Today, the customer experience is of paramount importance. Once again, through the CGI Voice of Our Clients insights, we find that becoming digital to satisfy the needs of customers and citizens is the number one trend across industries, and the customer and citizen experience is a top business and technology priority for most.
Contact centers are increasingly becoming an integral part of the customer journey. Organizations are striving to provide a superior customer experience to differentiate themselves. As the customer experience moves to the forefront of their business priorities, the importance of the customer service agent correspondingly increases. To satisfy customers, customer service agents should be equipped to provide exceptional service. However, too often, customer service agents and contact centers are undervalued and insufficiently equipped.
In this blog, we explore why and how organizations should be investing in their customer service agents. Overall, customer and employee experiences should converge to create a coherent delivery approach that drives business outcomes.
Undervalued and insufficiently equipped agents
Historically, organizations have viewed customer contact centers as essential yet non-strategic cost centers, and many still hold that view today. Often organizations perceive agents as low-value workers, even though agents are arguably doing the most valuable work of an organization (i.e., directly interfacing with customers). They have a huge impact on customer satisfaction and retention.
Customer service agents earn relatively modest pay and receive fewer benefits, such as the option to work from home and flexible hours, than other workers receive. Agents clock in and out, take scheduled breaks, and work under close supervision.
Technology wise, contact centers often operate using multiple, non-integrated legacy systems. When answering customer queries, an agent may need to consult several systems at a time to find the right information, and inconsistencies in system data can require the agent to consult the back office to get the correct information. While artificial intelligence (AI) solutions exist to remedy these challenges, agent work environments are frequently under-invested and lag behind the rest of the organization they serve.
The impact of a poor agent experience
These conditions result in traditional and regimented work environments, low job satisfaction, and little opportunity for career growth, which, in turn, lead to high agent turnover. With high agent turnover, organizations incur significant costs related to onboarding and training new agents, as well as knowledge loss, all of which affect the entire organization, including the customer experience.
The bottom line is clear; it is impossible to deliver excellent customer service if you provide a poor agent experience.
Leading organizations understand this and, in turn, equip, motivate and support their agents through a rich and rewarding work experience. They value agents beyond basic performance metrics, viewing them and treating them as strategic to their business.
Best practices for creating a superior agent experience
How are leading organizations creating a rich and rewarding experience for agents? Here are just a few best practices they follow:
- Take care of your agents, just as you do your customers. Value them. Provide them with the same benefits other workers receive, such as the option to work from home, flexible hours and autonomy. The best contact centers use a workforce management app that places control of working conditions into the hands of the agent.
- Entrust agents with high-value tasks. Separate low-value transactions from high-value transactions based on the customer experience, and entrust your agents with high-value tasks. Consider debt recovery services as an example. Accessing an account balance is a low-value transaction prime for automation, while negotiating a payment plan is a more high-value service, requiring the human understanding and empathy of an agent. Empower agents to converse with customers, rather than use a regimented script, and reward them for successfully handling high-value transactions.
- Automate low-value tasks and equip agents with performance-enhancing tools and technologies. If you provide virtual assistant tools like chatbots for your customers, provide the same for your agents. Use technology to enhance the agent experience in the same way you use it to enhance the customer experience. AI is a key technology for creating a supportive agent work experience. Agents can use AI to search databases, navigate applications and update multiple systems at one time, freeing them up to concentrate more on the customer experience.
- Invest in continuous agent training and career growth. Traditional training involves classrooms and materials. Invest in modern training in which you use technology to provide agents with feedback and coaching in real time based on their real-time customer interactions. Use AI, for example, to monitor customer calls in real time, anticipate agent needs, provide data, and offer coaching. In addition, provide not only initial onboarding training, but also ongoing programs required for upskilling and reskilling. Create opportunities for your agents to develop their knowledge and skills and pursue a career path.
Changing the culture, tools and processes of a contact center to create a superior agent experience requires the right interventions at the right time. To manage all of the necessary changes for agents, as well as equip leadership to rollout and support change, choose a partner with in-depth experience in building innovative, high-performance, outcome-based contact centers.
CGI’s unique offerings in change management, smart business operations, and human-centered design can help you get started. Contact Peter Skelton at CGI to learn how CGI can support your organization in this work.