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Are Your Agents Truly Happy?

I started a discussion on one of the social media outlets the other day about the agent being the most valuable person in a contact center. Within a few hours after posting the first replies started to come in. It was unanimous. Everybody agreed with my statement. (Of course!)

The weird thing is, when I speak to CEOs, owners and other top executives in the contact center, they never ask me what they can do to help these agents. I always end up in a discussion about KPI’s, costs and implementation times. Understandable, but I believe this is completely backwards.

About 10 years ago I worked in marketing for a large insurance company and was looking to outsource some work. I visited multiple contact centers and a few things were always the same. Agents were in cubicles, and management offices were way away from the agents. And every manager proudly touted how productive, fast and efficient their agents were. 

From my experience though, that wasn’t the case. I had entered a playground, so it seemed. One agent in particular stands out in my memory. He was reclined in his chair, feet on the desk, keyboard in his lap, having a conversation like he was talking to a friend. What was going on?? Management took me to an open area in the middle of the contact center and we spoke about agent empowerment, agent morale, and happy agents. This made me realize that all my KPI’s were wrong, I should be focusing on the customer interaction and the dialogue, not calls per hour. I should be creating happy customers!

This is where I wanted to do business! Why? The agent is the voice of my company. So it’s critical to make sure they are happy.  Happy agents will result in happy customers. Happy customers will result in happy clients. I was a client and I was happy, really happy! I benchmarked this contact center against a couple of other contact centers. The happy agents scored 300% higher than all the others. Needless to say we worked with this contact center for 9 years straight.

Now I’m part of this contact center myself (and yes I’m happy as well). Now I see up-close that this happy agent philosophy is not just something they try, it’s in their DNA. Now that I’m in the middle of things, I can see that this philosophy has many extra benefits as well.

For example, we have an attrition rate with our full time agents between 5-10% over the last 5 years. I’ve seen numbers of over 50% attrition in the US market. Our attrition is so low, that 60% of the agents that worked for me 10 years ago are still here in the company.

Want an even better example of how important our agents are for us? When our founder Ad Nederlof (former CEO of Genesys) started our company, we started on a big vendor platform. At the same time we started to work on our home bred developed cloud based platform. Most importantly, we involved our agents with the development of this platform from the start. Who better to ask how  a dashboard should work than the agents who use it? Even today, 95% of our roadmap is created on input of our agents. 

If you buy a car, you expect this car to be developed by people who know how to drive a car. If you go to a restaurant, you expect that the cook knows what his food tastes like. Then why are all the major platforms out there being built by tech guys who don’t ever step foot in a contact center?

It all seems counterintuitive, which is exactly why we want our agents involved in the process. This way they’re not just told they are important, they are shown they're important!

Are your agents truly happy?  Does the culture in your contact center impact the customer experience in a positive way? Drop me a line via email or LinkedIn and I’ll be happy to share how our platform built by the agents and for the agents and led to extraordinary rates of employee and customer satisfaction.

I’ll give you one more bit of advice on how to keep those agents really happy: invest in good coffee! :)