Contact Center Workforce Management

3 Ways to Prioritize Your Agents for a Better Customer Experience

A great customer experience isn’t coincidental. It’s carefully crafted, highly intentional and, most importantly, it’s hard.

A mere 8 percent of customers think they’re receiving an awesome customer experience, according to a study from Bain & Company. And of those who have a really great experience, 68 percent of them attribute it to a pleasant agent, according to another study from American Express. Furthermore, 62 percent said the agents’ knowledge and resourcefulness was key to their positive experience.

You know knowledgeable and empowered agents provide a better customer experience, yet you’re still plagued by insane turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficient workflows and misaligned processes in the contact center. Why?! And what can you do to fix it?

Start prioritizing your agent experience.

Think about it, when your agents feel they’re working well – when they’re efficient, effective and aligned – they work harder. They know what your expectations are and how they’re impacting the greater vision of your company. Agents that are motivated, engaged, and empowered are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. And, they’ll provide better customer care.  They can see how their actions impact a real, live human by creating a better customer experience.

But if they’re stuck in a broken process, fumbling through outdated technology paired with a manager that has too much on their plate, their ability to drive positive experiences flounders into a sea of nothingness. And if they’re frustrated, the results on your team morale are toxic.

You’re searching high and low for coachable moments, without any time to actually coach, amplifying the negativity. And to top it off, the outdated tech stack your center’s using is mismatched with what your customers are using. For instance, your customers (and your agents, for that matter) are used to texting, sending pictures or videos, chatting on a live chat or using social media to communicate, switching from one place to another without losing context.

But your business is not.

It’s time for contact centers to put agents’ success at the top of the priority list. Start building your agents’ confidence and empowerment. But what exactly does agent success look like? Here are five ways to prioritize your agents and improve their (and your) success.

Three Ways to Prioritize Your Agents

  1. Start (and continue) coaching

The single most important thing you can do as a contact center manager is coach your team. But managers are struggling to train their people well. On average, managers are spending 53 percent of their week looking for coachable moments rather than actually coaching. Yet, studies show frequent touchpoints, with specific examples increase employee satisfaction, engagement and performance. And, it creates a culture of trust company-wide.

  1. Use the right tools

Efficient tools and processes increase agent productivity and satisfaction. Think about it: If your agents have to fumble through a messy process, touch eight different tools in under three minutes, just to find a clue to answer the customer’s problem, they’re going to get a little flustered. But offering up the right tools (with coachable moments built in), with processes meant to enhance the workflow, not stifle it, creates more effective and efficient agents – and happier customers.

  1. Empower them

Empowered agents work with more autonomy. They see more first contact resolutions and have clarity in where they’re impacting your company’s vision. Workers place a high value on employee empowerment, whether they’re in a contact center or somewhere else in the company. It’s simple, they want to feel supported and respected. They’re hungry to perform at or above your customers’ expectations, but they need the right tools to be successful and effective.

Sharpen has created a solution designed to remove the inefficiencies that are plaguing your agents, their quality of life and their ability to provide a positive customer experience every time. Join their webcast as they talk about key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Trends in Agent Empowerment

Although businesses highlight the importance of customer service and retention, customer service managers continue to report an overwhelming amount of issues. Alarming turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficiency and inadequacy are some of the issues plaguing contact centers today. The root of the problem? Agent success, or lack thereof.

Think about it – when employees feel they are working efficiently, effectively, and with constant support from supervisors, they work harder. In contact centers today, agents feel frustrated. Too often, contact centers will use outdated software, leading agents to become frustrated and be less efficient with their time. The lack of support from supervisors is apparent, while agents rarely have any means to track their progress, leaving the agent confused and directionless. To top it off, outdated technology used by most contact centers is mismatched with the technology used by the general public today including SMS & MMS text, live chat (not with a robot), social media, and way more.

It is time for contact centers to put their agents’ success first in their line of priorities. In order to do this, they must focus on empowering their agents. What exactly does agent empowerment look like? Empowered agents have access to the tools they need to do an excellent job, are fully supported by their supervisors, are capable of making decisions for themselves, and are well respected by their colleagues.

Millennials entering the workforce place a high value on employee empowerment whether in the contact center, or in another industry. It’s simple – they want to feel supported, respected, and feel as though they have the tools they need to be successful and effective. These tools include a way to track progress, up-to-date technology, effective training programs and constant feedback.

Sharpen has developed a holistic solution designed to eliminate common inefficiencies that ultimately impact the agent, their quality of life, and their ability to provide a perfect customer experience. Check out their webcast on August 2 as they discuss key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment, and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Why Happy Agents Make Happy Customers

Guest Blog From Bright Pattern

Customer service agents are often the primary point of contact with your customers. It makes sense that you want your customer-facing employees to be helpful, enthusiastic, and happy to be doing their jobs. After all, your company’s reputation, satisfaction ratings, and profitability are at stake.

So how do you create a contact center environment that motivates agents?

Live by the Agent Empowerment Model

Through a recent survey of contact center decision makers, Bright Pattern identified the top three strategies for creating engaged agents.

Of our survey respondents,

  • 70% said to improve agent training
  • 64% said to provide agents with better tools
  • 49% said to offer better self-service

At Bright Pattern, we believe in the agent empowerment model, which means providing agents with the tools and technology they need to succeed. This model aligns with our survey results, and it’s been driving our roadmap since the beginning.

Here’s what the agent empowerment model looks like in practice:

  • Declutter the agent desktop with an innovative UI.
  • Give agents easy-to-use technology for automatic customer recognition.
  • Eliminate mundane transactions with AI and provide agents with AI Assist.
  • Automate workflows.
  • Limit downtime with active-active technology.

How Everyone Benefits

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits you can expect when your contact center operations revolve around the agent empowerment model.

Higher Customer Ratings and Sales

According to Gallup, highly engaged teams achieve, on average, a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.

Faster, More Efficient Problem Resolution

Agents who feel more valued by their employers are more motivated to resolve calls satisfactorily, find creative solutions, and improve their own knowledge and customer relationship skills.

 

They have access to a knowledge base and can, at any time, reach out to subject matter experts to resolve customer problems faster and more accurately.

 

Less Employee Turnover

The costs of replacing and retraining agents can be a tremendous drawdown on operational budgets, and the loss of institutional knowledge when an experienced agent walks out the door also impacts customer service center performance.

Using AI to automate frequent requests and routine tasks makes the agents’ work less transactional. This increases agent satisfaction because agents can focus on helping people.

Higher Customer Experience

Empowered agents also have the right tools to provide a consistent customer experience and resolve issues fast, on any channel, any time. They depend on a single, integrated application combining unified communication tools, access to information, knowledge bases, and customer data in context of the moment, all of which ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Get Started

By making some smart investments, you can vastly improve agents’ attitude, abilities, job commitment, and engagement levels—all of which have proven positive impacts on how they serve your customers.

Dos and Don’ts of Contact Center Forecasting

 

Forecasting may just be the cornerstone of contact center success. The accuracy of forecasting can affect service level, average speed of answer (ASA) time and occupancy. Though contact center forecasting varies by industry, there are some core principles that just about every organization should follow.

3 Dos of Contact Center Forecasting

Do start with a historical baseline.

Your historical data is what you’ll use to predict the future. You’ll get an idea of what your forecast is going to look like. Then, you can start adding in changes as needed, like as you track productivity changes. By starting with a solid basis, you’ll have a better view of how every change impacts the forecast.

Do use forecasting technology.

The old school way of handling contact center forecasting just won’t work anymore – spreadsheets, no matter how detailed, aren’t smart enough to record and manipulate data. The more inputs you have that affect the forecast, the more you’ll need to rely on modern, smart technology that will communicate results in a way that you can act on.

Do understand that accuracy will change with time.

The farther out you forecast, the less accurate your forecast is going to be. A forecast for the next 30 days is going to be more accurate than a forecast for the next 90 days. Accepting that this is a reality and being transparent about it when discussing forecasting with management will give you credibility.

2 Don’ts of Contact Center Forecasting

Don’t create a target based on a blanket statistic.

If an executive says something along the lines of, “At my last contact center, we had 95% accuracy – let’s aim for that,” it’s important to know why that won’t translate to your contact center. A sweeping statistic like that doesn’t account for details like the specific metric measured or the frequency at which it was measured.

Don’t get hung up on averages.

Averages can be misleading because they can make things seem more placid than they are. Forecasting requires information that will help management make real decisions, not information that’s been watered down so that it’s easier to understand.

Contact center forecasting combines science with creativity. Processing data is the easy part. Figuring out how to add subjective changes requires more creative thinking. Knowing what to expect and what to avoid from the get-go is the best place to start.

How to Motivate Contact Center Agents

There are several reasons to motivate contact center agents: hiring new staff can get expensive; training new hires means there’s lag time between when they’re hired and when they can start working; and company morale can decrease if there’s a high rate of turnover. Here are 5 ways to motivate contact center agents.
All of the tools your agents use, from software to hardware, should work flawlessly. Faulty technology makes it impossible for agents to be efficient. One necessary type of tool are those that reduce customer frustration. Agents can get frazzled after speaking with one angry customer after the other. Software that allows for queue callback or voicemail can make customers happy, which in turn delivers agents fewer frustrating inquiries.
2. Setup seamless automation.
Quality contact center software will automate manual tasks so that agents don’t have to perform them with every single call or chat. Data should also be synced across all customer service tools. When their workload is streamlined, agents have more time and energy to handle more pressing issues.
3. Help agents hone their specialties.
Instead of having all of your agents trained in every area, figure out the strengths of your individual agents and help them specialize. Some agents may excel at handling agitated customers while others will have in-depth knowledge of your products. When you have agents who are experts in certain areas, they’ll be able to answer queries and solve problems more quickly than if they only had limited knowledge of the niche.
4. Open the lines of communication.
Your contact center agents are the closest people to your customers. It’s important that your agents know they can speak with you openly. Not only will you hear great ideas you haven’t thought of before, but agents who feel valued and needed are more likely to perform well in their job.
5. Use analytics to acknowledge excellence.
With call center reporting, you can see how agents are performing. When you find an agent who spends a short time on calls and has a high FCR rate, for example, you can reward them for their performance. You can also see which agents have positive customer reviews and reward them accordingly.
When your agents are motivated and happy, they’re better able to deliver the sort of customer experience you expect.

Contact Center WFM: Dealing With Toxic Employees

Meeting contact center staffing needs goes beyond the science of predicting when you’ll need employees – it’s also about choosing people who are right for the contact center. What happens when all goes well during the hiring phases, but once hired an employee becomes toxic?

Accepting That You Have a Toxic Employee

Toxic employees are much different than difficult employees. They cause psychological pain and often influence others with their behavior. They often find their bad behavior fun and engage in certain behavior simply to find out if they can get away with it. Take note of how your other agents are reacting. Do they seem to have a slump in energy? Are they frustrated most of the time? Do they complain that they’re constantly being put-down?

Determining the Cause of the Behavior

Is the employee not happy with an aspect of their job or are they facing difficult circumstances in their home life? Are they upset with one or more co-workers? If there’s a reason for why they’re acting a certain way, it’s possible that they just need some help in order to improve, saving you the trouble of having to find a replacement.

Explaining the Behavior

Sometimes toxic agents are oblivious to how much destruction they’re causing. Explain to them what their behavior is and how it’s affecting the rest of the contact center. Guide them on how to improve. Make sure that they understand the consequences if they don’t change. Will they lose a privilege that they enjoy, like setting a flexible schedule or getting an end-of-year bonus? The initial consequence doesn’t have to be that they’ll lose their job (though that may be a possibility down the line).

Cutting the Cord

In the end, if the employee will need to be let go, it will require some sort of documentation. Even if you’re confident that the situation will improve without having to fire the employee, document everything from the beginning. A pattern of behavior has to be established by providing as much material as possible. This will protect you in the event that you do need to let the employee go.

It’s not unheard of for a contact center agent to turn toxic once they’ve been hired. Traits that went unnoticed before can be exposed. Knowing the red flags of toxic behavior can help you find and replace those employees immediately.

How Contact Centers Use RPA

Robotic process automation (RPA) covers an assortment of advanced, intelligent tools that can carry out a variety of routine tasks. RPA systems are programmed to automate repetitive and rules-based actions that are normally performed manually by contact center agents. While these tasks are integral to the contact center as they help with essential functions, agents are most valuable when they can spend their time on more urgent and complex issues.

How Does RPA Work?

RPA integrates with contact center systems to catch and understand how various applications work. The RPA software is then taught to interpret different processes, such as processing certain types of transactions and triggering responses. RPA technology uses different tools to capture this digital data, such as image recognition and server access. Since RPA works at an interface level, it rarely needs IT support.

What Can You Automate with RPA?

There are a host of processes to automate with RPA. Everything from updating customer mailing addresses and order history to handling time-sensitive transactions for high-value customers can be programmed. While RPA has more in common with artificial intelligence than standard automation, it works best with processes that are defined, repetitious and rules-based. RPA can complete the following types of tasks:

  • Bill customers
  • Close fraudulent accounts
  • Compliance reporting
  • Order processing
  • Override transactions for VIP customers
  • Resolve disputes and complaints
  • Send shipping notifications
  • Update client profiles

RPA can also be programmed to carry out industry-specific tasks. For example, an insurance company may use RPA to generate renewal premiums and process claims. A bank could program RPA to process overdraft protection requests and credit applications. In the healthcare industry, RPA is used to register patients and verify credentials of healthcare providers. Human Resources departments can use RPA to manage W4 forms.

Will RPA Replace Live Workers?

There’s a lot of concern over whether or not RPA will impact staffing. It’s undeniable that RPA has numerous benefits for the contact center. It reduces agent workload, boosts efficiency and eliminates the risk of human error. The contact center overall enjoys a higher ROI and lower training costs. Customer interaction times are reduced and the customer experience as a whole is enhanced. While the answer depends on each specific company, some feel that instead of cutting down their staff, RPA is most useful because it allows companies to handle a higher work volume.