Sitting on the front lines of the contact center, agents are the personification of your brand. They provide the human-to-human connection that makes lasting impressions and supports more engaging customer experiences (CX). But, while CX continues to play an outsized role as a competitive differentiator, best-in-class contact centers are increasingly replicating the same type of customer-centricity to the agent experience. Contact centers make significant investments in process and technology to power seamless, effective engagements with customers. However, without also focusing on reduction of agent friction their ability to bring those exceptional customer experience to life can fall flat.
In fact, The State of Experience and Engagement in Today’s Contact Centers study, commissioned by NICE inContact and ICMI, found that contact centers are increasingly emphasizing the agent experience (AX) as part of their wider CX strategy. The research found that half of contact center leaders said that employee experience is a top priority, and that they regularly source insight from agents to better understand their needs and perspectives—much like they would with customers. Seeking agent input enables contact center leaders to stay agile and proactively make adjustments and take action to ensure the most robust agent experience possible.
If you’re looking to better support agents, and turn them into brand ambassadors through onboarding improvements, easy-to-use technology and personalized career growth strategies, the following are a few things to keep in mind.
Great Service Starts with Hiring and Onboarding
As customer expectations for digital-first omnichannel service grow, there’s an increasing demand for contact centers to grow to meet this demand. In fact, over one-third of contact centers are planning to expand agent-related resources in the coming year, according the NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark.
But positive growth is more than just filling seats—contact center leaders need to be strategic in how they approach the hiring process. If a person isn’t fundamentally the right fit with the right skills as an agent, they might be set up for failure in the long run. Think about it this way: modern buying journeys are thoughtful—brands get to know the customer in order to build a customized experience. The same approach is true for hiring the right agents.
Consider some of the traditional skills hiring managers look for in potential candidates: problem-solving, communication, empathy. The common thread between these skills is an ability to make deep human connections while quickly solving problems with frictionless communication. That said, most agents spend most of their onboarding time learning the literal tools of the trade, rather than improving core communication skills. Modernizing to a consolidated, easy-to-use cloud contact center platform actually streamlines technology and process training, freeing up time to improve customer service capabilities by up to 50%. That’s time that can then be focused on the customer.
When core competencies like problem-solving, communication and empathy are met, and agents are empowered with best-in-class and easy-to-use technology, the foundation is set for sustainable success. Otherwise, contact centers run the risk of exceedingly long and difficult onboarding processes, which can have negative consequences in our fast-paced environment.
Eliminate Agent Stress with the Right Tools
Once agents are on the job, they’re charged with engaging customers and supporting them in real time. In today’s omnichannel landscape, that engagement can take shape in an ever-growing number of ways. The skill sets required expand beyond answering phones or responding to emails—agents need to be able to navigate digital channels like text, chat and social while understanding the nuances of each. What might be read as a positive emoji via text could have different implications if sent via private social messenger.
Without the right technology to bring these channels together cohesively, omnichannel can be a significant source of agent stress. The study found that the number of channels agents are balancing is the second most common stressor (67%), just behind the amount of paid time off they receive (75%). Interestingly, this problem isn’t rooted in the channels themselves but rather the interface that they are using to navigate these channels.
If agents are forced to toggle between 12 windows at any given time, it can feel as if they’re playing whack-a-mole as opposed to delivering meaningful customer service. By seamlessly unifying channels in one easy-to-use desktop interface, the modern cloud contact center platform eliminates agent strain by easing both training processes and moment-to-moment toggling between screens, so agents can spend more time on customers and less time on chasing down channels.
Give Your Agents Room to Grow
According to The State of Experience and Engagement in Today’s Contact Centers, the number one cause of agent attrition in the contact center is a lack of career advancement opportunities. Agents want to know that an upward trajectory for them is on the horizon, and that there’s a clear path to achieve that goal.
Adopting and embracing of omnichannel is a powerful way to support this need. When polled, 54% of agents already believe that expanding omnichannel skills is a beneficial career move. Furthermore, omnichannel can have a direct impact on financial compensation: In one-third of organizations, agents who handle multiple channels as opposed to one are paid more than their peers—upward of 10%. The promise of career growth helps agents get invested in the organization and themselves, much like contact centers look to build investment from customers into the brand and what has to offer.
Treat Employees as Customers
You can’t move customer satisfaction without moving employee satisfaction. Research firm Gartner has revealed that 86% of CX executives rank employee experience as a top factor in delivering CX. In today’s experience economy, organizations need to approach their customer experience (CX) and agent experience (AX) experience strategies holistically. True, effective customer centricity simply cannot be achieved without paying equal attention to the very professionals who execute it day after day. When the right people are matched with the right omnichannel tools, building exceptional experiences becomes scalable and effortless.
Chris Bauserman is Vice President of Segment and Product Marketing at NICE inContact.
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, http://www.contactcenterpipeline.com