Featured Image for the blog: Your Customers Demand an Improved Customer Experience: Why You Can't Afford to Overlook your Agents’ Frustrating Experience for Another Second

The majority of customers, some 64%, find improved customer experience more important than price when making a purchase.

To give the people what they want, this year more than 50% of people planned to redirect their investments to customer experience innovations.

Yet customers are still frustrated, even with these investments.

So, what’s the deal?

For starters, customers are evolving quicker than companies can keep up. (Thanks, organizational red tape.) More than ever before, customers are informed, opinionated, and empowered to take their business to whatever company seems to value them the most.

But as organizations work to keep up, too many priorities turn their focus a bit fuzzy.

Companies try to keep up with rapidly-increasing expectations for speed and convenience. Some even turn their existing operations upside-down to prioritize what they view as the next big thing. All in effort to wow their customers with a different kind of experience. Text us! Tweet us! Talk to our chatbot disguised as a human – you’ll never know the difference!

The result? An arms race to provide better customer service—often by tacking new communication channels onto old platforms.

But adding more channels and more add-ons to your already-disjointed contact center doesn’t improve customer service.

And your customers’ frustrations prove it.

The reality is, many of the new technologies companies implement in the name of the customer simply aren’t creating happier customers. They’re providing additional avenues to frustrate customers.

Technology, alone, can’t make a better experience.

The people interacting with your customers (read: your agents) and the basics of customer service are the foundation for a positive experience.

As customers’ preferences and behaviors have changed (and continue to), one thing is clear: to compete, organizations must be unflinchingly customer-centric.

If you haven’t seen results from the CX investments you’ve made so far, pump the brakes and take a breath.

Align your contact center initiatives to your customer-centric values. And, do what most other companies don’t: prioritize your agent experience for a better CX.

A better AX makes a better CX. Learn to coach your agents to deliver a better customer experience in your call center manager playbook.

Here’s why you can’t afford to overlook the agent experience if you want to improve your CX.

For the most part, companies understand that customers want one thing—to have their issues resolved with minimal time and effort. After all, research shows that 66% of adults say valuing their time is the most important way a company can provide a positive customer experience.

So in the interest of saving their customers time and effort, companies invest in more channels and self-service tools to serve up better options for problem-solving.

On its surface, this type of move appears customer-centric. It seems to say: We’re making it easy for you to do business with us. If you want to call us, then call.  Prefer to email, then email. If you’d rather chat, or text, or tweet…chat, text, or tweet.

Many organizations aren’t seeing the transformative results they envisioned, though

Customers are still encountering their worst frustrations – prolonged customer service that requires too much effort – regardless of channel.

In many cases, adding new channels and technologies without an enthusiastic support team at the ready for backup overcomplicates service experiences.

When you don’t connect your new channels to your old, you increase the likelihood that your customers will have to repeat information, get transferred, or put on hold. All of these factors are leading indicators of potential disloyalty. (No wonder sites like GetHuman and DialAHuman are so popular.)

And the frustrations and missed customer metrics impact your agents. It’s your agents, after all, who bear the brunt of customer frustration and the weight of unattainable contact center KPIs.

Companies wonder what more they can do to make their customers happy.

The question, instead, needs to be: how can I empower my agents to make customers happy?

Get better KPIs to fuel your contact center performance strategy. Check out 13 metrics to add to your list.

Put less pressure on agents to wow and delight customers and instead focus on the realities of a poor agent experience.

Companies invest in robust training programs to instill more empathy in their agents.

In reality, they’d be better-served empathizing with their own agents.

If you don’t want customers to think your agents are rude or incompetent, then you need to give them the resources and training to be knowledgeable and helpful. Over half of contact centers have reported that 10-20% of their agents’ time with the customer is spent searching for information. While that may not seem like much, it quickly stacks up. In fact, it means your agents spend up to one full day per week searching for information.

When agents have to switch between multiple screens during an interaction to find the customer’s history, it’s stressful for the agent and painful for the customer.

Good agents will do their best to be transparent and empathetic, saying things like:

  • Hold on a sec, while I look up the details of your order…
  • Please wait, I need to pull up some more information…
  • Just a moment, I need to switch screens…
  • Before we move on, can you confirm your account number?

But all customers are going to hear is hold on and wait.

Once an agent utters those words because they don’t have the resources they need, customer frustrations start to fester.

Then, the cycle begins.

Those customer frustrations get passed back to the stressed-out agent. Then, the stressed-out agent handles the rest of the day’s interactions fuming from their last one. Rinse, repeat. Say see-ya-never to your chance at higher CSAT scores.

Need a real shot at improving your CSAT scores? Head to your 90-day plan for higher CSAT. 

People need to be at the center of your customer experience, not technology.

Author Micah Solomon summed up the fight for better service perfectly.

“Providing great customer service in our technologically-altered world isn’t a fundamentally different proposition than it was a decade ago, but it’s faster. More transparent. More twitchy. Unforgiving. Viral. Magnified. But still created by, and for, people.”

Yes, your customers expect more than ever before. And that creates some strain. It’s an incredible challenge to keep customers happy, modernize your technology, and keep your contact center performance on track, all without overloading your agents.

The key is to find a balance. Realize that both digital and human interactions create the customer experience. Introduce new technologies to ease the customer experience, but not at the expense of your agent experience.

When investing in new technology, find solutions that drive agent productivity and empower agents to deliver the service your customers demand.

Want a contact center platform built with that idea in mind? We have one for you.

Sharpen’s agent-first, omnichannel platform was built to empower agents to focus on delivering fantastic service to customers. Check it out.

We originally wrote this post on May 23, 2017, and we updated for new insight on September 11, 2019.