Making the Case for Agent Engagement

With the customer experience being such a buzzword in the contact center world, the agent experience doesn't get as much attention as it should. After all, the customer experience directly relates to the agent experience, which depends on engagement and empowerment. Agent engagement and empowerment are essential elements of the overall success of a business's customer interaction efforts, as happy agents make for happy customers.

There's been a lot written recently about employee engagement, much of which applies to contact center agents. What do we mean by engaged employees? According to Aon Hewitt's Model of Employee Engagement, engaged employees:

  • Say positive comments about the organization to coworkers, potential employees, and customers
  • Stay with the company because of a sense of belonging and desire to be a part of the organization
  • Strive for greater success and are motivated to be successful in their jobs and for the company

Studies have proven a direct correlation between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. In its 2017 State of the American Workplace report, for example, Gallup wrote:

Some leaders and managers believe the ultimate goal of employee engagement is higher levels of worker happiness and satisfaction. Happier workers certainly benefit an organization, but the real goal of employee engagement is improved business outcomes. Engaged employees contribute to the economic health of their company and the nation in ways that other employees do not. Employees who are engaged are more likely to stay with their organization, reducing overall turnover and the costs associated with it. They feel a stronger bond to their organization's mission and purpose, making them more effective brand ambassadors. They build stronger relationships with customers, helping their company increase sales and profitability.

Clearly, as contact center agents are the customer-facing employees for organizations, agent engagement must be a priority. The Gallup study notes the following as key elements of employee engagement: employee recognition; open communication; technology and tools that reduce complexity; contextual understanding of their contributions; and collaboration, including tools for effective teamwork. Looking at this through a contact center lens, these elements are all essential -- and contact center technologies play a large role in agent engagement.

Technologies Can Help

Contact centers can take advantage of the various technologies for enhancing agent engagement. These include analytics, collaboration, enhanced routing, gamification (especially helpful for motivating agents), and more.

By giving agents visibility into what's going on, analytics help to empower agents. Contact centers collect a lot of data and information about agent performance, customer satisfaction, and more. Until recently, contact centers had a hard time getting a handle on all of this data, and so much of it went to waste. Today's tools help organizations make sense of all of the information contact centers collect.

Capturing information at every stage of the customer journey and marrying it with information about the customer makes agents more knowledgeable about the customer and why he or she is contacting the company. This in turn empowers agents to provide better and faster service. Using analytics, companies can now not only understand the data and information and what it means, but also can make the insight actionable -- meaning, they can use it to fine-tune operations and agent training.

I recently wrote a No Jitter article about business communications, which BCStrategies defines as: The tools and technologies that help businesses and organizations of all sizes and types communicate and collaborate internally and externally with people, groups, devices, and machines to optimize processes, achieve business outcomes, serve customers' needs, and optimize customer and employee engagement. As unified communications, collaboration, messaging, and contact center technologies come together, along with mobility, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things, these integrated business communications technologies help improve contact center operations and the agent experience. For example, agents who are able to collaborate with supervisors or subject matter experts outside of the contact center can get information they need to best serve the customer.

Using AI helps agents find the answers and information they need more quickly and easily, while offloading mundane tasks, thus improving agent engagement. In many cases, contact center work can be dull and repetitive, as agents often answer the same questions over and over again. A contact center can employ bots to answer basic questions and do mundane tasks, optimizing an agent's ability to focus on more complex and challenging issues. With easier access to information and the right resources, agents can better resolve customer issues, leading to better job satisfaction.

Empowering agents to make decisions to best serve customers' needs rather than just reading a script is another way to enhance agent engagement. For example, using company knowledge bases and AI assistance, agents can use their judgment to make exceptions when appropriate, providing better customer experiences and raising the level of their own job satisfaction. This can lead to more upsell and cross-sell opportunities, resulting in increased revenues.

Conclusion

Agents who are motivated, engaged, and empowered are happier and more satisfied with their jobs and will provide better customer care.

To hear more from me on agent empowerment, tune into a webinar with Sharpen Technologies I'll be participating in on Thursday, Aug. 2. We'll drill down into how organizations can empower agents and improve the overall customer experience, leading to more satisfied and loyal customers. Remember, happy agents lead to happy customers, and happy customers are loyal customers.

BCStrategies is an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.