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Where Are All the Happy Agents?

This post originally appeared the inContact blog.

You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again; happy agents make happy customers! Simple enough, right? So where are all the happy agents?

Chances are good that you already have happy agents inside your contact center. But do you know who they are? Do you know what motivates their happiness?

Ask for Happy Agents

A great place to start is by asking your agents how they feel about your company, your contact center and your customers. But don’t just ask them how satisfied they are; you also need to understand their engagement. While satisfaction will tell you if an agent is content; engagement will identify an agent’s loyalty, connection, and emotional commitment to their role.

Most companies (82%) report surveying all employees as part of their internal experience program, yet only about ½ are specifically asking agents about their engagement.

Those contact centers that don’t measure agent engagement miss out on a vital feedback loop. Consider this: 85% of contact center leaders believe that happy agents make happy customers, and 65% see a connection between the agent’s engagement and a better customer experience. Another 66% have identified linkages between operational efficiency and agent engagement and satisfaction. Who doesn’t want an engaged, efficient and satisfied workforce?

The Picture of Unhappiness

Once you’ve surveyed your agents, it’s time to pay attention to them. An engaged agent doesn’t just come to work every day. They participate in department and company activities, interact with your brand on social media after they go home at night, volunteer for committees, and make their voice heard for the betterment of the team. An unhappy and disengaged agent acts remarkably different.

There is a common misconception that agents disengage because contact centers expect too much from them. Take multichannel for instance. Sure we want agents to handle more customers, more channels, and more complex interactions. And while it’s true that we often ask more, (73% of contact centers added at least one new channel in the last 12 months), and get less; the workload is rarely the true issue.

In our engagement survey it was identified that the agent’s daily ‘life’ was the core influencer on happiness. Essentially, if the contact center experience is perceived to be bad enough or if the unhappiness extends long enough, even the best agent will disengage. And once that happens? Well, you have the picture of unhappiness.

A loss of engagement often manifests in very visible productivity and efficiency behaviors – problematic schedule adherence, lower quality scores, inconsistent activity compliance, missed utilization, and poor customer satisfaction.

Let’s go back to the multichannel example: adding more channels won’t naturally cause inefficiency or a loss of productivity. Nor will it decrease an agent’s happiness. What will though? Implementing new channels without the processes, training, or tools to support them! In fact, if done correctly, new channels are shown to be great for the contact center!

What Do Happy Agents Really Want?

Happy agents mostly want recognition and appreciation, (according to preliminary results of our still ongoing inContact/ICMI survey). And it’s easier to give them that when they are doing a great job aided by the contact center’s infrastructure. How so?

Happy agents require the right technology and tools. In our engagement survey, contact center leaders admitted that there were too many applications for their agents to navigate through. We discovered that each customer interaction required an average of 5 screens to toggle through! A tool like a simplified desktop improves navigation (46%), increases FCR (36%), and gives agents greater confidence (30%) in their customer responses. And over 90% of agents say they are happy with their simplified desktops. Sounds like a solid investment into happiness!

Happy agents want to be empowered. They want to make customer decisions and communicate in a personalized voice. This is possible by having the right QA, training, routing, and workforce management processes in place. Almost ½ of agents say they’ve requested additional training and 31% say that the training they’ve received for new channels – like social – is inadequate.

Finally, happy agents want to be utilized correctly. Don’t send the mundane and simple issues to the agent, (self-service is golden for this); have them instead focus on the high-value and complex interactions. This alignment across channels, queues, expectations and technology will make multichannel a more successful venture for your agents and your customers.

The Agent Experience in the Multichannel Contact Center

In Q3 of 2013, inContact and ICMI launched a survey entitled “The Agent’s Experience in the Multichannel World” where we looked at how contact centers were leveraging the agent – both internally, and externally to meet the demands of the customer.

As a follow-up we are currently surveying contact center leaders on their workforce optimization practices.

If you are interested in learning more, check out “The Multichannel Agent: A 2014 Contact Center Roadmap, Research Report and Best Practices Guide” or the complimentary whitepaper, “Overcoming Productivity and Efficiency Challenges in the Multichannel Contact Center”. Both are available on icmi.com.

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