The Great Resignation is placing a higher emphasis than ever on employee engagement, especially in the contact center where attrition rates remain sky-high. Fortunately, agent retention is a fixable problem that’s worthy of strategic attention and investment in technology. As you know, your agents are not only front-line representatives of your brand, but they also have the potential to be an unexpected profit center for your company.
Data from the Unbabel Global Multilingual CX Report shows that, even when communicating with agents in their native language, customers have a low tolerance for poor customer service experiences. On the other hand, if the experience is positive, more than 80% of customers would be more likely to make a repeat purchase. Keeping agents engaged is critical to driving these successful outcomes.
In fact, according to McKinsey, engaged contact center employees are 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within a year, and 3.3x more likely to feel extremely empowered to resolve customer issues. A critical part of agent engagement is equipping these team members with the tools they need to do their jobs effectively, including AI solutions that improve productivity, expand their capabilities and reduce repetitive workloads.
Here are three steps you can take to empower your agents with the right technology.
1. Ensure that new technologies improve agents’ workflows (and the CX)
Before you introduce a new technology to your customer service team, it’s important to carefully evaluate its impact on team dynamics and existing workflows. Technology takes time and effort to adopt. Even if your team has the best intentions, a poor technology vetting process and rollout can result in lost productivity and agent frustration.
With that in mind, when you evaluate new software or technology for your team, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is training and adoption going to be complex and time-consuming?
- Does the solution fit in well with your existing tech stack through plug-and-play integrations?
- Will there be a loss of information, redundancy, or disruption to everyday processes?
These answers will help you understand if it will be easy and intuitive for agents to adopt technology, even during the busiest times. Some technologies can fit seamlessly into an agent’s workflow and improve productivity.
According to a study from Freshworks, 1 out of 3 business leaders in 2022 will prioritize digital platforms that help their service teams work better – including technologies such as AI. Even so, teams must pay attention to how these technologies impact the customer experience, ensuring that interactions still feel personal and human. Think: the exact opposite of a frustrating IVR workflow.
Luckily, by adding AI capabilities to customer service automation, you can deliver more personalized, empathetic, and intuitive support while also saving costs and reducing agent workload. Some commonly adopted applications for AI in customer service include:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) like chatbots and self-service knowledge bases
- Next best action technology, which recommends agents what to do next
- Predictive analytics to predict customer behavior and proactively offer solutions
- Machine translation with humans in the loop that enables seamless multilingual customer service at scale.
2. Use technology to customize agent coaching and training
AI systems can even help agents’ managers and supervisors provide more targeted feedback based on real customer conversations. Platforms such as conversation intelligence can analyze these conversations and pinpoint areas where agents may require additional training or coaching. In highly regulated industries, these systems can be leveraged to track compliance and ensure that agents adhere to stricter guidelines.
Used appropriately, these systems can also help reward positive behaviors. For example, if a star agent repeatedly uses empathetic statements with customers, the rest of the team might benefit from empathy training. Within the last few years of the pandemic, it’s become particularly important for agents to remain empathetic and understanding toward vulnerable customers that may be suffering from financial, emotional, or health-related issues. AI systems can help detect vulnerable customers based on the language they use, and provide in-the-moment coaching notifications to help agents handle potentially difficult situations.
3. Prioritize people over process
It’s crucial to reinforce to your team that AI and other technology is meant to augment agents, not replace them. Putting people over processes means balancing technology like AI with ethical, responsible practices. In addition, providing adequate training and support for agents is critical for both employee engagement and successful technology adoption. Here are some tips on how to prioritize your people over processes and technology rollouts:
- Start with empathy and understand your support team’s motivations, challenges and opportunities.
- Create a collaborative environment where team members can share best practices and learn from one another.
- Keep training updated, and check in on a regular basis with 1:1 coaching.
- Provide access to innovative projects and advancement opportunities to help employees see a future with the company.
- Hire roles across the organization that support and prioritize customer service.
All of these efforts can pay dividends in how customers perceive your brand. In fact, more than half of customers can sniff out when customer service is an afterthought, rather than an imperative. Changing this dynamic starts with your agents. The strategic use of technology should always be paired with training, coaching and opportunities for advancement. Close attention to agent engagement can lead to greater retention, increased job satisfaction and better performance. Not to mention, it’s the right thing to do.