A whopping 92% of consumers say an agent’s perceived mood impacts their customer experience. That means an agent’s grumpiness, or job dissatisfaction, or anger, is felt by every customer that agent speaks to. So, when an agent comes to work angry with a fresh coffee stain from a morning mishap, and another one comes in 10 minutes late, flustered from a traffic jam, your customers are the lovely recipients of these feelings.
Not to mention, one agent’s negativity can bring down contact center employee morale as a whole, meaning all your customers will feel the frustration, too.
The customer service your agents deliver is one of the most impactful pieces of the overall customer experience. In the U.S., 59% of people will walk away from a company they love because of a few bad experiences. And 17% will walk away after only one bad experience.
What’s more? This isn’t a new trend. The world’s first customer complaint happened nearly 4,000 years ago. And get this – it was about bad customer service from a disgruntled “agent.” A man carved a letter into a stone tablet detailing his frustrations with his service experience, AND he etched in permanence that he wouldn’t be a returning customer.
If customers are so impacted by an agent’s mood and are willing to walk away after a single bad experience, customer experience shouldn’t be the only priority in your contact center. Agent experience needs tagged with a gold star, too.
We’ve come up with a list of fail-proof ways to make agent experience and well-being a priority. Here are seven ways you can optimize your agent experience. Start today.
1. Put your agents first.
Your agents control your customers’ service experience. Prioritize agent well-being, and you’ll have a team full of agents who rank high for all three e’s of agent experience: efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment.
Your agents deliver positive customer experiences when they feel like valuable assets to your company, when they are listened to, and when they are treated like real people, not just a way to drive metrics. Boosting contact center employee morale and performance starts with prioritizing your people.
2. Coach more frequently.
Coach your agents daily. Continuous training and development are crucial to building a stellar team and retaining your agents. Finding time in your jam-packed day to coach agents may seem difficult, but if you don’t, you’ll spend even more time searching for new agents. Then, training those new agents. And then, replacing them all over again.
Use contextual lessons and in-line training to quickly deliver coaching moments to your agents queues. These types of lessons are in-the-moment and backed by conversational context, so they’re more impactful. Plus, they take up less of your time. When you coach frequently, you give agents daily prep and the confidence they need to handle customer calls with poise.
3. Give your agents the right tools.
Invest in omni-channel tools that work for your entire enterprise, not just your contact center. Agents need easy ways to talk to customers and coworkers. Omni-channel solutions let your agents focus on problem-solving without worrying about siloed communication channels and painful workflows. Tools that don’t prioritize agents come with hidden costs. Equip your agents with tools that let entire companies work together to solve customer problems, so agents don’t have to carry customer problems like a brick-filled backpack.
4. Encourage breaks and rejuvenation.
Breaks restore motivation, increase productivity and creativity, and can even prevent decision fatigue. Simply put, our brains work better when we have time to relax. You have a contact center full of agents who have to quickly make customer decisions all. day. long.
Encourage your team to take breaks to squash the chance of decision fatigue and prolonged customer resolutions. Don’t silently shame your team members for taking a long lunch or using their PTO. For even more impactful rejuvenation, teach agents about mindfulness. Dozens of findings prove the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness, and practicing for just 10 minutes a day can actually make you smarter.
5. Focus your metrics on better customer and business outcomes.
For years, contact center metrics have emphasized cutting costs and increasing efficiency. These efficiency and cost KPIs are easy to measure, so they’re often over-emphasized. In reality, we should be less concerned with speed, and more concerned with how our agents and our customers feel at the end of each interaction.
Track metrics like Agent Satisfaction and Training Investment Per Agent in addition to your standard KPIs like Average Handle Time and Average Speed of Answer. Putting agents first and focusing on their well-being means you’re adequately measuring their experience, so you know how to improve it.
6. Use bots to eliminate time-consuming tasks.
Bots are here to stay. And they’re here to help. Use automation and bots in your contact center to eliminate waste and make your agents more efficient. Bots aren’t here to eliminate humans. They’re built to give people more time to BE human, improving our efficiency so we have time to focus on solving more complex problems.
Automation tools (like Sharpen’s Action Bots) can monitor customer interactions and handle simple questions like “How do I reset my password?” without human intervention. And, when interactions get too complicated, bots send them off to an agent for help. Working in tandem with automated workflows helps you close more cases and give your agents more time to help customers.
7. Stop zero-tolerance policies.
Strict, zero-tolerance policies in your contact center crushes employee trust. When breaks are monitored down to the second, or missing a shift means losing their job, agents work in fear. Life isn’t black and white. Agents are humans, and life happens. Set expectations, but don’t be overbearing and lose your agent’s trust. When agents don’t feel trusted, they’re not empowered to use their best judgment to make decisions. Your customers need agents who are ready to make snappy, effective decisions to solve their problems. And YOU need agents to be the best possible face of your company.
We live in a customer-centric world. Companies focus on the needs of customers because there’s a direct correlation with how many customers they have, and how much money they make. Customers have a glaringly obvious impact on business. But if you place your sole focus on customers and you don’t prioritize agent well-being too, you’re not serving your customers’ best interests. Let’s change that.
We originally published this post on August 28, 2018 and we updated it for new insight on April 9, 2020.