What comes to mind when you think of fantastic customer experiences (CXs) you’ve had?
If you’re like me, I think of the agent who went the extra mile to solve my issue or kept me with them so that I wouldn’t have to be transferred to yet another department.
I also think of the agent who was clear and concise in their communication: whether over email, chat, or social media. It was clear a human was helping me, even if my interaction may have begun with a chatbot.
We all understand that a customer-first mindset is critical for success. We can all name at least a half-dozen brands cited in case studies, written about in popular books, and in which we have invested our money in that have cracked the code on delighting their customers.
Much less discussed is what it takes to deliver truly outstanding CXs. While some companies may think of FCR as defined as having your issue solved the first time you reach out to a brand. But others may think of it as contact deflection: when you have such an extensive knowledge base that a customer can solve whatever issue they may have through self-help.
However, only the most innovative businesses make the connection that in order to deliver loyalty-driving experiences, you must first ensure your workforce is engaged and empowered.
This would seem to be super obvious to all but the most pessimistic businessperson; a better employee experience leads to better business outcomes and, in turn, better experiences.
We all understand that a customer-first mindset is critical for success.
Although we can all cite truly horrendous experiences when it felt like an employee did not care about solving our issue or problem, we can also discuss defining experiences that made us customers of a particular company for life.
Creating a Better Employee Experience
But how do you deliver a better employee experience? Let’s consider both behaviors or policies that make an employee engage and those that lead them to take their skillset elsewhere.
The first contact with many companies that one might have is with recruiting. During the interview process, it is an opportunity to not only “sell” the prospective employee on why they would want to work for your business. It is also a chance for the agent to see if they can be successful in your environment.
There are many books, blogs, and resources on helpful interviewing, but the biggest thing to remember is to provide the employee with a realistic outlook of their work. Here are a few ideas.
- What will training and onboarding look like?
- We’ve all been in situations where we have just had to “figure it out.” But if you don’t properly arm your agents with the information they need to do their jobs, you can expect that they will share that during an inbound chat, email, or phone call with a customer.
- How will agents receive feedback on whether or not they are doing a good job?
- Most contact centers have some sort of quality management (QM) software to provide feedback on performance. As you research which one might be right for you, ensure that you can track digital interactions and phone calls.
- Do they understand the goals and objectives of your business?
- A good way to reinforce your company-wide initiatives is to gamify the behavior that leads to the KPI(s) you are trying to reach. For example, if your objective is to increase FCR, reward representatives who consistently solve issues the first time a customer contacts your company.
- Will they have control over how and where they complete their work?
- According to a Playvox survey in 2022, over 56% of agents would look for a new role if not offered the option to work from home. In a tight job market, offering this type of flexibility is a no-cost benefit you can provide if you can monitor and manage agents remotely.
- How will scheduling work? Will agents consistently be over-scheduled and/or under-utilized?
- Support staff can become quickly disengaged if they are either flooded with interactions or waiting for a phone call or chat. Even worse, you’ll waste valuable resources and budget if you over- or under-staff your contact center. To better predict volumes, forecast, and scheduling needs, make sure you leverage a WFM solution.
These are just a few ideas of information to share with a prospective employee. The more you can educate an employee about their job, the more prepared, empowered, and engaged they will be. That engagement will result in better CXs. In addition to sharing this information in the interview process, you also need to continually look to engage your support teams.
How to Keep Your Contact Center Agents Happy and Engaged
Employee engagement, and yes, happiness with their jobs in large part depends on how well employees are supervised and coached. Here are six ways to be a better contact center leader while also improving the CX:
1. Be empathetic. Just as customers want an empathetic CX, to be heard, and to have their issues resolved, your employees want the same. Remember that your customer support agents are the difference between mediocre or brag-worthy CXs. By empathizing, educating, engaging, and empowering your teams, your employees will be better positioned to provide empathetic CXs.
2. Be a better coach. Fostering a positive and empowered work culture can improve employee morale and engagement, which can, in turn, improve the overall performance of your contact center and CX. The best type of coach is one that speaks to each “player” with individualized pathways to success. Every coach wants their team to stay engaged and motivated at work.
Giving employees the proper training, motivation, and coaching will empower your team.
Consider ways to recognize and reward your employees for delivering exceptional CX. For example, sharing employees’ accomplishments on your community wall gives them a chance to shine and boost motivation through friendly competition.
3. Ongoing training. Regular training and development opportunities are essential for employees to stay updated with the latest information, examples, scenarios, and best practices.
Giving employees the proper training, motivation, and coaching will empower your team. This approach is made easier with QM software that can help upskill your call center employees and maintain day-to-day quality assurance by analyzing customer feedback and reviews.
4. Listen. Agent retention has never been more critical. Remote or hybrid work requires adopting new management strategies to support remote agents, including scheduling regular communications and team-building activities, the right policies to help set expectations and requirements, and engaging with your remote team.
...it’s essential to prioritize relationships, be innovative, and infuse technology where needed.
5. Increase customer visibility. Analyzing customer-support interactions through artificial intelligence (AI) after they occur can help companies measure and understand customer sentiment and the root cause of issues.
This type of analysis can provide actionable information that can drive operational and CX improvements. Data analytics can help you look at all your digital interactions to see the problem, how the team solved it at the end of the transaction, and how the customer felt.
Currently, many customer service departments can only manually analyze a very small percentage of customer conversations, leaving many department managers questioning what they are missing and how they can drive more insight.
6. Consider technology to improve scheduling. AI-powered technology is an innovative, scalable way to augment your support teams and increase your level of customer support. For example, AI can help address forecasting patterns, such as scheduling customer support agents.
It can often be difficult for the scheduler to determine the needs, what skill sets are needed, and who to schedule when (especially more complicated with employees’ hybrid work schedules). AI can use historical patterns, plus what’s going on in the call center today, to better optimize forecasting and scheduling.
In a sea of change, it’s essential to prioritize relationships, be innovative, and infuse technology where needed. By implementing these strategies to nurture and retain employees, you can create a contact center that thrives, keeping both employees and customers happy and engaged. This will go a long way to improve the CX and secure new customers along the way.