Six Steps to Improving the Employee Experience in Your Contact Center

Jan 20, 2022 12:51:19 PM

Working in a contact center is a tough job. Every time an agent accepts an interaction, they never know what awaits them. Combine that stress with long hours, limited opportunities for advancement, and being stuck at a desk all day, it’s no surprise that this industry struggles with high turnover and job dissatisfaction.

With “the war on work” and “the great resignation” gaining steam, employees are no longer willing to be just a headcount. The average annual turnover rate for agents in the U.S. is around 30-45% -- more than double the average for all other occupations. And their jobs have only gotten harder; just this month, The New York Times published an article titled A Nation On Hold Wants to Speak With a Manager, chronicling how and why consumer behavior has taken a turn for the worse (creating more headaches for agents and an unsatisfactory contact center experience, no doubt).  

Since the start of the pandemic, contact center agents have been working from home with hastily patched-together solutions while trying to tame increasing customer rage. So supporting agents and improving the experience they have at work is more important than ever… customer service crumbles without them.

Six Ways to Improve Your EX

Here are six ways to improve the employee experience (EX), which will improve your contact center culture, lower agent turnover, increase overall job satisfaction, and, in turn, boost the customer experience you deliver:

1. Foster a positive work environment.

Every leader strives to build a customer service culture that is fun, rewarding, and promotes open communication. But keeping employees engaged, upbeat, and satisfied requires different tactics in today’s new way of working. What used to be in-office snacks, an inviting atmosphere, and company-sponsored happy hours now looks like:

  • Ensuring people feel that their health is a priority and is protected, whether remote, hybrid, or back in the office
  • Prioritizing employee emotional and mental wellness
  • Creating new ways for managers and team members to connect on a personal level - and on a regular basis - as they navigate working from home (WFH) and hybrid environments
  • Establishing remote work opportunities and creating a policy statement to match
  • Ensuring people have the right equipment to WFH
  • Facilitating group chats and virtual events that foster people throughout the organization to establish relationships since people are no longer bumping into each other in the hallways, shared kitchen, or elevators

Contact center leaders must (re)design the workplace to fit the current state of the world. Agents who feel more connected to their work, the culture, and their colleagues are significantly less likely to be on the hunt for a new job elsewhere, so leaders must invest time in making the bulleted list above a reality. 

2. Automate routine interactions with bots.

We talk a lot about how humans and bots create a better experience because it’s true! Today’s bots are smart, providing instant solutions and answers to routine questions. Instead of putting all inquiries on the agents’ shoulders, a well-built bot can automatically pull complete customer information and history into the agent dashboard, provide 24/7 service to easy inquiries across channels, and even re-route and transfer upset customers--detected through sentiment analysis--to a dedicated agent who excels in de-escalation techniques. 

When implemented and used correctly, bots don’t replace humans but enable agents to focus on more complex customer problems, creating a better contact center experience for everyone. 

3. Let Agents Go Off Script

The human touch can’t be left out of the equation. Instead of micro-managing every interaction, contact center leaders should empower agents to navigate difficult situations by allowing agents to go off-script. 

Leaders must have the confidence to trust employees to do the right thing. This small act of trust can be another huge step to improving their experience at work. 

4. Praise and incentivize agents for a job well done. 

Agents want to feel appreciated. Leaders need to take the time to recognize all above-and-beyond interactions.

Praise agents who have stellar performance and help the ones who don’t. Who is rated highly by customers on the end-of-interaction feedback forms? Which agent tends to upset already-emotional customers? Hopefully, your technology can tell you. Giving incentives to agents is an effective way to motivate them to strive to do better, and it can also boost morale. Having meaningful, ongoing coaching and training will boost employee satisfaction, too because “Implementing training programs in the workplace will help employees feel like the company is invested in them.”

5. Invest in robust cloud contact center technology that makes their jobs easier. 

A Gartner survey revealed that only 13% of employees are fully satisfied with their experience. Read that again: only 13% of employees are satisfied with the experience they have (every day) at work. Yikes. 

Ask yourself: how easy is it for them to do their job and do it well? Especially now that supervisors are no longer accessible at arm's length, providing the necessary tools for agents to be effective and productive from home is critical. Communicating with customers and with colleagues can – and should – be easy; technology that ‘does it all’ in one place might be just what you need to make it happen. 

Adopt the idea of seeking to “do more with less” this year. More channels, more security, more features, more flexibility, more service how and where customers need it. Less silos, less screens, less switching, less downtime, less headache. Your call center software should house every channel in one window, with features like machine learning, live translation and transcription, built-in unified communications that allow teams to collaborate to solve issues faster, and a true omnichannel experience for both agents and customers. 

Giving your employees the right technology to do their jobs leads to higher productivity, motivation, and satisfaction. So that 13% can quickly turn into 31% and beyond.

6. Let agents operate from their preferred location.

No one is in a hurry to run back into the office and sit three feet away from another employee in a cubicle. It’s still just too risky. As part of my predictions for 2022, I believe agents will continue to seek flexible, remote contact center jobs that allow them to live, work, and interact with colleagues anywhere across the globe. And leaders must figure out how to win at managing fully distributed teams

Hiring the best agents for the job regardless of their physical location is completely feasible in 2022 — because the tools needed to help agents to do their jobs exceptionally well from anywhere, at any time, do in fact exist. They’re just not being leveraged. (That’s where Edify comes in, with true multi-cloud architecture, global availability, 100% uptime SLA, and every cool feature in a single piece of software.)

A Better EX Means a Better CX For Us All

By putting these tips to work in the contact center, I believe CX leaders can collectively reduce stress and increase joy for agents while boosting their productivity at work. Rich, rewarding experiences are possible (and even easy) in today’s new virtual workplace. And we know that when the employee experience is better, the customer experience is better, too. We’ll all benefit from that.

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