The Financial Impact Of Ensuring Frontline Autonomy
Let’s face it: Customer service — especially the contact center — gets a bad rap. It is usually seen as a cost center — a necessary evil to handle customer questions and complaints. The connection between customer service and customer experience (CX) can often feel a bit muddy. But the reality is that a customer’s experience with the contact center has an enormous impact on their perception of customer experience quality and ultimately on topline (yes, topline) revenue.
Forrester’s 2022 US Customer Experience Benchmark Survey was fielded to more than 96,000 consumers about their experiences with 221 brands, across 13 industries. Our methodology provides the data and insights needed to assess CX quality, understand how CX impacts loyalty intentions, and prioritize improvements that drive revenue. Every year, three customer service drivers come up as some of the most influential in a customer’s perception of CX quality:
- Did the agent answer all of my questions?
- Did the company resolve my problems on the first contact?
- Do agents have the authority to solve problems without their supervisor?
We had a hunch that these mattered more than some might expect, so we dug in. We did a deep dive analysis of these drivers to find out if there is a strong connection between good customer service and increased topline revenue. The answer? Big time!
The High Cost Of Not Empowering Your Agents
Nearly 100,000 consumers have made it clear: They expect customer service agents to have the authority to solve problems without supervisor approval. Unfortunately, many customer service leaders still cling to the belief that their agents are not capable or trustworthy enough to make autonomous decisions. This lack of trust not only leads to earlier and more frequent escalations, but it also comes at a significant cost to your business. For example, home and auto insurers that empower their agents to solve problems themselves could see a whopping $1 billion in incremental revenue. Airlines that do the same could see an $833 million boost to their top line. The benefits of improving the other two key drivers are also enormous.
How can companies move the needle on agent autonomy? Here are three places to start:
- Create a culture of ownership. Some customer service leaders may not be ready to hear this, but preventing your agents from making autonomous decisions is holding you back from your CX potential. It’s time to ditch the black-and-white policies and foster a culture that encourages agents to take ownership of the customer outcome. By providing your agents with the freedom to navigate nuanced situations, you empower them to make decisions that truly meet the unique needs of your customers.
- Ditch the script. Your customers expect the person they connect with to have the wherewithal to help them. To have true authority, agents need to be able to speak in their own authentic voice. Aside from instances where regulatory compliance requires strict adherence to a script, you should not micromanage agents’ language. By restricting agents to a script, you’re not only limiting their capacity to connect with customers on a deeper level and build trust, but you’re also stifling their ability to engage and find unique solutions to customer problems. This negatively impacts both your customer’s experience and the agent’s experience. Empower your agents to speak authentically, and you’ll see more productive and satisfying customer outcomes, as well as higher engagement levels among your employees.
- Focus on accountability. If your standard quality monitoring form includes mandatory empathy statements, listen up: True empathy cannot be scripted or canned. Most customer service leaders we interviewed admit that traditional empathy statements have very little correlation to CX outcomes, as most contact center interactions are fairly transactional. Instead, measure agents on displaying accountability and ownership of the resolution. Let’s be real: When customers reach out for help, they’re not looking for hollow empathy phrases. They want your agent to take accountability for finding a real solution to their problem.