a solution for agents to deliver to the customer at the right moment.

And if you can’t give the customer absolute satisfaction – a credit or a product that doesn’t exist or is permanently out of stock, for instance – the agent can still deliver a good experience. How? Training that helps agents develop and emotional connection with customers can empower them to create a positive customer experience. Desktop tools can provide agents with quick access that allows them to explain the situation quickly and thoroughly.

It’s in every contact leader’s power to find a way to free your agents’ hands up deliver customer satisfaction. Start by listening to your customers and to your agents and then finding a way to put what you learn into action.