Building powerful and engaging customer experiences through the contact center requires several important ingredients—just-in-time and in-context analytics, artificial intelligence for self-service and after-contact work, seamless omnichannel options for customers, and fair, accurate scheduling. But one of the most critical components are the contact center agents themselves. Representatives live on the front lines and they are the personification of your brand—helping customers solve problems and identifying upsell opportunities.
Furthermore, agents can have an immense impact on your brand’s ability to attract and retain customers. According to the latest NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark Study, 81% of consumers are likely to switch to a competitor after just one bad customer service experience. Delivering consistent, positive interactions at every customer touchpoint is more critical than ever. The pressure is on contact center leaders to ensure that they are providing the right tools and training to retain their best agents and equipping their staff to be effective problem-solvers and brand advocates.
The following are a few ways to better support customer service agents.
Providing the Best Tools
Ask an all-star contact center agent or manager what they need and you’ll often hear a common pattern: seamless movement between channels, quick access to information, proactive guidance, and just-in-time insights on the customer and her journey. Providing a positive agent experience requires the same elements. You’d optimize your website for easy navigation for customers—why wouldn’t you optimize your contact center platform for agents? In fact, research firm Aberdeen has found that the typical customer service agent spends 15% of his or her time finding relevant information for customers, bouncing between 5-7 interfaces.
If tools aren’t supporting your agents, your agents cannot support customers. A modern open cloud customer experience platform can consolidate this information into a single agent desktop and provide additional customer context and recommendations to customer service. Such a platform is also outfitted with voice analytics capabilities, to provide real-time coaching and suggestions from each interaction so that agents can continuously improve and avoid potential future problems.
Easing the Onboarding Process
Agent attrition is among the most prevalent issues facing the contact center. According to Aberdeen, 32% of contact center leaders cite finding and retaining qualified staff to be a top challenge, second only to implementing new technologies and channels to address changing customer behavior (36%). But this is only considering permanent staff—many companies need to rapidly scale their support during industry-specific high-volume seasons (think the holidays for retail). During our current environment of low unemployment, this issue has been further compounded.
Contact center leaders are charged with getting new-hires up to speed on the technology suite, and also finding skilled temporary staff quickly. While there are certain times of the year that are nearly guaranteed to have higher call volumes, there also may be surprise instances of increased activity. Source regular input from your agents to ensure that you’re properly staffed—their insight should inform the scheduling and hiring patterns.
Many contact centers are turning to remote workforce options to ease the staffing strain. Today, all an agent needs is an internet connection and headset to have complete access to customer purchase history and other contextual information, so freelancers can be an invaluable resource anywhere in the world. Be sure to arm these hires with an intuitive and unified interface for all contact center apps. With contextual help, comprehensive coaching packages and readily accessible performance benchmarks, they’ll be up to speed and ready to support customers.
Consider Your Digital Options
While voice remains a popular channel for customers, it may not always be the right path to resolution. Above all else, customers value speed. Depending on the nature of the inquiry, chat may be a more effective channel. In fact, the CX Transformation Benchmark year-over-year results among U.S. consumers show that chat use has tripled. Additionally, at 56%, more than half of U.S. consumers surveyed are highly satisfied with chat interactions, and chat has a strong Net Promoter Score of 21. Ensuring seamless chat functionality enables agents to support 3-4 customers at any given time, as opposed to the single interaction required for voice, significantly increasing productivity.
Another option to relieve the pressure of a high volume of inquiries is investing in self-service options such as FAQs or chatbots. Again, this hinges on the nature of the issue—the higher the impact, the more valuable an agent is. But by routing the simpler issues to seamless self-service channels, agents can deliver the highest value to customers who need it the most.
Setting Agents (and Your Brand) Up for Success
Our study found that customers who have exceptional experiences with brands are more willing to recommend that company on social media (83%), buy more products and services from that company (89%), and go out of their way to purchase from that brand (82%). After the initial purchase, customer experiences are largely defined by interactions with contact center agents. The influence that agents wield cannot be understated. Prioritizing their needs and improving their experience is just as important as that of the customers themselves.