Is this the biggest mistake you are making with your agents?

“The customer experience is shared. Your agents share that same experience, but unlike your customers, agents can translate using business context. So why is the Voice of the Agent still a largely untapped data source?”

There’s someone you’re not listening to who could significantly improve your customer satisfaction scores and we know who it is

What’s the most important question organisations forget to ask their agents?

“Why?”

Let me explain….

My first job was working as an agent in the contact centre as it offered flexible working hours while at university. I remember the interview like it was yesterday. I borrowed my Dad’s (slightly overfitting) suit jacket to make a good impression. I was asked to don the regulation headset and converse with an automated system as if it was a real customer. Fifteen minutes later and I was in. Not that I was complaining, it was more the shock at how easy the whole process was.

But even back then, and as a complete novice, there seemed to be a strange flaw in the way the operation worked that I couldn’t really understand. The team leaders were friendly and encouraging and helped me keep on top of my performance. When things went wrong, or a customer wasn’t satisfied, they were available to advise and coach me on what to do next time. If my KPIs drifted I’d be reminded to keep an eye on them over the next week and try to keep them on target. Everything seemed simple enough.

Every day I’d arrive on time, keen to do a great job, keen to make a good impression and stand out. But then something happened that left me confused. A sharp increase in complaints combined with a major increase in AHT (across the department) seemed to raise the level of excitement among the operations team. The atmosphere changed and small gaggles of team leaders (if there’s a better collective noun for team leaders, please let me know) seemed to be forming regularly, in sight but just out of earshot.

One by one, teams were being called into the training room and the dressing-downs began. Collectively teams were berated and tarred equally with the same brush for poor standards and missed KPIs. “You all need to buck up your ideas or you’re out”, said one team leader. “Everyone’s going to be re-trained next week”, declared another. I for one was confused and couldn’t correlate my own performance to the failures we were being accused of. It just didn’t compute. The conversations I was having felt good and customers were happy.

This was the moment (I recognise in hindsight) that I became disengaged and my willingness to go the extra

mile disappeared. I started listening to the bad influence agents who taught me all their tricks, including the ‘double tap not ready trick’ (hands up who remembers that one?). I felt like I was being treated as part of a collective group and not an individual. My good stats were being dismissed because the overall stats were bad. Yet in the midst of all this, no one seemed to know why we’re being berated, or understand what was actually wrong. All we saw was operational panic.

And in all that time, even as my experience and understanding of contact centre challenges grew, I never heard anyone ask ‘why’. Why did I think that customer had become unsatisfied? Why did I think the metrics had dropped off? And what did I think could be done to help fix it?

That was ….er… a few years ago now, but I remain amazed at how little has changed; how rarely organisations tap into one of the greatest resources they have at their disposal – the agents who talk to their customers and share the same experience, hour after hour, each day, and bear witness to every problem, opinion, wish and desire they express.

The customer experience is shared. Your agents share that same experience but unlike your customers, agents can translate using business context. So why is the Voice of the Agent still a largely untapped data source?

Tapping into the voice of the agent

I’d argue that finding a mechanism to extract that value from your agents is not only essential and relatively easy, but you could also discover that the insight gained is as good as customer research businesses spend millions attempting to harvest in a generic, manual and time-consuming way.

Sometimes agents won’t know what they know, so that mechanism needs to be perceptive and engaging to tease it out of them. But you’ll be surprised at how frequently and competently your agents can speak with a business head on. They’ll tell you, for example, why the computer system isn’t fit for purpose, how it prevents them doing their jobs properly, and how with a few simple and low-cost tweaks it could improve the results they deliver to you and your customers.

Give them a voice and, just as importantly, give them a feedback loop too.

When you let your agents know you’ve made a change on the back of their recommendation, they will feel truly valued. That sense of value can boost their passion for and belief in the job more than a hike in salary might.

See the potential, not the expense

Too often the contact centre mentality is that agents are low value and easily replaceable – numbers not people; a cost, not a value. I think it’s staggering that this attitude still exists today. But surely the cost of attrition through disengaged agents and the cost of recruiting and training new agents needs to factor into the ‘whole life’ cost, not just the cost of employing an agent?

So, who needs to do something about it?

It falls to us, the leaders, to see where the innovations are in this market and get ahead of them, fast. To appreciate, for example, that the directors of Blockbuster were too slow to change and watched the extinction of their business as a result. Or to spot how the leading companies focused on agent engagement are witnessing increased revenue and customer satisfaction as a result.

 

Watch this video now and learn how we 

  • Give agents the insight to guide them to what each customer needs in real time
  • Give them a voice by capturing feedback to fine-tune customer journeys
  • Automate action to reduce effort for your agents and you