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Improving Agent Experiences to Drive CX Improvement

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One of the most common and important points of contact with any brand, service, or other entity is through a call center. If a problem is important or time-sensitive enough to warrant a phone call, both the experience and outcome of the call are likely to have a large impact on a customer’s overall experience.

But providing good CX through this channel is largely about making sure that an organization’s employees are both satisfied in their roles and have the tools and support to carry them out effectively. A new national employee survey from Eagle Hill Consulting published in June 2021 found that nearly two-thirds of US workers believe that employee experience (EX) directly impacts their ability to serve customers. However, just 38% of those survey indicated that their own organization places a great deal of importance on EX and satisfaction.

The Eagle Hill Consulting Employee Experience Survey 2021 was conducted by Ipsos in January 2021, and polled 1,003 respondents from a random sample of employees across the US on a range of EX topics, including technology, diversity, employee engagement (EE), and customer service. One of the most important findings was focused on the use of technology. Although 67% of respondents say technology improves their ability to serve customers, 22% felt that technology makes it harder for them to do their work. Furthermore, 35% of respondents say that technology frustrates them.

Call centers are no different, and in many cases, the lack of up-to-date, fully integrated, and easy-to-use software platforms and applications can make an agent’s job difficult and frustrating, thereby making it more challenging for them to provide excellent CX. Research conducted in 2021 on behalf of Five9 for the International Customer Management Institute noted that contact center survey respondents reported significant CX obstacles, including legacy technology (51%), staffing issues (44%), and a lack of integration between digital and voice channels (37%).

Other key insights included increased agent turnover of 58% year-over-year (YoY), driven by increased workloads and a lack of lack of growth and advancement opportunities, which were cited as the top two reasons for attrition. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic was a key source of increased workload, but agents also cite lacking the necessary tools to do their jobs, as well as the repetitive, monotonous tasks they were being required to handle. Additionally, 92% of respondents believe their agent-facing applications are not as effective as they could be.

Incorporating new and better software platforms and integrated applications can have a significant impact on agent experience, which will translate to better CX. For one, the workforce continues to get younger, and today’s younger workers have grown up with smartphones and other technology that have been designed to be intuitive and easy to use. Forcing agents to work with antiquated, hard-to-use software, while handling difficult customer inquiries is a recipe for frustration and burnout.

Similarly, many agents have experienced automation in their everyday personal lives as customers. Therefore, they expect that mundane and repetitive tasks can and should be automated, enabling agents to focus on higher-value and more rewarding interactions with customers.

In addition to improving the agent’s experience, this can lead to key performance indicator (KPI) improvements. According to Local Measure, a provider of contact center software, a customer was able to move many of its telephone-based call volume to web chats, simply by using a few FAQs and a bot that integrates with its knowledge base. As a result, the customer was able to resolve about 25% of its inbound inquiries without needing the call to escalate to speaking with human agents, and the company expects this figure to increase to 50% within 5 years as the bot is trained on previous interactions to become smarter.

By reducing the friction points often encountered by call center agents, which can include forcing them to navigate multiple systems or screens to find customer information, product information, or previous interaction histories, agents can focus on the actual customer interaction. Instead of fumbling to find information, they can build a rapport with customers, demonstrate empathy for their situation, and potentially even generate a cross-selling or up-selling opportunity. Call centers that can provide a platform that reduces mundane work, while providing more information in a clearer way with less complexity, can improve agent satisfaction and retention. Improving agents’ experiences will allow them to focus on their key objectives of serving customers’ needs and improving financial performance for the company.

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