There is no doubt that the contact center agent’s job is much more demanding today compared to a few years ago. Ever-changing customer behavior, expanding channels and applications, more complex interactions, and increasing workloads make it more difficult for agents to deliver consistent customer care.
While agents are being asked to do more than ever, poorly designed desktops are hampering their ability to perform. Many struggle through their day-to-day tasks using unwieldy applications and cobbled-together systems that can’t keep up with rising customer expectations.
...when agents must spend time navigating confusing manual workflows, customer frustration spikes, and agent engagement and job satisfaction decline.
Consider this: according to our study, prepared by Forrester, 84% of contact center leaders say their agents have between four to 10 applications open during a typical customer interaction.
You may have already witnessed the impact this has on your operation’s performance. Long handle times, errors, and escalations increase as agents jump in and out of applications and page through multiple screens attempting to find the right answers for their customers.
Poor productivity is just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, when agents must spend time navigating confusing manual workflows, customer frustration spikes, and agent engagement and job satisfaction decline. The consequences can be devastating: rising agent burnout and attrition coupled with high customer churn. All of which raise costs, shrink revenues, and diminish returns.
5 Reasons Why Agent Desktop Optimization Is Often Overlooked
The desktop is the single, most important technology contact center agents have at their disposal. It’s literally at their fingertips. Yet, also according to our study, only 39% of contact centers provide tailored desktops and a combination of workflows to enhance their agents’ capabilities.
So why doesn’t the agent desktop get the attention it deserves when it comes to technology investment?
- Combining disparate systems is difficult. Connecting systems, particularly from multiple vendors, is not only a technical difficulty, but it also becomes a cross-functional challenge since each system may be managed by a different functional team within the organization.
- Skilled agents are experts at finding workarounds for poorly designed desktops. Consequently, managers may not realize the extent of the problems agents encounter when trying to resolve a customer’s issue. But all of those workflow quick fixes only increase inconsistencies and errors and your reliance on long-tenured agents who’ve figured it out.
- Contact centers lack insight into agent desktop activity. Disconnected applications create data silos that prevent the ability to track how agents are using desktop tools. This lack of insight restricts your efforts to improve agent performance, identify and fix customer pain points, and make informed decisions to proactively improve service delivery.
- Leadership views poor productivity as people or process issues. When productivity stalls in the contact center, the knee-jerk reaction is to fix the problem by hiring more agents (a costly option) or providing more training (which doesn’t solve the underlying problem).
- Companies are dedicating resources to optimize the customer experience. This includes the digital journey with a focus on self-service, so improving the agent experience often gets short shrift.
Why the Status Quo Is No Longer an Option
While there are many reasons why the agent desktop experience may have slipped down the priority list, transformative changes in the workplace over the past few years signal that it’s time to remove the frustrations and stress from the agent’s job.
There is no denying the lasting impact that the shift to working from home has had on contact center operations.
While remote work may be here to stay, many contact centers have not yet addressed the daily challenges for home-based agents. They are not only navigating multiple systems and screens for customer conversations, accessing information, and collaborating, but are now also receiving remote coaching and training over the desktop.
The one-two punch of sending agents home followed by the Great Resignation has exposed the need for more intuitive workflows and agent guidance tools to shorten training time for new agents, get them handling transactions faster, and provide them with the knowledge and confidence to succeed.
As customer interactions become increasingly complex, the necessary skill sets for agents are likewise evolving.
Desirable traits for today’s agents include emotional intelligence, empathy, strategic thinking, and decision-making, all of which require agents to be present in the customer conversation and not distracted by confusing system navigation.
...transformative changes in the workplace over the past few years signal that it’s time to remove the frustrations and stress from the agent’s job.
And while agents use more—and more complex—tools to carry out their work, they often lack the necessary contextual information to respond to the customer’s issue.
Many contact centers have been struggling to manage the explosion of customer channels holistically. Customers have been adopting new digital channels at an incredible pace, which means agents who were previously handling one or two channels may now be handling four or more.
Contact centers often respond to rapidly expanding customer demand by adding a standalone solution with bells and whistles to the mix. However, doing so translates into more manual processes and siloed data, which further slows the conversation for agents and customers.
Finally, agents utilize various point solutions for internal collaboration, such as Teams, internal email platforms, SharePoint, and knowledge bases, which layer on even more processes, clicks, and steps.
Integration Lays the Foundation for Optimization
With so many systems to manage and complicated manual workflows, where do contact centers begin to improve agent desktops? Automation may be your first thought, but a word of caution: automation will not fix broken, disconnected, and inconsistent processes.
It’s important to lay the foundation for addressing critical efficiency gaps by unifying processes, applications, and systems—in other words, start with integration.
Say “integration,” and most leaders will naturally think first about their data and how it flows from one system to another. But it’s equally important to consider how the system integration relates to your agents’ workflows, the points where they will interact with the data, and how they will navigate the system.
There are many different types of integration, ranging from APIs to iframe to scripts. Rather than focus on the technical elements, let’s peek into what the goals of the integration should be:
- Make it easier to connect all the applications, data streams, systems, communication channels, third-party platforms, and web services your agents use.
- Increase your operation’s flexibility and scalability—ensure that frontline managers can easily make changes, add new applications, and revise workflows without requiring additional coding.
- Ability to access and embed the UI for third-party applications into the agents’ desktop for a single pane of glass, for instance, web-based applications where integration might not be possible.
- Add automation that enables agents to execute various functions with fewer clicks, e.g., perform a reverse number lookup, validate an email address, etc.
The Modern Agent Desktop Experience: Unified, Automated, and Integrated
With the agent’s experience as your starting point, you’re well on your way to optimizing your desktop and workflow integration.
So, what does a good agent desktop look like? At a minimum, today’s agents need:
- Quick and easy access to just the right information. Agents often must access multiple systems of record that hold an overwhelming amount of information just to locate the few details they need, for instance, to authenticate a customer’s identity. Giving them access to the right limited set of information removes excess clutter from the desktop and reduces handle time.
- Ability to see and understand all prior interactions. Customer conversations can occur across channels and with different agents. The ability to piece these conversations together so that agents have the complete history will ensure that customers don’t have to repeat their information or issues with each new channel or agent.
With the agent’s experience as your starting point, you’re well on your way to optimizing your desktop...
- Access to key tools and platforms needed to resolve customer interactions. Remember the four to 10 applications that agents use during an interaction? Unified agent desktops consolidate all the tools and information agents need into one place and provide agents with a single contextual view of customer interactions.
- The knowledge needed to set appropriate expectations. Because customer interactions are growing more complex, agents often need direction on how to handle the requests that come up infrequently or access to protocols that may not be at their fingertips.
Optimizing the Agent and Customer Experience
Unifying data and integrating contact center applications and tools means that your agents will spend less time navigating systems, shaving significant time off interactions, and easing their workloads.
Configurable agent desktops provide the ability to easily create tailored experiences for every function...
Once the fundamentals are in place, you can deliver even higher gains in performance and efficiency by optimizing the agent desktop experience. For instance:
- Automate workflows. Leverage robotic process automation (RPA) to automate the repetitive processes that agents perform. Not only will it save time, but it will also help to relieve job monotony and free agents for more fulfilling work.
- Create tailored desktop experiences. The teams within your contact center have unique needs (think sales, service, collections, billing). Configurable agent desktops provide the ability to easily create tailored experiences for every function through a drag-and-drop graphical user interface that allows any manager to build a desktop or make changes within minutes.
- Provide artificial intelligence (AI) agent assist capabilities. AI-driven algorithms can notify agents of the next best action to take while handling a live customer interaction.
Equip Your Agents With the Best Tools for the Job
Your agents’ ability to perform well is only as good as the tools you provide. But keep in mind that more is not always better.
A properly designed and integrated agent desktop limits the noise and clutter while delivering relevant, timely information that allows agents to focus on the task at hand—serving the customer.