Customer service in a call center - put your agents first

You’re Failing Your Agents But It’s Not Your Fault: Redefining Agent Performance to Supercharge Your Customer Service Experience

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

And by the end of 2020, it’s predicted that 75% of contact centers still won’t meet customer expectations.

Download Now: The 9 business impacts of a better agent experience

Traditional customer service in a call center puts a hard-and-fast focus on efficiency and effectiveness. But those don’t account for the human factors. Your agents aren’t machines who can keep churning and burning until you reach your “ideal” customer happiness.

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. Probably. 

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 impossible metrics. Or, if your contact center turnover 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. Let’s talk through how omnichannel, empowerment and better reporting help solve your poor agent experience, then elevate your customer experience.

You’ll walk away from this article with strategies to supercharge agent performance and actionable steps to empower your team.

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

Ventana Research found that 82% of companies prioritize positive customer experiences above all other aspects of business. Companies hinge much of their success on the ability to create a stellar customer experience. But to consistently deliver on that standout experience, you have to understand what matters to your customers and where gaps exist.

A lot of times, the pain points your customers face echo similar struggles for your agents. 

Customers don’t want to repeat themselves during interactions. Meanwhile, your agents want access to customer 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 sift through seven different applications to solve a problem. 

Do your agents have too many screens to juggle while simultaneously trying to help customers? We can simplify things for you.

Too many agents lack the priorities, training, and empowerment to fix your customers’ most crucial problems. And the proof is in the pudding: Frost and Sullivan found that 60% of all repeated calls occur because of inadequate training or processes. Not only that but, another 63% of employees say they’ve wasted time at work because they didn’t have clear priorities. 

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. What does their performance data say about how they’re handling interactions? And, what does customer sentiment tell you about your agents’ attitudes and morale? 

See where they’re getting stuck in customer conversations and turn to performance data to see what metrics they’re missing. And see where they’re excelling, so you can help them replicate their successes. Then, put the performance data you uncover to work in your coaching and training sessions. Coach using tangible data to deliver timely and hyper-specific to your agents when and where they need it. 

And, take a holistic approach to agent well-being by monitoring all three E’s of your agents’ experience: Efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment. Delivering standout customer service in your call center hinges on how your agents perform AND how they feel about their roles.

Customer Service in a Call Center Starts with Agents

Then, create a separate agenda for coaching and training your team to grow and develop them.

As automation garners more of contact center budgets, simple tasks will slide off 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, SVP of Marketing, Sharpen

Coaching and training CAN fit into your daily workflow. Learn how. 

 

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.

“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. And if you’re cobbling something together, you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money, you’re wasting effort, and you’re wasting data,” Murph said.

Plus, the right omnichannel foundation supports and amplifies how you coach and train your agents. Omnichannel tools do more than sync up your channels, they combine knowledge management, CRM, ticketing and your contact center functions into one digital ecosystem that works for your agents, so they can work for your customers.

“The omnichannel foundation makes it possible to route in-line training and what we like to call micro-learning exercises into the omnichannel queue,” Murph said. “So, for example, if an agent signs off on a webchat 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.”

Want to reach omnichannel nirvana? Learn 4 steps to make your omnichannel customer experience resonate with customers. 

 

Empower your team.

You know how you create a Voice of the Customer strategy to harvest data and feedback from your customers, so you can improve their experience. 

Well, you can do the same thing for your agents. 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.

Bonus tip: Want to have these conversations but just don’t know where to start? We created 52 starting points for you.

Download 52 Questions to Ask Agents in 1:1s.

Aside from conversations with your agents, rope in hard data, too. Use performance data and metrics like eNPS to fill in knowledge gaps. 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. It can help you key in on where agents struggle during customer conversations and how they’re really feeling about their jobs.

Learn how Sharpen puts your agents first in our approach to omnichannel customer service in a call center.

 

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

Decide what you want out of your customer experience, then evaluate your tools, processes, and performance management strategy to see where you can improve. 

If you’re in the camp of leaders who knows how vital a better agent experience is to business, build a business case for a better agent experience, so you can improve your customer experience. Work with your ops leaders and peer managers to understand what’s working and what’s not. Then, together, create a plan to fill the gaps and get your exec team on board.

Once you have top-level buy-in, 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. 

And remember, even without a budget line item for new tools to streamline your experiences, you still have the power to reshape your customer experience. Start with incremental improvements and better coaching and training for your agents. Today. 

Need help convincing your operations leaders? We built a business case for a better agent experience for you. Find it here!

We originally published this post on July 16, 2019, and we updated it for new insight on July 30, 2020.