Agent Experience Tips for Better Customer Relationships

Agent Experience Tips to Help Build Strong Agent and Customer Experiences

In 2015, Gartner declared customer experience the new competitive battlefield. Since then, companies have invested dollars into their CX and placed an emphasis on the importance of customer centricity.

But four years later, and CSAT scores are still stalled in the 75% range with agent turnover sitting at almost 45 percent in contact centers. It’s time for a change that will make an impact and drive the results so many companies seek.

It’s not like stagnant CSAT scores are due to a lack of effort or commitment. Companies have been trying to increase their focus on CX. But the gains have been consistently underwhelming. That’s because a bigger, underlying issue still exists:

Companies prioritize customer experience with positive intention, but they often prioritize it over agent experience. And your agents are the people most responsible for your customers’ experience.

The mentality of going all-in for your customers is wrong when it comes at the expense of your agents. When you abruptly change agent processes and drive metrics that only focus on the contact center instead of on your people, you send the wrong message. And when you reprimand agents for missing the mark, all in the name of CX, it crushes agent confidence. It tells them they’re the human resources used to guide customer journeys, but their personal experience and well-being is less important.

When you abruptly change agent processes and drive metrics that only focus on the contact center instead of on your people, you send the wrong message. And when you reprimand agents for missing the mark, all in the name of CX, it crushes agent confidence.

When you don’t tie together your customers’ experience and your agents’ experience, you’re pulled between two competing values: making your customers happy or leading and developing your team.

Turns out, there’s a better way to drive positive experiences – for both parties. Address and improve your agent experience, first.

Here are three agent experience tips to help you create wins for both your agents and your customers.

Create a team mission and values that align with your company’s.

Most company mission statements address their commitment to serving customers in some way. Look at the mission and vision statements of the top customer service companies, and you’ll see a mention of serving customers in every single one.

As a manager, use your company’s central message to create a team mission and set additional values for your contact center. Don’t restate the company mission in different words. Instead, pull on your team and discuss how their jobs help drive the company mission forward.

Studies show that uniting around a common cause makes employees happier and more productive. Rally your team around your company’s mission to ignite their helpful, people-minded passion. Work together to visualize and connect your agents’ roles to the company’s larger purpose. Your team will be more empowered in their jobs and be excited for the impact they have on your company’s overall success.

Adjust your coaching and training priorities.

Managers have, on average, only 7 percent of their time each week coach all of their agents. So it’s crucial to make every interaction count. If you don’t give agents enough relevant support and coaching, you reinforce the perception that their experience is an afterthought.

When your agents aren’t empowered, any bit of criticism or a missed metric can feel defeating. Coach your agents frequently, and give them actionable and relevant feedback, so they can regain confidence. Then, they’ll feel comfortable making autonomous decisions.

Shift gears and ease up on your efficiency and effectiveness metrics, too. Metrics still matter, but they aren’t everything. They should serve as a means to hit your contact center goals, but they shouldn’t be your end-game. A constant push for your agents to be quicker and better at their jobs leads to agent burnout. Instead, put the emphasis on your agents’ continued well-being.

Measure their empowerment alongside their efficiency and effectiveness. See how each of these metrics pair together to impact your agents’ overall experience, then dial in on the areas where they’re struggling, so you can help.

Get better at coaching your team. Here’s your call center manager playbook for better contact center coaching.

Create a culture of feedback.

A popular, and successful, customer experience initiative is to create a customer feedback loop. A feedback loop is about more than soliciting feedback. It’s also about showing that you’re listening and acting on that feedback.

Put that same initiative into play with your agents, so you can create a culture of feedback.  Gallup’s 12 Elements of Engagement were developed to determine the 12 key factors that impact the way your employees feel at work. One of those key factors gauges whether employees agree with the statement “at work, my opinions seem to count.”

This is where the feedback loop comes in. Creating a feedback loop the right way lets agents know they’re heard. Build an environment where your agents’ feedback is welcome, and where developmental conversations are frequent. Use coaching as a tool to start a conversation with your agents. Don’t let feedback become a top-down action. Solicit feedback from your team, too. Learn how you can improve as their manager, and act on what you uncover, so they know their thoughts have an impact. Then, they’ll feel comfortable to share more often.

Asking for, listening to, and acting on agent feedback satisfies a basic human need to feel heard and understood. And when agent feedback ignites meaningful change, agents feel more empowered and valued.

Your agents are on the front-line, and their well-being matters. Improve your customer experience by fixing your agents’ experience, first.

Here are eight ways a better agent experience makes a better customer experience.

We originally posted this article on June 26, 2018. We updated it for accuracy and tone on February 28, 2019.