Power to the People: 5 Ways to Elevate the Agent Experience


Contact Center Pipeline Magazine, January 2020

According to Gallup’s recent polls, 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. Think about that for a moment—that’s a staggeringly high number. If 50 people work in your contact center, that’s like saying only 6.5 of them actually care about what’s going on in your business. And yet all 50 are TALKING TO CUSTOMERS! Yes, you should be freaking out. Because, yes, this is impacting your bottom line.

Contact center work is tough. Churn is higher in this industry than in almost any other. We’ve seen documentation (not naming names) of attrition rates as high as 150%—as in agent positions being hired for more than once a year EACH. I get it, it’s hard to always interact with unhappy customers or deal with people complaining about a product or service they disliked. But most contact center leaders also don’t help the matter because they’re not that great at training people to handle these interactions with grace, and supervisors often don’t even have the data and insight to help agents do better.

So, we find ourselves in the ugly circular dilemma: which comes first, the employees or the customers?

I’m OK with old clichés like the customer is king (queen!), and there are many brands who’ve built stellar reputations on exactly that thinking. However, most agents aren’t supported with the right training, knowledge, coaching (and so on), hence they are incapable of delivering their best.

So I say this with certainty: Unless we start putting the employee experience at the top of the list, the customer experience will never reach its potential. Here are 5 things you can start doing right now to give power to your people in the name of creating extraordinary customer experiences:

  1. Define your organization’s higher purpose. Why should people come to work for you? How does that connect to the roles inside your organization? What goals are you trying to achieve? Revenue, sure. But what else? Show and tell what’s at stake for your team when they do their thing. Paint a picture of your WHY not just the WHAT and HOW.
  2. Lead with transparency and empathy. It’s impossible to have all the answers all the time and if you pretend to, it’s obvious. When you don’t know, say that. Open up to ideas and suggestions. Being honest and vulnerable goes much further with employees than just putting on a happy face. Agents need to see and believe you’re for real and you’re invested in their success. Their success = yours, after all.
  3. Arm agents to achieve the heights they desire. This means training, skill-building, opportunity, and tools. Are your agents prepared with the right technology? Have they been adequately trained? Do they feel empowered to make on-the-spot decisions in the customer’s interest? Do they feel secure in taking calculated risks on your watch? Start with one. Test. Refine. Repeat.
  4. Call out wins, early and often. Celebration begets motivation. Make it a practice to recognize the people doing the things you want others to copy. Whether that means creating a leaderboard, gamifying by shift, or having an old-school employee of the month program, focus on what you want more of. That is how you scale winning habits and make success contagious.
  5. Study the stand-outs. What are those award-winners doing that everyone else isn’t? It could be so small you miss it, so take the time to really dig into their work. Whatever they’ve got is making an impact. Find out what it is, bottle it up and hand it out to everyone through role-playing, incentive programs, trainings, and new KPIs.

Research tells us that a 5% increase in employee engagement can lead to a 3% jump in revenue. With no math at all, we already know this is worth it. When agents feel valued, heard, prepared, and integral to a team striving to achieve big goals, nothing can come between them and your customers. A top-notch employee experience must lie at the heart of any hope or plan for a top-notch customer experience.

Hence, the employee comes first. There, I said it.


Candace Sheitelman brings more than two decades of marketing expertise to Edify, much of it focused on CX and the contact center. She’s responsible for Edify’s go-to-market strategy and execution. Sheitelman previously ran her own marketing communications firm and global marketing at Aspect. She earned her B.S. in Public Relations from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.