Why retaining customer service agents is the secret sauce of successful companies.
Customer experience is arguably the most important differentiator in customer-facing service-oriented sectors, with finance, insurance, healthcare, etc, being some of the biggest. This being the case, customer experience management has become a top priority for most organizations. How high a priority? A recent survey by B-to-B research firm MarketsandMarkets, projected that the customer experience management market would more than triple from just above $5 billion US dollars in 2016 to nearly $17 billion US dollars by 2022.
Live agents are some of the most important links in the customer service management value chain. They are also some of the most expensive links. According to a study conducted by the Human Resource Institute, turnover costs to replace a frontline employee is between $10-$15K. And it takes nearly a year of training (both in classroom and on-the-job) to produce an expert agent well-versed in the full scope of company, and industry-specific issues.
Attrition among call center agents is notoriously high. Statistics portal, statista’s market research found that 29% of male service agents and 37% of female agents did not plan to stay in their current positions. Thus costs associated with agent turnover are not small, and are not to be underestimated.
The Goal: Make the Job Fulfilling
Today’s service-conscious companies realize that loyal and engaged frontline employees are one of their greatest assets. That’s why they’re consistently looking for new ways to retain their call center staff and enhance their job satisfaction – because a satisfied employee is one that stays.
Moreover, a satisfied service employee creates satisfied customers. Good customer service translates into revenue – research found that 55% of customers were willing to pay more for guaranteed good service, and 84% of organizations that actively sought to improve the customer experience reported an increase in revenue.
Company-wide Employee Satisfaction
So, how do we raise agent retention rates and make customer service the revenue generating resource it should be?
Organizations actively seeking to improve agent work environments have a large range of options available to them. Agents need to feel supported and connected, and it’s crucial they believe in the value of what they’re doing. Ways companies have responded include everything from on-the-spot encouragement to periodic recognition to rewards.
Another approach is to focus on making the agent’s daily work life better. This can be achieved multiple ways – trying to reduce the number of calls from angry customers, rewarding faster resolutions, enabling agents to balance challenging tasks with repetitive and boring ones, encouraging them to develop specific domain expertise rather than remaining generalists – the list goes on. Drilling down, here are three specific steps companies can take to keep agents feeling fulfilled:
Automate Simple Tasks
Performing the same task repeatedly becomes very boring, very quickly. Rather than having agents address redundant service requests, consider automating those tasks. This gives agents more time to invest in complex, more interesting support tasks. For example, providing an automated display of a customer’s account balance (upon authentication) or providing basic office information like opening times and locations – these can markedly lower the burden on agents. Keep in mind that the key here is to be effective. If the automation isn’t perceived as being useful and extraordinarily user-friendly, customers won’t use it.
Provide Assistive Tools
Using digital integration tools that match telephone numbers, email addresses and names to customer accounts makes it much easier for agents to locate the correct file quickly. Methods that locate and “pop up” customer information on screen can dramatically smooth the customer service process. Moreover, ensuring consistency of service across all channels goes a long way to help agents provide better service and help customers stay satisfied. For example, if a customer has already provided account details in his or her initial IVR contact, there’s no reason to request details again once the customer transfers to an agent. Forcing a customer to do so, creates unnecessary friction and can push customers to attrition.
Support Specialized Expertise
By reducing the number of generic calls, agents can be encouraged to develop a specialized expertise that can help them address more complex interactions with customers. This is an excellent way to provide call center employees with continual opportunities for self-improvement – raising their sense of self-confidence, enhancing their value to the organization, increasing their sense of loyalty and, ultimately, raising the likelihood that they’ll stay. It’s a win-win: more knowledgeable staff, smoother processes, and a reduction in the frequency with which companies need to hire and train new employees.
The Bottom Line
With more focus on a company’s customer service department than ever before, consumers expect their needs to be met fast, and they also expect the person in the service center to be pleasant and knowledgeable. Without that, they’ll simply seek out the competition. By applying new advancements in customer-oriented technology as support tactics in the call center, many companies have already figured out the right formula to saving money is maintaining their employees, while the right formula to making money is keeping customers happy.