Improving agent experience is essential for happy customers and employee retention, but where do you start? What is the role of agents in a digital-first contact center? How does this impact the customer journey? What do agents really need to do their jobs well? How can leadership uncover key areas to improve?
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There’s a lot to consider when it comes to improving the customer experience, and it goes beyond just the simple issue intake and resolution support process. Your agents can make all the difference in the end result of an interaction, so investing in their engagement is the secret to customer satisfaction.
Keith Dawson, VP & Research Director at Ventana Research has the answers. We sat down with him for a Q&A session which can be read in full here. Read below for excerpts and a summary of the discussion.
A new era of support
Digital contact channels put a lot more information and choice into the hands of Customers.
From the agent’s point of view, that makes the job somewhat harder, but also potentially more rewarding because of its variety and higher skilling. With digital channels, interactions extend longer into the future as agents may have to source information from other employees or from different software applications. Chat sessions may pause and resume again later with the customer expecting continuity.
These shifts from the traditional one-and-done voice call require different metrics to measure performance. They also require different types of training and tools that are easy to use and navigate in the moment of critical customer touches. Ease of use has to be reflected in everything from agent’s real-time dashboards to their quality assessments. The new era of digital interaction puts a premium on tools that simplify how agents operate: desktops that allow them to move between applications using a single pane of glass, for example. Or automated virtual assistants that surface relevant bits of info or suggest what steps they should take next.
Investing in agent experience eliminates repeat costs
Dawson makes a clear case for improving agent work setups and tools in relation to boosting customer experience, but the investment pays dividends elsewhere, too.
A contact center’s largest cost is its agents. The hiring, training and retention of agents is incredibly expensive and the average turnover of customer-facing agent positions sits at around 25% quarterly. You read that right, there are some centers that are churning through their entire frontline staff in a little over a year!
The total cost of the time, resources, and management intervention that contact centers are spending to have agents trained, retained, and succeeding completely eclipses the expense of investing in resources that will maximize customer happiness and support efficiency. So it makes sense that the first way to invest in your agent experience is to start with the technology that they use day-to-day. Your customer support software should meet, if not totally go beyond, all of an agent’s needs and also offer the ability to scale with the needs of your business as things change and flex.
Having a simple, pain-free desktop that allows simple navigation and retrieval of pertinent customer data as well as helpful internal learning resources like knowledge centers and eLearning can help to activate teamwide collaboration and work towards improving agent experience. Using digital channels like agent to agent chat creates an environment where agents feel supported and can be more productive, something that is easily made possible with a unified, digital-first customer support software solution.
Customer service environments should be enjoyable
Customer service environments should be enjoyable for both agents and customers alike. Customer satisfaction and agent experience are inextricably linked. Customer satisfaction levels can be attributed in large part to how efficiently agents can do their jobs. Agents that are efficient and maximize customer satisfaction are generally happier because they are performing well in their role.
AI can help bridge gaps
Customers want reliability and consistency, which is the same experience that your agents want, yet customers’ voices are prioritized more, as they have a great impact on revenue and brand reputation.
AI can help bridge the gaps in customer demand and agent experience by transforming customer interactions through automation, immediacy, and self-service.
Through AI-powered chatbots, customers have access to reliable support 24/7. Chatbots can be configured to guide customers to self-serve, eliminating the need to speak to a customer service agent. Customers can forget long wait times and frustration trying to get answers to questions. AI improves customers’ ability to get the answers they need quickly and efficiently.
AI doesn’t need to remove human agents entirely. In fact, it actually improves the interactions between agent and customer. By collecting the necessary information, AI chatbots, for example, can route customers through the proper channels to best handle an issue. It can identify needs early and escalate accordingly.
Data analysis is also an important benefit of AI. By analyzing customer data, AI can help agents determine what customers want and need. AI can collect this information through sentiment analysis, analyzing all interactions and recognizing keywords and outcomes. Businesses are then able to improve how chatbots and live agents handle customer inquiries.