Published: February 24, 2020 | Comments
Agents have the power to transform customer experience if you equip them with the speed, skills, and focus they need to deliver exceptional service during every interaction and across every channel, every time.
While great customer experience is something that each organization strives for, unfortunately, it is not something that is consistently achieved. In fact, the need to do a better job is so great that customer experience management is projected to be an important growth market for the future economy.
Why do many contact centers still fail to deliver consistently great customer experiences? The problem often lies in the fact that agent experience is inextricably tied to customer experience. Contact centers have historically struggled to manage competing business goals like efficiency and revenue—and, as a result, factors that lead to great agent experience have frequently suffered.
However, more business leaders are recognizing that it is the agent experience that genuinely impacts the customer’s relationship with a brand. Agents are on the front lines, interacting with customers every day, understanding their needs and wants, and solving their core issues. Agents have the greatest effect on customer experience, and in the long term, have the power to exponentially grow customer brand loyalty and lifetime value.
As contact centers are seen less as cost sources, and more as revenue drivers, there is a renewed interest in optimizing the agent experience. To do that, it’s first important to identify the pain points within the contact center industry that act as barriers to great agent experience, and ultimately, barriers to great customer experience:
Agents find themselves saddled by using multiple, disparate systems, products, and processes in order to deliver quality service. In fact, agents spend 16% of their time looking for data across 4 to 7 apps while interacting with customers. This number increases for agents working at the enterprise level (500+ seats), where 50% report that they regularly toggle between 7+ apps during a single customer interaction. But the problem doesn’t stop at using complex systems. With the proliferation of new customer channels like messaging and social, agents must learn more about handling interactions in these channels, as well.
Organizations have a hard time finding and sourcing a multitude of well qualified candidates. Attrition due to a lack of motivation continues to be an issue in the industry—particularly early on in agent tenure—with about 25% of agents leaving an organization within their first 12 months and 20% of agents leaving the contact center, but moving to a different role within their organization, during the same time frame. Poor attendance and low adherence to compliance standards and job training requirements are also motivational barriers for agents.
Problems with performance are tied to the issues of complexity and motivation. But they tend to be even more evident in contact centers that fail to show agents what the contact center’s overall goals are and how agents can help achieve those overall goals. Agents are unable to see their impact and stop embracing the work. Subsequently, the customer experience always suffers.
So, how can we begin to turn the tide for agents? How can we empower, engage, and equip agents in order to improve their contact center experiences? What do they need to become agents of change who can transform customer experiences?
The answer lies in three critical on-the-job factors: agents need speed, skills, and focus. But there are a myriad of ways that contact center leaders can better implement these factors across their teams. We’ll explore some in-depth strategies below.
Agents love to solve customer issues. They list this as their #1 motivator on the job. But crawling through multiple, disparate systems to get the job done is a major source of frustration because it slows them down. You can help agents resolve customer issues faster, on the first try, by giving them easy-to-use tools. To do this, we’ve identified a few of the most important focus areas below:
- Clean up cluttered agent workspaces with a single, unified desktop housing all the information an agent needs to quickly and easily handle interactions.
- Provide access to omnichannel tools, so agents can serve customers across their channels of choice.
- Facilitate collaboration and communication across the contact center, so that supervisors can support agents during interactions in order to improve first-call resolution.
We’ll never be able to solve problems with agent motivation and attrition if we don’t confront the issue of training. Because of complex systems, agent onboard training typically focuses more on tools and processes—when it should be focused on building high value skills like communication, problem solving, and customer service. We can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to agent training, either.
We need to identify skills gaps and devote the appropriate amount of training time to close these gaps. In short, we need to devote more time to the right type of training. Here are a few ideas for how to go about doing this:
- Collect customer feedback and perform internal quality assessments to highlight areas for improvement and additional training.
- Provide custom learning packages during agent downtime that are easily digestible.
- Make knowledge management easy to navigate for trusted answers.
There’s no doubt that better agent performance leads to consistently great customer experiences. To boost performance, your agents first need to feel invested and driven in their roles. How can you inspire these sentiments across your center to better engage and focus agents? Here are some strategies:
- Pursue agent accountability with transparency. Provide real-time visibility into agents’ personal goals and how each agent’s performance impacts overall business goals.
- Increase performance metrics through team collaboration.
- Design culture-centric, personalized incentive and reward programs.
You can’t improve customer satisfaction without first improving agent satisfaction. That’s why 86% of customer experience executives believe agent engagement is the #1 driver of quality customer experience. By integrating and implementing the strategies we’ve discussed here, you can begin to turn the tide for your contact center team members—and empower them to become agents of change for best-ever customer experiences in the future.
For a deep dive look at agent experience and engagement across contact centers of all sizes today, watch the webinar "3 Ways Agent Experience is Boosting Customer Experience."