Don't fail your agents like this picture failed us. Boost contact center employee morale

7 Fail-Proof Ways to Optimize Your Agent Experience

It’s obvious that customers make or break a company, no one will argue that. What’s less obvious, though, is how contact center agents and the agent experience impact a company. Because agent experience isn’t as obviously important to companies, it’s tagged with a lower-impact sticker and isn’t considered a focus compared to the gold star that is customer experience.

But just because something isn’t as obvious or as easy to measure doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a priority. Ninety-two percent of consumers say an agent’s perceived mood impacts their customer experience. That means an agent’s grumpiness, or job dissatisfaction, or anger, will be 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 will be the lovely recipients of these feelings. And those agents’ negativity can bring down contact center employee morale, meaning all your customers who need help will feel it, too.

Customer service is incredibly important

It turns out that customer service is one of the most impactful pieces of the overall customer experience. In the U.S., 59 percent of people will walk away from a company they love because of a few bad experiences. And 17 percent will walk away after only one bad experience. This isn’t a new trend either. 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 noted 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 bad experience, customer experience shouldn’t be the only priority. Agent experience needs tagged with a gold star too.

We’ve come up with a list of fail-proof ways to make agent well-being a priority. Here are seven ways you can optimize your agent experience. Start now.

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: 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.

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. Then replacing them all over again. Use contextual lessons and in-line training to quickly deliver coaching moments. These types of lessons are in the moment and more impactful, plus they take up less of your time.  When you coach frequently, you give agents daily prep 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 them to take breaks to squash the chance of decision fatigue and prolonged customer calls. Don’t silently shame them for taking a long lunch or scheduling a vacation here and there. For even more impactful rejuvenation, teach agents about mindfulness. There are dozens of findings that prove the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness, and practicing for just 10 minutes a day can actually make you smarter.

5. Improve your metrics.

For years, contact center metrics have emphasized cutting costs and increasing efficiency. They 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. Agent satisfaction is the most important metric you’re not tracking. Putting agents first and focusing on their well-being means you’re adequately measuring your agent experience. The agent experience score gives you a way to measure your agents’ overall wellbeing, so you know where to improve their experience.

6. Use bots to eliminate time-consuming tasks.

Bots are here to stay. And they’re here to help. Use AI and bots in your contact center to eliminate waste and make your agents more efficient. Bots aren’t here to eliminate humans. They’re here to give people more time to BE human and help them become more efficient and successful. They can monitor customer interactions and handle simple questions like “How do I reset my password?” without needing a human to intervene. You’ll have more closed cases, and your agents will have more time to give to your customers.

7. Stop zero-tolerance policies.

Strict, zero-tolerance policies eliminate 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, accurate decisions. And YOU need agents who are going 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 wellbeing too, you’re not serving your customers’ best interests. Let’s change that.

Find more ways you can prioritize agents here!