Focus on goals & training to aid clients & teams
Consumer-facing businesses live or die on the experiences they provide. Those that can provide consistent and engaging experiences will improve customer satisfaction and retention, while those that provide a below-par customer experience (CX) will quickly find themselves on their back foot.
But this focus on experiences doesn’t just relate to customers; the agent experience must also be given the attention it deserves. Indeed, the two are interlinked, as meeting the needs of today’s contact centre agents has a direct impact on the quality of the service they provide to customers. And, today, with most contact centre agents working from home, the challenges and importance are magnified.
According to Gartner, 86% of CX executives rank employee experience as a top factor in delivering exceptional CX. However, The State of Experience and Engagement in Today’s Contact Centres study, commissioned by NICE inContact and ICMI, found that just 50% of contact centres believe the agent experience is a priority.
In order to truly drive long-term customer loyalty – and in turn, business growth – contact centres must prioritise the people who are sitting on the front lines of their CX strategy: their agents.
The challenge facing businesses when it comes to improving the agent experience is that the modern contact centre environment is more complicated than ever before.
Agents at risk
Tech-savvy Millennials and Generation Z consumers are driving the digital-first future of customer experience at a rapid rate. With their desire for seamless digital-first omnichannel customer service, such as social media messaging and AI-powered chatbots, customer interactions are quickly becoming more and more complex.
This added complexity can raise agent stress levels, in turn impacting their job satisfaction. In fact, dealing with the growing number of channels was voted as the second highest factor contributing to frequent stress among contact centre employees in the ICMI report, while agents specifically cited their relationships with their direct supervisor, the type of work they are doing and the complexity of that work as the top three stress-inducing factors.
It also means agents at all levels are having to learn new skillsets and develop greater proficiency across a diverse range of channels. However, half of contact centre staff report limited on-the-job training. Once agents have moved out of the onboarding phase, 50% receive less than two hours of additional training a month, with contact centre processes being the highest focus areas as opposed to personal skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving.
Another factor for businesses to consider is that today’s digital-native employees have high expectations of their workplace environment. On top of comprehensive development and training programmes, they also expect a healthy and positive team environment – all personalised to their needs. It is harder than ever to meet these needs with agents working from home.
It’s imperative businesses recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach simply isn’t good enough. In order to gain the CX benefits available, contact centres must find ways to meet modern agent expectations by getting personal and focusing on all aspects of the agent experience.
Putting agents first
Understanding personal goals and how they fit into the business as a whole is an essential step in moving towards empowering agents as effective brand ambassadors. Specifically, business transparency has been shown to lead to a more motivated and engaged workforce, as agents whose performance metrics are closely aligned with that of the overall business are more likely to be engaged (16%). The same is true for agents who see alignment between their role and the wider business goals (20%).
Most importantly, agents need clear, consistent and personalised goals to guide performance results, all of which can now be achieved using advanced tools and processes. Visual dashboards can collect real-time data to convey clear metrics and individual performance against those metrics, while information can be packaged specifically to show how the contact centre is contributing to business goals.
At an agent experience level, introducing data-driven gamification can add a fun and competitive flair to drive individual and team success. Tools that show agents how they are performing relative to their peers can provide a powerful incentive, leading to empowered and engaged agents. Gamification can also be a tremendous way to help agents feel part of a team as they work from home, outside the contact centre.
Establishing personal performance goals should be combined with personalised rewards and recognition programs, the latter of which was cited by agents as being the top factor contributing to high satisfaction. Constant motivation is key, and these factors can help reduce agent attrition – one of the biggest issues facing contact centres – as well as improve the service they provide to customers.
The third aspect of a holistic agent experience strategy is training. It’s important for businesses to identify specific agent skills gaps in order to provide targeted and efficient training programs. Offering customised digital learning packages can ensure quick and easy consumption, making agents more effective in how they solve complex customer issues.
Digital tools can also be used to identify the right training times based on individual schedules and real-time call volumes, while automation can be used to deliver training modules and assess proficiency.
Ultimately, focusing on a personalised three-pronged approach of goals, experiences and training can have a significant impact on agent satisfaction, reducing attrition and inspiring a more satisfied employee. This will translate into improved customer experiences by boosting the level of service provided, inspiring customer brand loyalty and driving long-term business success.
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Paul Jarman holds the position of NICE inContact CEO. Mr. Jarman is responsible for the industry leading cloud customer experience platform, CXone, used by enterprise, midmarket, government organizations and business process outsourcers (BPOs) who operate in multiple divisions, locations and global regions.
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