CX Insight Magazine

October 2022

Is It Time to Increase Your Investment in Agent Quality?

by Execs In The Know

Great organizations commonly look at the end-to-end experience a customer has with their brand; but what about the employee experience?

Over the past couple of years, customer experience (CX) organizations were forced to redesign and/or accelerate strategic and operational roadmaps to accommodate the unprecedented shift in the way, the place, and the manner that work was done. Much of this massive effort was focused on fast-tracking technology investments to power the work-from-home environment, including new contact center infrastructure and self-service tools. This work was required to keep customer service operations afloat during the pandemic and into the new era of remote/hybrid work environments.

Some believe that these investments, which were technology-heavy, have come at the expense of our employees, requiring us to take a fresh look at the agent experience. Recent job reports support this belief, signaling that the Great Resignation may lead to long-term talent shortages and additional turnover. Conversations about how to increase agent satisfaction, engagement, and empowerment are now at the forefront for many CX leaders. A key factor in this agent experience discussion must be the investment brands are making in agent quality.

Defining the Quality of Agent Experience

When surveying the landscape and defining the best response to our current environment, a key consideration is how we define quality in relation to the agent experience. Quality is more than a simple score attached to a customer interaction. Instead, quality is about the entire agent experience. Great organizations commonly look at the end-to-end experience a customer has with their brand; but what about the employee experience? Deeply understanding the agent experience is a great way to know what they expect, need, perceive, and do. It is key to delivering the kinds of experiences that keep agents happy, thriving, and delivering incredible CX.

Does your organization need to redefine or expand the way it looks at agent quality? If so, getting started is easy: journey map the end-to-end agent experience with quality as your focus.

Some key considerations include:

  • Start at the beginning. What can the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding experience tell you about the quality of the agent experience? Look at the messaging, the way the job opening is marketed, how the interviews set expectations for the role, and what onboarding reveals about how the employee is being welcomed to the company. Ensuring that this process gauges the candidate’s passion for the customer service experience is also a key part of hiring the right person for the job and can be an indicator of the quality of their future performance.
  • Training is a critical part of the agent experience when it comes to quality. Of course, training needs to include the operational basics, but is your training also designed and delivered with a laser focus on how to deliver quality interactions?
    Training should cultivate the agent’s passion for the brand and products as well as the compassion they need to show to customers that reach out for help. The best training to showcase a great agent experience and ready them to deliver high-quality interactions is training that teaches not only what to do, but how and when to do it, and why it should be done to benefit the company, the customer, and the customer service team. This approach increases agent understanding, buy-in, and focus on quality.
  • Once agents are hired and trained, how do the ongoing support systems reinforce and reward quality interactions? Do agents have ample opportunity for uptraining, career development, and rewards and recognition?
    In addition, the resources offered and prompted for employee well-being and mental health are increasingly necessary. An environment that supports the employee as a human being is more important than ever to the quality of the agent experience.
  • When agents start taking contacts and interacting with customers, a key factor in high-quality experiences is empowerment, particularly with process and tools. Are there processes in place that limit the agent’s ability to deliver quality interactions? What tools empower the agents to focus on resolution and next best actions? These are critical elements of a high-quality agent and customer experience.

Based on what you learn in this exercise, you should be able to easily identify where additional investment is required to improve the quality of your agent experience and their performance. What you are likely to find dovetails with what you already know about your customer expectations. Looking at it through the employee lens, agents want to be part of a brand that shows empathy, is easy to work with and for, and rewards and recognizes quality performance and loyalty.

Involving Agents in Technology Investments

Even as the conversation and investment shifts to support agent quality, technology spend remains critical to delivering great CX. One way to marry these two potentially opposed agendas is to include your agents in technology-investment planning. Agents, like no other employees, have their fingers on the customers’ pulse in real time, day in and day out. So, why not go to the source as you plan for what’s next in building out your technology roadmap? Getting agent input will provide critical insight into what’s needed to improve these tools and increase quality.

Agents will have perspectives on ways to improve many components of the tech stack, likely beginning with their desktop. To the agent, the desktop is the backbone of the stack, since customer relationship management (CRM) technology helps agents guide the interaction and access, review, and update contactor data. Engaged agents will be able to easily identify CRM improvements to help increase their access to information, productivity, and quality scores.

The same is true for self-service tool innovations. Our recent research report, Self-help Solutions: Exploring Consumer Experiences, Preferences, and Opinions, emphasized the importance for organizations to get self-help tools right before deploying them. Customers want self-help solutions that are capable and relevant; otherwise, they want human agents. Agents can help identify the contact types that are more efficiently and effectively handled via self- service. They can also provide insight into those interactions that require human touch due to the sensitive nature or complexity of the contact.

An additional area where leaders and developers can learn from agents is the organization’s routing scheme and channel mix. Helping customers get to the right channel is critical to resolution and satisfaction of the customer and the agent. Right channeling is about designing service journeys, so customers are routed to the channel most likely to provide the best possible engagement, experience, and resolution. Agents understand this concept and can share real-world examples to help influence the right channeling strategy.

Gathering agent input and feedback throughout the entire process — from initial scoping and planning through the development, launch, and maintenance phases — should be standard operating procedure for companies seeking to deliver stellar customer and employee experiences. This collaboration and inclusion is valuable in increasing agent empowerment and helping them feel heard, leading to a better employee experience. In addition, gathering and acting on this input will provide critical insight into what is needed to improve the tools that power interactions and increase agent quality and performance.

Achieving the Right Balance

A CX leader’s work is often a balancing act. Is it time to balance the massive technology spend of the COVID era with investments in agent quality? Two key factors may make the answer to this question a resounding yes for your organization:

  1. Recent research confirms that customers still prefer humans over self-service tools. For many interactions, customers believe that the human touch trumps technology.
  2. The Great Resignation is not a short-term phenomenon, and companies likely will still struggle with hiring and retaining enough employees to meet service-level and satisfaction targets.

As you try to achieve the right balance, focus on efforts that improve the quality of the agent experience and performance. Well-trained and empowered agents receive and deliver higher quality experiences.

When humans and technology work in harmony, your organization can better balance the needs of your agents, your customers, and your operational goals to deliver an improved overall experience for all involved.



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