In the Experience Economy, brands survive and thrive on their relationship with customers. Long-term growth hinges on exceeding rapidly growing expectations, and meeting core audiences across a growing list of digital channels. That said, best-in-class experience strategies do not rest entirely on strategies for customers themselves – they are but one-half of the equation. Equally as important are contact center agents, who sit on the front line as powerful brand ambassadors. If agents don’t have the tools and training to be the best resources to customers, how can customer experience (CX) be effective?
In fact, ensuring a seamless, engaging agent experience is a top priority for organizational leaders. Research firm Gartner found that when polled, 86 percent of executives rank employee experience as the number one factor in delivering consistent, positive CX. Doing so, however, requires understanding the unique needs, wants and expectations of agents – just like you would for customers.
NICE inContact recent State of Agent Experience and Engagement in Today’s Contact Centers study of of contact center agents sourced perspective on the greatest opportunities to support agents and ease common pain points. When it comes to raising agent satisfaction and setting them up for CX success, here’s what we found:
Agents Know Speed Makes a Difference
One of the most common complaints among customers is excessive resolution times – long phone calls or transferring between multiple agents to solve a single problem. One answer might be to hire more agents, but in reality, that’s not a scalable approach. Especially when customers are reaching out across a wide range of channels, skyrocketing the total inbound volume over time. Delivering fast, effective service at scale requires more than just manpower. It needs the right tools to ensure that not only the right customer is delivered to the right agent, but the agent has the proper tool to quickly source all information about the customer.
Research found that while the top motivation for agents is helping customers, the top challenge in actually achieving this is inadequate or hard to use systems. This includes clunky interfaces that don’t aggregate vital context such as past purchases, communication preferences and other historical data. When agents have to sift through multiple platforms and databases, that detracts from their ability to focus on the customer relationship.
Contact centers need to arm their agents with the intuitive, efficient tools that enable customer-centricity. When all of the right knowledge about the customer, as well as some problem-solving tips, are accessible, more time is spent actually solving issues. This also supports reducing the average handling time and increases first-time resolution rates, because each context travels easier between subsequent interactions. Agents know customers hate repeating themselves, so having to fill in the blanks is a nonstarter.
Training and Onboarding Must Match Customer Need
Modern customers are experts at navigating digital self-service channels to solve the easy issues. Websites, FAQs, even chatbots are welcome resources to quickly answer a question or discover new information. That doesn’t mean agents don’t have an important role to play – in fact the opposite is true. Agents are key in solving highly complex and difficult problems. Accordingly, agents need the right skill sets to solve these hands-on issues. They need to constantly update their skills, and contact centers should support this. NICE inContact found that while training gets the second highest budget allocation, still over 70 percent spend less than 4 hours per month on training. Furthermore, only 2 percent of onboarding time is used to learn problem-solving skills, compared to hard skills like learning new technologies.
Traditional “soft skills” like empathy, problem-solving and communication must be priority number one from a training perspective. But, in order to ensure that agents are getting the training where there is highest impact, it takes a smarter way to identify and close agent specific skills gaps. Partner with agents to customize small, bite-sized training modules created and administered easily – so they can take those trainings during lull time. Being able to deliver a highly personalized training goes a long way in solving tough customer issues.
Agents Value Their Contributions
Customer experience has a direct impact on a business’ top and bottom line. When customers are engaged, it fosters greater loyalty and external advocacy – agents are highly aware of their role in achieving this. In fact, they take pride in it. When agent performance and goals are aligned with business goals, agent engagement levels rise. Research shows that in fact, alignment to overall goals is the number one factor for high agent engagement.
When agents have visibility into how their efforts are driving overall goals, it spurs even greater motivation and satisfaction. They understand that their success is the business’ success. As such, contact centers need to look for opportunities to increase transparency, alignment and accountability of goals among agent staff. Together with that, a team-based environment that promotes collaboration and rewards group goals as well as instituting personalized incentive programs can go a long way in achieving not just agent goals but the overall contact center and company goals. Exceptional customer experiences get audiences invested in the brand. Exceptional agent experiences should have the same impact.
Mapping AX to CX
Experience matters. It is the foundation of an individual’s relationship with a brand, regardless of if they’re a customer or employee. Experience is not a zero-sum game – taking a holistic approach to all core audiences can ensure consistent growth and success.