CX Insight Magazine

April 2023

How AI Simulation Training for Customer Engagement Drives Improved KPIs

by Casey Denby, Senior Director, Enterprise Sales at Zenarate

The advances in artificial intelligence (AI) for self-service and chatbots at contact centers are quite impressive in shaping the customer experience. But at its core, human interactions still matter most to customers according to multiple industry surveys. While digital self-service certainly helps millions of customers and prospects with simple issues — it is agents who are left with the most complex and difficult interactions.

An agent is often the only human interaction that a customer or prospect has with a brand. And the customer’s perception of the brand can depend on that single interaction. According to Execs In The Know, 70% of consumers want companies to focus more on improving their customer care agents rather than creating better self-help solutions. This reiterates the need for better human performance.

For the contact center leader, high-performing agents create a unique opportunity for success. Unlike simple transactional machine interactions, a human connection has the power to deepen customer loyalty by solving complex problems with care and empathy.

In this article, let’s explore how advanced training approaches can improve agent interactions for conversation, screen, and chat. Contact center leaders will discover the latest methods for empowering their agents and transforming their learning capacity by inserting experiential active learning into their training curriculum to improve both employee experiences (EX) and customer experiences (CX).

Why Agent Performance Matters

Companies with confident top-performing agents are leaders in customer engagement. But a common challenge among contact center leaders is finding effective and scalable approaches to train and improve agent performance.

The path to better interactions means equipping agents with best practices and skills to solve complex problems with care and empathy — while accelerating speed to proficiency, reducing agent attrition, and improving critical KPIs such as CSAT, conversion rate, agent NPS, and first call resolution scores.

From the customer and prospect perspective, a positive experience with agents who listen and understand them has a ripple effect, from improving contact center KPIs to securing a return customer. The 2020 Salesforce “State of Service” report shows that almost 80% of contact center agents say their company views them as customer advocates or brand ambassadors, and 77% of agents reported that their role is more strategic than it was two years ago.

As the agent job becomes more difficult, agents need support to reach and uphold expected levels of performance. Active learning methods like simulation training positively contribute to the employee experience because it creates top-performing agents who are more likely to be secure and happy in their roles. This is done through real-life practice, which allows agents to learn faster and retain information at a significantly higher rate.

With new advances in technology, contact center leaders can leverage the benefits of simulation training role-play whether the agent works from home or in an office, without the limitations of outdated scripted methods.

Agent Training with AI Simulation Training

The best approach contact center leaders can take to equip their agents for better performance is to ensure they have access to the most effective training methodologies and solutions. Established methods like practice via simulation training set agents up for greater success in their roles.

For years, people have leveraged simulation training to learn new skills. For example, pilots learn to fly planes in flight simulators with zero risk involved to passengers, cargo, or aircraft. Similarly, contact center agents can learn how to speak to customers or prospects with care, empathy, active listening, and more without the risk of losing a customer due to a poor experience. Today, AI has not only transformed self-service customer service solutions, but it can also help contact center agents learn complex new skills through hands-on active learning. The 70-20-10 learning method has proven over countless studies that human beings learn best by doing. In fact, 70% of learning is achieved through hands-on learning.

Contact center leaders can use AI simulation training to prepare new hires well before speaking with their first live customer or prospect. Tenured agents can build new skills and close skill gaps. Companies can more effectively train their entire agent workforce when launching a new product, service, or way of conducting business vs. antiquated methods such as huddles or relying solely on knowledge articles. By leveraging AI, agents take on a modern approach to practicing high-impact call scenarios in their own words without a script. Contact center leaders can also use AI simulation training for tone, soft skills, and best and required practice feedback. Agents practice, solve problems, make mistakes, and build confidence through simulated life-like scenarios.

Challenges with Creating a Simulation Training Program

Once a contact center leader decides to use AI simulation training, it may seem overwhelming to build out all the potential scenarios. With so many possibilities, top KPIs can easily get lost in the mix. The 80-20 rule helps leaders stay on track. This means that on average, 50-75 simulation stories will cover 80% of any call type. Leaders want agents to be amazing at 50-75 stories per use case such as customer service, direct sales, fraud, disputes, collections, or more. On the flip side, it may take a significantly larger number of stories to cover the remaining 20% of potential call types or corner cases with live customers or prospects. When agents can handle the most critical and frequent 80% of call types with superior agility and proficiency, they will often figure out how to handle the remaining 20% for the first time with finesse and confidence.

When it comes to metrics, the top priorities at every contact center vary. Each contact center leader should spend time determining additional key metrics to improve based on the contact center’s specific needs. There are a handful of major metrics that should always be considered when building out any agent training program.

Major Metrics/KPI improvements

  • Speed-to-Proficiency: Improve how quickly an agent can provide accurate and timely replies to customers according to your quality standards.
  • CSAT Score: This metric is perhaps the strongest at demonstrating impact on the business. By solving customer inquiries for the first time with personalized empathetic customer experiences, customer satisfaction scores will significantly improve.
  • Drive to Digital: Save customer time and prevent future calls. Improving the drive-to-digital metric empowers customers to help themselves, saving them time and frustration from waiting to speak with a customer service representative.
  • Agent Attrition: Losing agents to attrition is a current major concern of contact centers. Many agents are leaving in their first 90 days of employment. A number of agents leave because they don’t feel adequately prepared for success in the role.
  • Reduce Average Handle Time (AHT): Improve service delivery while reducing cost. By focusing on common call types, prioritizing best practices for speed, and providing a superior customer experience, starting on day one in training for new hire agents.
  • Improve First Call Resolution (FCR): Prevent callbacks and reduce costs. FCR is one of the cornerstone metrics for high-performing contact centers. It provides clear insights into customer satisfaction, ensures customer problems are solved the first time, and reduces unnecessary repeat customer call-back costs.

Each contact center will differ, but these metrics are typically good indicators of training program effectiveness.

The Value of Improving Soft Skills

Delivering empathetic interactions through conversations, screen, and chat is a key driver of brand perception. According to Harvard Business Review research from 2015, “The top 10 companies in the Global Empathy Index 2015 increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50% more earnings.”

When agents build soft skills, such as acknowledging with empathy, removing isolation, and responding with compassion, they can majorly differentiate the brand. Many agents tend to dive head-first into problem-solving without acknowledging the customer’s emotions, frustration, or hardships. While soft skills do not come naturally to all agents, active learning helps improve those important soft skills to ensure that customers and prospects feel heard and understood.

By practicing real-life call scenarios before talking with live customers through AI simulation training, agents can master soft skills and be fully prepared for their first live call. With more empathetic agents, CSAT, and NPS scores rise.

Contact center leaders can leverage AI to empower their agents to master the best and required practices and soft skills. AI simulation training creates role-play scenarios and allows for human feedback — at scale, across massive contact centers. New technologies have transformed the contact center experience, but leaders cannot overlook the importance of confident top-performing agents to drive customer engagement and KPI milestones.


Casey Denby
Senior Director, Enterprise Sales

About the Author:

Casey is an experienced global leader of Operations and Training organizations with a rich background in contact center operational success. Casey currently leads the Zenarate Sales Team, with a focus on empowering Customer Care organizations around the globe with a smarter coaching approach through AI Simulation Training. Casey has led multiple global Training organizations, including at Western Union and RE/MAX, overseeing training delivery, quality assurance, knowledge documentation, creative & interactive design, and LMS. Casey is passionate about delivering excellence for the customer, with a belief that the customer service agent job can be more desirable by setting up the agent for immediate and long-term success.

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Zenarate AI Coach helps leading brands develop confident top-performing agents through AI Simulation Training.

Learn more at zenarate.com



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