Getting the agent experience right can improve your entire contact centre operation – here’s why and how to do it
Author: Simon Black | Date: 25/01/2024
In October and November 2023, CCW Digital surveyed contact centre leaders to understand the Future of the Contact Centre and the full report has just been released with their findings.
The report found that although 2023 was a positive year for agent engagement initiatives, contact centre leaders are only at the beginning of cultivating more empowered, engaged and agent-centric contact centres.
But why is agent experience so important? After all, isn’t it the customer experience that businesses should be focused on? Absolutely. But, if you improve the agent experience then job satisfaction, employee engagement and productivity increases. And those elements inevitably lead to an exceptional experience for the customer.
Contact centres can invest in customer experience initiatives like team expansions, improved compliance processes and state of the art telephony equipment, but if they aren’t focused on the agent experience, then nothing really changes. Agents don’t feel empowered to take ownership and control of their interactions, they don’t feel supported and, in the end, they leave – increasing agent churn rates.
In this article, we’ll dive into why agents are struggling, the benefits of improving agent experience and how to do it.
Why are contact centre agents struggling?
Pressure: Agents are expected to be instant experts, head straight to the right system for what they need (keeping their fingers crossed that there’s no outage) and be able to quickly decipher what the customer actually needs. Agents are so preoccupied with getting everything right and staying compliant, that they’re struggling to deliver the level of service they want to which often leads to feelings of stress and pressure.
The Training: The training process for agents can be lengthy and demanding, exacerbated by complex processes and disparate systems. Training new agents to the point where they can confidently and accurately deal with customer interactions can take weeks or even months. Training often has minimal time for more enjoyable learning for the agents like soft-skills or career development.
Difficult calls: At some point, all agents experience emotionally charged calls. Customers may be angry or upset with something that has happened and the agent often bears the brunt of those feelings. This can be overwhelming and stressful for any agent, and with line manager and senior advisor time having to be balanced across large teams this means agents can be left feeling unsupported and stressed.
Process inefficiencies: With internal project resource needing to be managed carefully, process inefficiencies can go unresolved for long periods of time. Even when agents are experiencing them on a day-to-day basis and know that they’re increasing call length and impacting the customer experience. Unnecessary bottlenecks can lead to agents losing faith that the business they work for is efficient or effective, making them more likely to leave.
What happens when you focus on the agent experience?
Improved training, better conversations, empowered agents: When training is balanced between process knowledge and soft skills, agents feel valued and supported. They’re confident in their ability to provide a great customer experience, reducing the feelings of overwhelm and burnout and boosting feelings of empowerment.
Improved agent satisfaction scores increase customer satisfaction: It’s a well-known fact that there’s a direct link between employee and customer satisfaction scores. Agents who are happy in their role not only speak positively about their employer, but they also set the tone for delivering great customer experiences and driving up satisfaction scores.
Processes improve, call times reduce: When process bottlenecks can be identified and quickly removed, it’s a win win for both agents and customers. Calls flow seamlessly with agents able to guide customers through each step of the interaction confidently. Average handling and hold times decrease, even though customers experience a more enjoyable and efficient call.
Happier agents, decreased churn and tangible financial benefits: It stands to reason that if agents are happier in their roles, they’re less likely to leave the business. Agent churn is a primary concern for many contact centres as it has huge implications on the efficiency and cost performance of the business due to the never-ending cycle of new recruits. Improve agent experience and the churn rate decreases, along with recruitment and onboarding costs.
Although on the surface, it would appear that improving the agent experience is purely for the benefit of the agent, as you can see, it undoubtedly also leads to an improved customer experience.
5 tips to improve agent experience
1. Improve training
Our clients have reported saving 50%+ in time spent onboarding new agents because our agent guidance and assistance technology, eliminates the need for extensive training on multiple platforms and processes. Although real-time agent guidance expedites agent onboarding and reduces training costs, it enables the training time that does take place to be equally balanced between procedural, soft skills and career development, improving the employee experience.
2. Provide real-time guidance to help resolve things quicker
Real-time agent assistance automates many tasks that agents typically have to manually perform during or after a call including information searches or finding customer details. The time saved on these types of tasks naturally increases the agent’s capacity to take more calls without any added pressure. The agent is free to focus on helping customers and delivering a great experience while real-time agent assistance takes care of the rest.
3. Make data available to improve coaching
Using conversational analytics means that coaching is fair across the board. Agents can trust that the coaching feedback they’re given is backed up by easily accessible and reliable data and not just someone interpreting things in their own way. Agents can see how to improve their performance and line managers can quickly implement the right support, improving the agent experience.
4. Automate processes
Automating processes can save a lot of time and eliminate pressure on agents. For example, our data writeback feature enables agents to type something into the front end and it can repopulate that information into other systems. With a two-way data exchange, it can also pull information into the agent’s workflow exactly when it’s needed. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary down-time between calls as agents no longer have to spend time updating multiple systems.
5. Remunerate smarter
If budgets are tight, contact centres may not have considered improving their remuneration package to improve agent experience. But one of our clients uses the money they save from reducing agent churn and awarded it to bonus their current agents. Although financial recompense isn’t always the answer to improving employee experience, when agents also experienced the huge benefits of the Awaken platform, it was a big success.
Happy agents = Happy customers
The Future of the Contact Centre report sums up the focus on agent experience perfectly: ‘The idea of “happy agents = happy customers,” has become as synonymous with customer contact as phrases like “the customer is always right”’.
Today’s consumers are no longer satisfied with the bare minimum, they have high expectations of what great service is and will complain or switch providers if they feel the service isn’t up to scratch, even if the information they were given on the call was correct.
Contact centres that focus on the agent experience to meet these expectations will be the ones who stand out from their competitors and take the lion’s share of customers. If improving the agent experience is a priority for you, our Agent Assist tool – Awaken CoPilot can help.
Awaken CoPilot is our revolutionary new agent assistance tool. It’s secure, easy-to-use and automates repetitive tasks, improving the agent’s ability to manage complex customer interactions.
CoPilot listens and transcribes interactions live, understands and analyses multiple intents, identify entities (such as names and addresses) and uses these to alert and coach the agent. It can also summarise conversations and enable the agent to ask it questions based on the interaction. CoPilot provides human-like responses that are collated directly from the interaction data.
Agent experience benefits of Awaken CoPilot include:
- Let’s them learn one simple process
- Makes their job easier
- Puts the right data at their fingertips
- Let’s them focus on the customer
You can get a free demo to see how we are improving the bottom line of 100s of businesses through contact centre optimisation by contacting the team.