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Your Frontline Agents’ Manifesto: 3 Things Your Customer Service Agents Will Tell You About Your Digital Transformation Strategies (Plus 1 They Won’t). 

Companies that don’t engage their frontline managers and employees in transformation efforts only see a 3% success rate.

Your agents’ voice and experience matters to transforming your business and reaching your goals. Customer experience is flagged as the highest digital priority for companies looking to shake up the way they work and the technology they use. But you can’t modernize your tech, change how you work, and elevate your CX without getting your agents on board.

It doesn’t matter how good your new, intuitive tools are if your agents don’t know how to use them. Or if they weren’t in-the-know that changes were swimming down the pipeline in the first place. Then, your customers will reach out for help and get served up the same answers from your frustrated agents. Or worse, being left out of the loop will heighten the pain your agents feel on the job and tank your customer experience even more than before.

Deloitte found that 62% of customer complaints are about staff attitudes and competencies. Whereas only 34% of complaints are about the quality of your products and services.

You can bet all your poker chips in Vegas that agents who aren’t up-to-date on your digital transformation efforts will have bad attitudes and lack the skill to maneuver through the new systems you invest in. And for good reason.

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As you plan your digital shift, prioritize your agents’ involvement. Survey the scene to see what they think about your business strategies and give them a rundown of the tools you consider. Do your research and learn what matters to your agents. To kick things off for you, we’ve done some research of our own. We dug through agent forums and industry sites to see what your contact center agents care about.

Here are 3 things your agents will tell you – and 1 they won’t – to inform your digital transformation strategy.

What your agents will tell you:

1. Digital transformation is about transforming your tired policies and strict business strategies, too.

Changing your tech doesn’t change your overarching business strategies. There’s more to a transformation than new tools. Your entire company culture needs to support the shift and changes you make. Transforming your company and your customer experience means empowering your agents to do their jobs and communicate cross-functionally, too. Deloitte found that the companies who are farthest on the digital front give their employees more latitude to innovate on the job, regardless of what role or title they hold.

“Fundamentally, digital transformation is about changing how teams work together, not just what tech they’re using to get that work done.” – Michelle Cyca of Slack

Your agents are painfully aware that antiquated policies are restrictive. And in some cases, your agents feel that certain rules and systems exist to tarnish their credibility. In one forum, an agent for a large telecom contact center asked peers about quality assurance programs and how they work.

In the post, the agent talked about getting reprimanded for straying from a policy that no one else follows. He said, “They find one very small statement out of a huge policy that we should’ve followed, but that has never been followed before. It’s from a policy that’s viewable BY us but not written FOR us.”

Your old policies weren’t created with your agents in mind. You can’t shift your business to serve your modern customers without updating your rules and systems for modern workers, too. Change your business practices and your strict policies, first. Then invest in tech to support your new, empowering vision. No matter what new tech you add to your stack, it won’t make a difference if half of its functionality is chained down and unavailable to your agents.

2. Your agents want to be involved in your digital transformation strategy. They don’t want to learn about it after-the-fact.

Companies with leaders who clearly communicate with employees at every level (contact center agents included) are 8x more likely to achieve digital transformation success. For the enterprise, communication is even more important, with success rates 12.4x higher when leaders communicate company-wide changes.

Digital transformation isn’t a top-down strategy you can push once and never revisit. But your executive-level buy-in and communication with the rest of the company matters. Your agents carry the weight of your customer service (and customer experience) around on their shoulders. If you’re one of the 40 percent of companies investing in digital transformation for a better CX, you have to bring your agents along with you on the journey.

The tools you choose and the strategies you craft impact how your agents interact with your customers. The ultimate goal of digital advances is to break down silos and hierarchies for more collaboration and connection, so you can better help customers and crush company revenue goals.

But you’ll never know how to improve cross-functional communication if you don’t know what barriers exist in the first place. And you’ll never improve your CX if you don’t ask your agents what’s missing for them to do their jobs. Digital transformation offers up the perfect opportunity to rethink the way you work and include your agents in the strategy this time around. Lean on your agents to tell you where gaps exist in their communication with teams like sales and marketing. Ask them if their resource hub needs updated, or if they have access to the right data to inform their customer conversations.

Your agents shout from the rooftops (and on Reddit) for better communication across departments and for autonomy to help customers. Thinking up a digital transformation strategy gives you the perfect opportunity to start from square one and rethink the way you work, and the way you involve your agents in the process.

Want proof? Learn how HotSchedules moved their contact center to the cloud and included an agent on the project management committee. Read the blog or watch the webinar.

3. You’ll never make every customer happy.

If you’re holding out on digital transformation for fear of causing hiccups with a few customers, you’ll never give the rest of your customers the stellar experience they seek.

Your agents can vouch for the fact that there will always be unhappy customers picking up the phone.

There are loads of angry phone call recordings piling up on your servers as we speak. You can’t make everyone happy. Not now, not ever. (Side bar: Move to the cloud to get rid of one of your problems, though). But digital transformation isn’t about solving ALL of your customer problems. It’s about realigning your business to meet the needs and demands of most of your customer base. It’s about giving your agents the tools they need to solve problems and empowering them to take initiative when problems do pop up.

Your agents will tell you… holding off on your investments in better tools and new policies won’t stop every angry customer from calling in. But it will save your agents some sanity, keep them in their seats, make them more productive, and make most of your customers happier when you do it right.

Would you rather have a few angry outliers or a lump-sum of hardly-satisfied customers?

If you look at the costs of customer dissatisfaction, we’ll take the few outliers over a tanking CSAT average, any day.

Being ignored is a much bigger risk than being disliked. – Brendan Dell, Founder and Principal Consultant of Spark.

1 thing your agents won’t tell you:

1. They need better training and continued learning for successful digital transformation.

Your agents see how busy you are. And some won’t feel comfortable asking you about coaching opportunities. But your agents crave your feedback – both good and bad – so they can know where they stand.

And frequent training is even more important when your company is in flux during digital transformation.

Check out this example of a new agent who thought she was falling short of expectations because she didn’t get enough feedback from her manager:

digital transformations strategies your agents help you think up

Then see the follow-up comment that explains how normal this behavior is in a contact center environment.
digital transformation strategies

Now, imagine that you give your agents a completely new set of tools, and you define entirely new guidelines for them to use with customers. Then you don’t check in about any of these new experiences for weeks.

You can hear the uneasy whispers rushing through their minds: “Am I helping enough customers?” “How much data does this platform collect, and how much do I need to enter in my post-call work?” “Where can I see my daily KPIs?” “Hey, is this thing on?”

Don’t make your agents shout through a megaphone and beg for answers. Be there for them from the start. Dive in on coaching and training from the get-go to set your company (and your customers) up for successful digital transformation. Companies that have a strong coaching culture at all levels are 2x more likely to outperform the competition.

Define guidelines, educate your agents, and set up a cadence for regular tool reviews and weekly coaching sessions with each of your team members.

And especially when you’re going through a transformation, make sure your training methods support your digital mind shift. Don’t revert to archaic methods and old, classroom style teachings. You’ll waste time, and you’ll send mixed signals to your team members about your digital-first mentality. Instead, opt for online learning and quick digestible lessons. Online learning takes up 40% to 60% less of your agents’ time than learning in a traditional classroom setting and it’s more effective.

Make your digital transformation a lasting success and finally move the needle to improve your customer experience. Listen to your agents.

Learn more about digital transformation and why it’s important in this article with 9 must-know statistics out of Forrester.