Call center agent smiling as she takes a call.
PHOTO: Gorodenkoff

Building positive customer experiences (CX) is paramount for businesses looking to further their mission and drive results. While there are many components and stakeholders involved in great CX, one player stands out: the customer experience agent. In-house agents interact with and support customers every day, making it important that they are supported as well.

Webex by Cisco recently partnered with CMSWire to find out how CX leaders are supporting their customer service agents, where they plan investments to improve the agent experience (AX), and where gaps still exist. Survey results found that attention, budget, opportunities and time all matter in improving AX and CX, as does the maturity of the technology strategy and stack.

Great CX and AX Are Closely Linked

Not surprisingly, CX is top of mind for managers, directors and senior leaders: seven in ten respondents in the survey ranked improving CX as a high or critical priority for the upcoming year. Organizations also appear to understand the role that AX plays in this initiative, with 92% who said they believe that senior leadership understands the correlation.

To align AX with the CX mission, organizations need to be able to clearly evaluate agent performance, identify opportunities for better agent support and deploy practices and technology to put them into action. Data can help, but managers must do more than simply measure and record information. Agent metrics, if used correctly, lead to actionable insights and fuel a larger agent engagement strategy that positively affects CX.

While 75% of respondents said CX agent engagement data is reviewed by leadership, fewer organizations are using this data to implement action plans. Top uses for this data included recommending learning and development opportunities (56%), reviewing with agents (52%) and targeting interventions or initiatives (42%). Managers can use data-driven insights to both reward high agent engagement and positive behavior as well as identify and isolate problems before they become too big to fix.

Work Experience Matters for Agents

Over time, unhappy agents lead to unhappy customers, and poor customer sentiment may further degrade agent performance.

Fixing poor agent performances begins by identifying what causes it. According to the survey, workload is a leading problem, with 47% of respondents ranking it as the primary cause of poor customer service. Changes to the labor force, including the Great Resignation, have led to increased agent turnover and difficulty filling open roles, which leaves remaining agents with unmanageable workloads. Furthermore, agents without the right technology and tools find their job even more time consuming, inefficient and demanding.

While improved talent acquisition practices will clearly play a role in reversing this trend, there are other ways managers can support their agents. Survey respondents pointed to learning and development opportunities (64%), resources, checklists and toolkits (61%), knowledge bases (59%) and mentoring and shadowing options (58%) as the top ways they support agents in their interactions with customers.

Self-assessments and evaluations are also important support levers. The survey found that most organizations (52%) give their agents the opportunity to review their performance at least once a week, if not more frequently. Finally, omnichannel collaboration tech, integrated support platforms and intelligent processes all free agents of time-consuming, low-level tasks and allows them to focus on the customer.

Tech Stack Maturity Drives Better CX

An organization’s customer service technology stack can reveal a lot about their broader CX program and AX. Specifically, the survey found that organizations that have deployed centralized CX technology strategies – “advanced” or mature organizations – were more invested in improving customer experience, with 84% ranking it as a high or critical priority. Whereas, just 40% of “beginner” organizations (those without any CX technology strategy) see it as a priority.

Advanced organizations are also more likely to see their budget for CX technology increase. As a result of the technology they’ve deployed, they’re also more likely to:

  • Branch out from email and voice, using other channels for customer support (live chat, social media).
  • Employ multiple evaluation methods and metrics by soliciting and collecting qualitative agent engagement data.
  • Offer more support to agents in their interactions with customers.
  • Use data to fuel action through agent reviews, interventions and initiatives.

Only 37% of respondents classified their company as advanced, meaning many organizations still have strides to make. However, Advanced organizations realize the value and successes gained from CX technology which is, in part, fueling their current and future investment priorities.

Conclusion

There’s a strong relationship between agents and overall customer service. To achieve CX success, companies must continually find ways to improve agent performance, effectiveness and experience. Evaluating your CX technology strategy is a great place to start. A more mature technology strategy and stack improves agent workloads while making it possible for your organization to explore and implement solutions that improve agent support. Whether it’s better customer interactions, self-assessment and evaluation opportunities, or data-driven decisions, AX is a key factor in creating great CX. Delivering on these will ultimately increase customer retention and drive revenue for organizations.

Read the full report, Supercharging Customer Experiences Through Great Agent Support, at Webex Ahead.