The Agent Experience Matters More Than You Think

Jul 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM

My friend Erin was supposed to get married this past May. Due to the unforeseen Coronavirus outbreak, that didn’t happen. We were all gutted, but she’s still planning on getting married later this year! What she wasn’t planning on, however, was having to make phone call after phone call to figure out where her wedding dress and wedding band were and why neither of those important items had yet to arrive.

Yep, you read that right. It’s JULY at this point. Still no dress. Still no ring. I can attest to the fact that Erin was presumably very zen on her first few phone calls, as she’s a yoga teacher by trade. I can also attest to the fact that Erin was presumably very UN-zen after her first two calls when a customer service agent finally told her that her dress was, quote, “there...but still disassembled.” Excuse me, what? Like the arms haven’t been sewn on yet? I needed clarification upon hearing this story, too.

As if having her dream wedding canceled wasn’t enough, imagine trying to plan another one and still not having your dress or ring. And imagine if the wedding had, in fact, occurred in May, right on schedule…Yikes.

Customer Service Crumbles Without Happy Agents

There’s a major breakdown somewhere in the food chain here – there has to be. I’ve felt it myself when dealing with customer service departments since the global crisis broke out. Coronavirus sent agents everywhere to work from home, with no notice, and they weren’t properly armed with the tools and information they needed to help customers. 

Furthermore, these agents are getting yelled at by customers who are (nearly) in tears themselves because no one knows what’s going on. And that agent on the phone with my friend Erin who doesn’t know what happened is now stuck in the midst of a very awkward conversation because she is unable to give her customer some very basic, yet important information like why the dress is ‘disassembled’, why it’s so far off-schedule, when exactly it will be done, and how to make things right with the customer. If agents are put in such a predicament time and time again, how long do you think they’ll stick around? Not long, if I had to guess. Agents desperately need the right technology and the right support from their managers in order to do their jobs properly.

Research found the average annual turnover rate for agents in U.S. contact centers to be between 30-45%, which is more than double the average for all occupations in the U.S. Attrition may be your biggest threat, but even if your employees don’t just outright quit, unhappy ones aren’t going to result in happy customers. Reasons for low job satisfaction and agent attrition can include:

  • Non-challenging or repetitive work
  • Lack of recognition
  • Inflexible schedule and working environment
  • Employee disengagement
  • Abusive calls and stress

When you fail to give agents the experience at work that they deserve, they can’t help your customers (and trust me, they want to). So, not only do you have frustrated customers, you have frustrated employees too. Customer expectations aren’t slowing down, either. Last year, Time Doctor found that 59% of customers said that they have higher expectations for customer support than they had the year prior. That’s only rising. Surprisingly, technology can fix a lot of this. 

Why Your Employees Deserve an Omnichannel Experience 

We talk a lot about how today’s customers demand an omnichannel experience. What we forget to talk about sufficiently is that today’s agents demand one too. When someone like my friend Erin calls in (because that’s her preferred channel of choice), the agent on the other end of the line needs to have all of Erin’s information and all previous interactions accessible. The agent needs unified communications natively built-in with the contact center software so she can chat over to someone in production while she’s on the phone with Erin – getting real answers to important questions. Mirroring Erin’s experience, a survey found that 36% of people feel the most frustrating aspect of a poor customer service experience is dealing with an agent that lacks the knowledge or ability to solve the customer’s issue.

Working in customer service may be the end goal for some. For others, it may be a stepping stone to get them through college, a place to land while they figure out their next career move, or the perfect part-time job with the right hours. Regardless, the employee experience (EX) you’re delivering should be one that aims to keep every person there for the long haul. After all, the foundation of your customer experience is your agent experience. Give them software that acts as a single pane of glass, make sure they have the flexibility and tools necessary to do their jobs, build a culture of praise and recognition, and hire the best managers who are both transparent and authentic. 

Don’t you want your agents to feel happy at work? To feel supported by their bosses? To enjoy what they do because the technology they’re using is intuitive and sets them up with all the information they need to end each customer interaction in a positive way? I know, as a customer, I do.

Kendal Rodgers

Written by Kendal Rodgers

Kendal is the Marketing Manager at Edify and has been writing and curating content most of her professional career. She’s passionate about working with start-ups and sharing life experiences through storytelling. Kendal earned her B.S. in Marketing and International Studies from the IU Kelley School of Business.