Research Reveals the Top 5 Contact Center Agent Experience Best Practices
- The agent experience is the agents' perception of their role and company based on the totality of their interactions. It starts during recruiting and continues through the exit interview. It's the sum of many contributing factors and it's cumulative.
- It's essential because it directly impacts employee performance, including productivity, absenteeism and attrition. Equally critical, it directly impacts the customer experience and effects customer lifetime value and customer retention.
- Research findings show how the Best-in-Class contact centers measure and manage agent experience programs differently than their lower performing peers.
Research for the Customer Service Excellence report is designed to surface the methods, best practices and technologies that drive the most important performance results.
There's been a lot of chatter about the agent experience, so the research survey posed questions to measure adoption and compare agent and contact center performance outcomes among those with and without this program. We also delineated the response data by performance archetype.
- The first question measured intent. The responses quantified program adoption.
36 percent of all respondents had a goal to improve the employee experience. While this shows adoption is not yet mainstream, the allocation of adopters was disproportionately skewed among performance archetypes. The Best-in-Class leaders (the top 15 percent) adopted this objective 2 times more frequently than the medians (middle 50 percent) and laggards (the lower 35 percent).
- The second question measured scoring and visibility.
32 percent of respondents measured and reported the experience. The above pie chart shows responses by archetype and can be easily compared to the first question to see that there was a decline from experience as a goal to a measured activity.
The data found that approximately 12 percent of median and laggard respondents that advised they have a goal do not have a calculated measurement for the goal. Without measurement, any goal is little more than wishful thinking.
This is where separation among the Best-in-Class and the lower performers began to grow. The Best-in-Class customer service leaders were 3 times more likely to measure their program.
- The third question measured planning and action.
26 percent of respondents had a documented plan to improve this goal and reviewed the plan at least quarterly. The bar chart above displays the responses by performance archetype and shows a further decline among respondents who advised they measured their progress.
- The fourth question asked participants to rank the most effective methods used to improve the agent experience based on their experience. The top 5 methods are shown below.
In the above table we delineated the Best-in-Class from all others for two reasons.
First, when analyzing the data, the significant differences between these two cohorts became quickly apparent. The responses to this question yielded the starkest differences among performance archetypes.
Second, the Best-in-Class outperform all others as measured by agent satisfaction, customer experience, customer lifetime value, customer retention and financial results. Achieving top results in these 5 performance categories suggests they are doing something right. The research is designed to surface what they do better or differently than their lower performing peers, and clearly, they are prioritizing improvement methods far differently than all others.
Insights and Recommendations
The research data provides insights for customer service leaders that desire to improve this important objective. If this is your goal, consider the below data-driven insights.
- Start with a clear measurement. What gets measured gets managed. This metric will measure the agents perception of their role and company based on the totality of their interactions. Without measurement of this critical metric managers have no baseline to demonstrate real progress and are flying blind.
- Begin improvement with the right corporate culture. There are a lot of things the call center can do to improve agent satisfaction. But the one thing that will directly impact everything else is corporate culture.
Culture is a precursor and top contributing factor to anything and everything that requires staff effort. Every call center has a culture. Most low performance cultures are a consequence of unplanned actions, unforeseen behaviors and random outcomes. In contrast, high-performance cultures are intentional, proactively designed and in a constant state of awareness and improvement.
A high-performance call center culture carefully defines, measures and reinforces shared values that drive the behaviors which determine the quality and volume of agent (discretionary) effort, which in turn determines agent productivity, and the quality and amount of work that gets done.
It's no surprise culture was ranked the most effective program by the Best-in-Class.
- Follow with agent engagement. Customer Service Representative (CSR) engagement is a top contributing factor to the right culture and an undeniable contributor to productivity and payback.
We define agent engagement as the measure of a CSR's personal investment, sometimes called discretionary investment, in their job. To maximize this investment, the call center must provide feedback, performance reviews and programs specifically designed to increase agent engagement.
For example, a program that surfaced in the contact center agent satisfaction research was gamification, and this program was shown to be highly effective in increasing individual and team building engagement. Gamification can also amplify recognition in a way that promotes activities such as training objectives, knowledge sharing, or behaviors and competencies that contribute to business objectives.
- Modern technologies deliver a significant impact to agents. And you can focus on a short list of technologies that most improve the contact center agent experience. Labor is the top cost so using modern technologies will improve your program and also step up productivity which drives big savings right to the bottom line.
One Additional Insight
When analyzing the data, we also discovered an inextricable link between the agent experience and the customer experience. 100 percent of the Best-in-Class respondents that measured their experience program also had an active customer experience management (CXM) program.
While the finding is not entirely surprising, it is telling, and it identifies yet another area where the Best-in-Class customer service leaders perform better or differently than all others.
A perfect correlation of an intertwined relationship among the agent and customer experience should not go unnoticed by those looking for contact center transformation.