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Is It Time to Invest In Agent Experience?

happy officeSome interesting poll results at our latest webinar suggest inadequate attention is being paid to agent experience, unless that’s being addressed outside our audience’s planning and spending efforts. At the same time, there is a lot of discussion that places agent experience at the center of customer experience – happy workers make customers happy, happy customers spend money, cost us less, and keep our stakeholders happy.

In terms of planning and spending, we aren’t seeing agent experience at the top of strategic customer service priority lists. It is on the list, but not at the top. Vendors might tell us that is because tech and service investments being made to optimize other parts of the customer service value chain are also improving agent work experience, but that may be optimistic. Even if the features are there, they have to be implemented, and managers, supervisors, and staff all need to know how to use the tools effectively.

Their learning time is part of the required investment as is the time required to customize an AX plan for your specific situation. And that extends far beyond decisions about cloud architectures and solution partnerships. Agents’ (and every other employee’s) experience should reflect the organizational culture. That culture should determine how you tie the work being done in your contact center to your strategic direction and mission.

It is a lot of work. But if the happy agent = happy stakeholders formula and our impression around priorities are both correct, this might be a good time to make those investments and gain a long-term competitive advantage for your organization’s contact center and support department.

Spending thoughtfully and intentionally on agent experience should help attract and retain the very best veteran and rookie employees to your contact center. They will happily share their opinions and suggestions about how they do their work. They’ll enthusiastically help teach and inform their colleagues and peers, as well as their customers.

Finding AX budget – and allies

Assuming you see the merit of focusing on AX as a strategic lever, where is the best place to spend whatever budget you can dedicate to AX?

And where can you go to increase that budget? Those are actually very closely related questions. Figure out who gets the most benefit from your teams’ performance, tenure and expertise and you’ll know who you can ask for support. If marketing recognizes the massive value of an engaged, expert and communicative agent cohort, for example, they may be willing to share some of their budget or other resources.

Drawing the straight line from agent job satisfaction to happy customers and continuing, profitable revenue is certain to grab and keep the CFO’s attention, as well. Even if that isn’t going to help you invest more this year, allies can help you refine and make your case that agent experience is a strategic lever that should be prioritized when budget is available.

So, where should you dedicate those hard-won resources to cost-effectively improve your agents’ experience and performance?

Taking stock and targeting investments

As with all business process evolutions, a critical first step is to establish best practices that should govern agents’ workflow, focused as much on how they can access and use tools as on how they interact with an individual customer or colleague. Try to place some sort of value against each step in the process. Then measure your current structure and flow against that model.

Again, be sure to identify all of the downstream consumers of the data and insight your team provides, as well as the places where your contact center’s good or bad performance has immediate and significant impact for other teams.

At the end of the exercise, you’ll have modeled, cataloged, and established a value/priority for tasks and collections of tasks agents perform. You also will identify gaps and targets for automation, elimination, and investment moving forward. Where things don’t line up, you’ve established a reasonable place to evaluate potential investments, and a list of requirements that solution providers must address to earn that investment.

Over the coming months, ICMI will continue exploring AX optimization and AX investment strategy in our webinars, surveys, expert interviews, and research reports. And we look forward to hearing from all of you about how the ICMI community is leveraging AX to create and preserve competitive advantage.