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The heartbeat of every contact centre is its agents. Contact centre agents are on the front lines interacting with customers on a daily basis, getting to know their most pressing needs and solving their core issues.

As such, they are the driving force behind customer satisfaction. If agents aren’t happy at work and aren’t able to carry out their jobs effectively, the customer experience will suffer, and the long-term success of the business will be impacted.

In certain cases, speaking to contact centre agents represents the first time a customer interacts with a brand, which means agents must make a positive impression to meet customers’ increasingly high standards. As agents can serve as effective brand ambassadors by inspiring brand loyalty and lifetime value, failing to meet these standards will prompt customers to find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

Enhancing the quality of support agents provide customers is therefore an imperative for any company looking to enhance customer loyalty. Research shows the agent experience (AX) has a significant and direct impact on the customer experience (CX), with Gartner finding that 86% of CX executives believe employee engagement is a top factor affecting CX. This, in turn, has a tangible impact on long-term customer loyalty and churn, as 32% of customers would walk away from a brand they loved after one bad experience.

These challenges are magnified as most agents are working from home today, adding unique challenges in agent experience.  This all highlights how important it is to keep agents happy and productive in order to drive positive customer experiences, especially with CX continuing to dominate as a leading brand differentiator. However, when it comes to agent satisfaction, there is still room for improvement.

Agent (dis)satisfaction

While the digitisation of contact centres has opened a huge range of opportunities for businesses and their agents, it has also presented some notable productivity and efficiency challenges.

During a customer interaction, many agents today often find themselves having to traverse multiple apps and systems to get all the information they need, such as the customer’s past purchases and interactions. If that wasn’t bad enough, they have to do this while talking to a customer that has called with a specific issue.

Being able to easily access all the relevant customer information is key to quickly resolving customer issues. But oftentimes agents are hampered by overly complex and inefficient tools that require them to search for data in several different places all at once. In fact, agents spend 16% of their time on average looking for relevant data across apps. Using cumbersome systems is still ranked as one of the top customer service challenges.

Not only does this decrease their work satisfaction by introducing frustrations that raise stress levels – agents report the highest incidence of stress (75%) in contact centre businesses – it also negatively impacts the customer experience. Customers today expect fast, omnichannel interactions, but this expectation can only be met if agents have the right tools. Not having all the right information at agents’ fingertips can have a significant impact on resolution times, quickly leading to frustrated customers and negative experiences at both ends of the line.

This problem is compounded by the fact that it’s the most complicated customer issues that require the help of contact centre agents, placing tremendous pressure on agents to ensure consistent and engaging customer experiences. In an increasingly competitive world, removing the frustrations agents are facing will go a long way towards driving both customer satisfaction and long-term customer retention.

Right tools = speedy resolutions

Improving agent satisfaction revolves around the tools they use every day, as having access to the right tools and information can ensure the speedy resolution of customer inquiries. This starts with the onboarding process to help agents learn the basic tools and skills required, all of which should be made as easy and efficient as possible.

Next, contact centres must give agents ongoing access to and training for the tools that will empower them to solve complex problems and eliminate the need to bounce between different interfaces and windows. This is significant, as 30% of agents claim that the use of inadequate or hard-to-use systems is their number one challenge when helping customers.

Providing agents with a unified, intuitive desktop that presents all the available customer information collected from multiple channels right at their fingertips will make them more efficient and productive. Removing the need to crawl through various systems can significantly mitigate agent frustration, as well as improve speed to resolution and reduce average handle times. Furthermore, supplying agents with easy-to-use and efficient tools puts the focus on problem resolution, helping them completely solve customer issues faster and at the first attempt.

The tools used for personal training and development also play key roles. Half of contact centre staff report limited on-the-job training, with 50% of agents receiving less than two hours of additional training a month after they move out of the onboarding phase. Contact centres can motivate agents by providing them with personalised goals and training experiences, developing their knowledge of contact centre processes as well as higher-level skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. This will make them more engaged, reduce attrition and increase the likelihood they will create positive customer experiences.

What’s clear is that contact centres have to recognise the positive impact that improving the agent experience can have on the customer experience. Removing frustrations for agents by empowering them with the right tools is essential to solving complex problems and meeting consumers’ high expectations.

The customer experience is now the key differentiator for businesses. Only the best customer experiences will secure long-term brand loyalty and business success – and agents are key to making that happen.

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