Customer service in a call center - put your agents first

You’re Failing Your Agents and It’s Not Your Fault: Redefining Agent Performance to Supercharge Your Customer Service Experience [Webinar Recap]

In 2020, 75% of contact centers will still fail to meet customer expectations.

Putting old customer service strategies on repeat means also pressing repeat on the past 25 years of stalled CSAT scores. For more than two decades, CSAT scores have hovered in the hardly satisfied range.

Measuring Customer Satisfaction with CSAT Scores

Traditional customer service in a call center places a hard-and-fast focus on efficiency and effectiveness metrics. Leaders think: If I can get my agents to answer more calls every hour, we’ll make customers happy. Or, if my agents dish out a short-term fix that closes a case… then they’ll be satisfied.

Only, what happens when the short-term fix unravels two weeks later because your agent was too worried about metrics and closed a case prematurely? And what about when you throw so many interactions at your agents, they burn out and leave?

You can’t improve your customer satisfaction if your agents stress to-the-max over unattainable metrics. Or if your retention rate mirrors the industry-standard 45%.

You have to shift gears and prioritize your agents to pull your contact center out of the CSAT rut.

To throw you a tow rope, industry expert Mark Smith, CEO and Chief Research Officer of Ventana Research chatted with Sharpen’s VP of Marketing, Murph Krajewski, on the importance of reshaping agent experience and empowering your team to create better customer experiences.

In the 30-minute webinar, Mark and Murph explain how to approach the challenges CX leaders face. They dive in on how omnichannel, empowerment and better reporting help solve your poor agent experience, then elevate your customer experience.

Walk away from the webinar (and this article) with strategies to supercharge your agents’ performance, and with actionable steps to empower your team.

Jump straight to the webinar and tune in to the 30-minute conversation with Mark and Murph!

Customer experience is how you differentiate yourself from the pack of competitors.

Ventana Research found that for 82% of companies, improving customer experience beats out all other priorities when it comes to handling customer interactions. Companies hinge much of their success on the ability to create a stellar customer experience. But to successfully improve your customer experience, you have to understand what impacts it and what matters to your customers.

The challenges customers face reflect the parts of your agent experience where your agents struggle. Customers don’t want to repeat themselves during interactions. Meanwhile, your agents want customer interaction history to inform their conversations. Customers want to communicate by phone, email, or chat, and switch channels without getting disconnected mid-interaction. At the same time, your agents don’t want to run seven different applications and switch between desktop windows to solve a single problem.

Agents lack the tools, training, and empowerment to fix some of your customers’ most crucial problems.

“We try to hire the best agents, but we don’t always equip them with the right tools or give them the right framework to actually drive improvement.” – Mark Smith, CEO and Chief Research Officer, Ventana Research.

There’s an undeniable link between what frustrates your agents and how those frustrations move down the line to your customer experience.

So, how do you fix your agent experience and create a customer experience that makes you truly stand out from the competition? It all starts with building the right foundation for your agent experience.

Here’s how.

Create a framework and agent experience agenda.

Choose your metrics and develop a framework for managing agent performance and checking in on contact center KPIs. Set up weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly touchpoints to talk through what’s happening during your agents’ interactions. See where they’re getting stuck, or what metrics they’re missing. And see where they’re excelling, so you can help them replicate their successes. Take a holistic approach to agent performance and well-being by evaluating agents based on the three E’s: Efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment.

Agent Experience Score Three Es Definitions

Then, create a separate agenda for coaching and training your team to grow and develop them. As automation tools become more popular and garner more of contact center budgets, they’ll unload simple tasks from your agents’ plates. That leaves more technical, complex tasks for your team to take on. It’s mission-critical to upskill and cross-train your agents to keep up with the changing demands of their roles. When your agents see you invest in them, they’ll want to invest more effort back into their roles.

Use tools (like Sharpen’s) to help you identify coaching moments and have more time for coaching, itself.

“We use a lot of different tools to proactively surface coaching opportunities to managers. That way managers don’t have to spend their time looking for coaching opportunities, they can just spend their time actually coaching. “– Murph Krajewski, VP of Marketing, Sharpen

Don’t Frankenstein your omnichannel.

Your omnichannel shouldn’t be a DIY project where you buy a bunch of different parts and attempt to make them all work together. An omnichannel contact center platform is foundational to both your customer experience and your agent experience. Investing in the right platform and tools that scale with you is crucial to your long-term success.

“Our belief at Sharpen is that omnichannel shouldn’t be a DIY project. If there’s a company out there or a tech leader listening, omnichannel isn’t your problem. It’s ours (your partner vendor’s). And if you’re cobbling something together, you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money, you’re wasting effort, and you’re wasting data,” said Murph.

Plus, the right omnichannel foundation supports and amplifies how you coach and train your agents. Murph said, “The omnichannel foundation makes it possible to route in-line training and what we like to call micro-learning exercises into the omnichannel queue. So, for example, if an agent signs off on a web chat five times with “lol” or “brb,” it might trigger an alert to send the best practices module over to that agent’s queue before their next interaction. Then 3-5 minutes later they’re back on track and putting that information to work.”

Empower your team.

Create a Voice of the Agent (VOA) program to foster an environment built on trust and open communication. Use surveys, conversations, and agent-focused metrics to get the insight you need about your agents’ experience. Ask your agents questions about their role, their daily work, the customers they interact with, and what they want out of their careers.

Show them you care, and give them the opportunity to share what’s on their mind. Giving your agents a voice empowers them to share feedback and builds a culture of organizational transparency.

Aside from conversations with your agents, rope in hard data, too. Use tools like the Agent Experience Score to fill in knowledge gaps and back your decision making. Keep in mind, as a manager, not every agent will be comfortable being 100% candid with you, so data can help you uncover more about each individual’s experience on the job.

What’s next for customer service in a call center?

Build a business case for a better agent experience, so you can improve your customer experience. Assess where other key stakeholders stand on the matter, and use your defined business case to get your leadership team on board.

Or, share this one with your operations leaders. We built a business case for a better agent experience for you. Find it here!

Once you have top-level buy-in, create a framework to refine your agent experience and simplify your customer interactions. Prioritize the investments you need to make to empower your agents and improve performance for higher satisfaction.

Mark and Murph will talk you through more on that, over here. > Get all the details wrapped up in one, 30-minute conversation. Watch the webinar on-demand now.