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Agent Experience: The New Battleground for CX
I recently spoke with a prospective client to get a better understanding of their customer journeys. During the conversation, it became apparent that their agents had become hamstrung by out-of-date technology and processes, coupled with a lack of integration across the business’s core systems. The contact center manager did a back-of-the-envelope calculation showing that their agents have to navigate 23 different systems and tabs during a single customer conversation. A simple task like changing a customer’s contact information might require updates in four separate systems. It's no surprise, then, that the International Customer Management Institute has pegged the attrition rate for contact center agents as high as 33%, with the average longevity of a U.S. contact center employee sitting at only three years.
Given the proliferation of contact center conferences and the column inches dedicated to customer journeys, omnichannel communications, and customer experience (CX), it’s surprising that agent experience rarely scores a mention. As consumers, we are fortunate to have access to beautiful, user-friendly, intuitive applications and smart devices. We don’t tolerate software in our day-to-day lives that slow us down (last week, I uninstalled an app because it took a few seconds too long to load). However, in the contact center industry, we are comfortable making our customer service employees use systems that are hard to use, clunky, and were likely designed for a bygone era. As our workforce gets younger and younger, the gap between an agent’s consumer life and the challenges they experience at work in their contact center role is widening.
Agent Satisfaction & Retention
Customer service agents have one of the most difficult jobs because customers don’t wake up in the morning hoping to call a contact center. They call as a last resort when something has gone wrong, and they can’t resolve it. Forcing agents to toggle through 23 tabs to serve an already unhappy customer is a recipe for an unhappy agent. And with unhappy agents, it’s hard to deliver exceptional and empathic customer service.
So why aren’t we talking about agent journeys rather than customer journeys?
Modern cloud contact centers can now free agents from mundane and repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-level tasks that require a genuine human-to-human connection. At Local Measure, we have a customer who has managed to move a significant percentage of their voice volume to webchat. With some basic FAQs and a knowledge base integration to a simple bot, they have resolved around 25% of all inbound inquiries without the need to escalate to human agents. Over the next five years, they expect this figure to rise to more than 50% as they train their bot to become smarter.
As CX professionals, our first thought when discovering this kind of automation is the incredible cost savings that it can yield. We tend to think of contact centers as cost centers, where costs need to be incrementally lowered. But this misses the more interesting agent experience impact of automation. With mundane and repetitive customer inquiries such as checking account balances, paying bills, or asking for payment extensions now automated, agents skip some of the most time-consuming aspects of their role. So, when calls do hit agents, what remains are the higher value queries where a human agent can make a big impact, making their work more meaningful and satisfying.
A Modern and Intuitive Agent Desktop Reduces Complexity
Imagine a contact center where agents use customer conversation software that’s as intuitive, and easy to use as your favorite iPhone app. If reading that sentence made you feel uncomfortable, don’t worry—the important thing is to start having the conversation about how you could remove friction for agents in performing their role.
You may be surprised by the impact a clean user interface has on agent retention, satisfaction, and the bottom line. My company Local Measure recently had a client report 75% faster training times when we implemented our Engage for Amazon Connect agent desktop and removed their hard to use, legacy on-premise system. With less complexity, agents can deliver a better service, which improves first contact resolution and drives better outcomes for everyone involved. Learn how this technology can help you, today.