Featured Image for the blog: Prioritizing Your Employees: Your Customer Service Agents are Foundational to Your Customer Experience Transformation

Customers have ever-increasing control over their relationship with companies. Companies today work overtime to earn customer satisfaction and long-term loyalty. This means paying extra careful attention to how your company delivers on your customer experience.

It’s easier and easier to access customer support through different channels at all hours. Customers demand greater attention from companies, and now they’re even one-part customer, one-part marketer, driving your reputation through online reviews, and recommendations on Instagram and Facebook. Your brand name can be praised, or slurred, in moments by customers having amazing, or just plain terrible interactions with your company.

This reality gets complicated. Especially for your front line agents. Today, customers expect a cohesive experience across all activities and touch points during their journey. Often, this means agents have to use dozens of different applications in a workday. Without proper tools, business processes get fragmented and siloed, leaving agents and customers frustrated. Your agents’ actions directly impact your reputation and the satisfaction of your customers. That’s a huge responsibility!

Providing a positive customer experience rests on many factors. But, as the advocates and voice of your company, contact center agents make or break a customer’s feeling towards your company. As we describe in another blog post, there’s a correlation between positive customer experience and positive agent experience.

It’s necessary that customer-centric behavior is pervasive, recognized, and rewarded in your contact center. But good customer experiences start with your agents.

What is Customer Experience?

Boiled down, Customer Experience is the collection of touchpoints your customers have with your company, and their perception of every touch point they’ve had with your company. Customer experience is multi-faceted.

Perception is developed through your product or service, your marketing, your vision and values, and each company representative a customer speaks to. So, regardless of how you’ve intended your experience, if a customer perceives it differently —  that perception is what counts. With that in mind, customer perception is something you must manage as a company… and in your role as a leader.

Forbes’ Customer Experience expert Blake Morgan describes that it’s vital for a company to evaluate and strengthen every part of the customer journey to deliver an excellent experience. You need a passionate and well-trained workforce to avoid weak spots in your customers’ experience. Your customers will notice your moments of weakness — and that’s when their perceptions will falter.

Create good experiences to shape better perceptions, and it’s more likely customers will come back. And that they’ll tell their friends about your company. But, customer perception is fragile. Any interaction — whether with your service, your product, your billing process, or your contact center  — can change a customer’s feelings towards your company.

So, where do your contact center agents fit into your customer journey?

Customer service is critical to your company’s success. But, investing in it can seem scary since it doesn’t bring immediate returns. Over time, though, the returns are profound. Great customer service lowers your churn rate and increases your revenue. When complaints are handled well, customers become more loyal than they were before the issue. When you invest in better training, agents become more competent and empowered to help customers. And you won’t have to micromanage their actions. This saves you time and energy, so you can grow in your role as a leader with more time to dedicate to developmental opportunities for your team.

Improving customer experience is costly and often time-consuming because it requires you to pour a lot of energy into making your workforce stronger. But the up-front costs are only temporary, and the results have staying power.

Your agents have direct contact with your customers. They get the chance to build personal relationships with customers. They guide them towards admiration for your company. Without agents who deliver great interactions, your customers are left with a bad taste in their mouths.

But, when agents have the right coaching and useful resources, they’re empowered to focus on the customer.

It’s typical for companies to devalue the work of the contact center agent. Not because it’s unimportant. But it’s often an entry-level position and is perceived (by agents and management alike) as a job that will be left in under a year. But, contact center agents are doing to the foundational grunt work vital for customer experience. They are there to offer a helping hand, troubleshoot, and do so with passion for your company (when they’re empowered and happy in their roles). They advocate for the good of your customers and for the success of your company. Sure, a good product or service will jumpstart growth for your company. But, to build a long-term brand with loyal customers, you need the strength of an empowered front line contact center.

What can you do?

Ideally, you could hire good employees and sit back and relax. But that’s not really how this goes. Leading your employees towards success takes what I mentioned earlier — investment.

Your agents need your help.

Your employees need the right tools to offer great service. ICMI points out that agents who are driven primarily to reduce average handle time (AHT) or spend too much time troubleshooting the same problems over and over, are not given enough time to build more meaningful relationships.

How can you guide them towards these more meaningful customer relationships?

  • Rally your agents around the company vision. Show them how they fit into the customer journey. Encourage them to know their work is incredibly valuable to deliver on your company’s purpose. This alone increases motivation and passion in agents.
  • Praise your agents when they make progress with a customer. Especially when the problem is complex or the customer is difficult. Acknowledging hard work inspires employees to continue to walk into tough interactions with a positive attitude.
  • Consider using self-service options to offload some of their routine tasks. This gives agents more time to listen to customers and show them personal attention.
  • Get unified software to make communication with customers seamless and simple. (Like Sharpen’s) An omni-channel platform with a single queue cleans up your customer experience and makes your agents’ daily work less tedious and frustrating.
  • Strengthen your training and continue to train beyond an agent’s first month on the job. Coach your agents consistently. In fact, as we referenced in our recent post,  67% of contact center managers agree that relevant and sufficient training must be present to create satisfied employees. Don’t underestimate the power of investing in training. Read more about training perks here.
  • Offer constructive feedback. Four out of ten workers remain actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback from their employers. That’s too many. Feedback builds a healthier relationship between employees and managers. And, feedback gives your agents specific ways to grow and continue to do good work. Use 1:1 time with agents and agent scorecards to give your agents reviews on performance.
  • Create room for growth so agents feel personally developed. Employees need to know they have career direction in their job. This reduces turnover and keeps your agents driven to work hard.

Your role is incredibly important for your agents to be successful.

You’re their advocate as much as they are advocates for your customers. Care for them, empower them, and guide them and you will see your customers return satisfied.

To find more ways to engage your employees and build a strong customer experience journey, our recent post has even more tips for you.