So much of the conversation surrounding customer service and customer experience is focused on the customer that at times we forget about the necessity of taking good care of customer service agents.
It’s no surprise that brands are becoming more customer-focused, because it seems like every day a new study is published about the importance of making customers happy. But here’s the thing: customer service agents are the touchpoint between brand and customer, and if they’re not given the tools to work efficiently, they’re unlikely to make customers happy and keep them coming back.
Why might customer service agents be unhappy? If you have to ask, you've probably never actually talked to an agent about their job. So, we sat down with a former customer service agent to hear more about her previous work and to talk about the tools that could have made it easier and more satisfying.
An agent's schedule can be brutal
It’s no exaggeration to say that the daily schedule of customer service agents can be rough. The hours are long to start with, and this is often combined with an incentive system that encourages agents to work extended shifts to answer more queries for commission. We’re talking long days, with dozens upon dozens of phone calls and emails to answer, all while crammed into a noisy workspace. It's hard to imagine how agents can provide exemplary service under these conditions.
What’s more, the sheer volume of customer queries handled by agents daily is often combined with strict rules that mean agents have to schedule bathroom breaks in advance. They're always under pressure to be at their computers answering queries. It’s a high-stress environment and not exactly a recipe for employee satisfaction.
Key point: When agents work in highly stressful conditions, they have no chance for growth and little motivation to offer extraordinary service.
The expectations of management can be misdirected
In a typical contact center, agents get bonuses when they reach certain levels of productivity. They might have to answer a minimum of 90% of incoming calls, with 80% of those being answered within 30 seconds. That means in order to reach 100% productivity agents must answer 80 calls per day, with 30 to 50 criteria to fulfill per call. Those criteria don’t change even if the agent talks to the same customer numerous times. That’s why it often feels like agents are reading from a script.
In this model there's no retained customer data to help save time. Agents are stressed, with low first response time (FRT) being the primary goal, and they're also stuck using outdated processes that slow them down and lead to worse service. It’s a lose-lose situation!
Key point: When managers insist on speed without providing the right tools, the quality of customer service declines.
How to make agents more efficient
Between working conditions and outsized expectations, it’s no wonder that customer service isn't always what it should be. But it doesn’t have to be this way. What agents really need is a digital customer service solution that’s fast and easy to use. No more overly formal templates for entering data about customers again and again.
Customer service agents for large companies like major airlines may have to simultaneously utilize half a dozen applications to serve a customer. An omnichannel view that’s streamlined for efficiency would be a lifesaver. With the incredible pressure to get things done, an efficient tool that helps agents use their time more effectively is invaluable. Any sort of advantage they can get to close cases quicker is much appreciated.
And here’s what's great: Making things easier for customer service agents also makes customers happier because they're getting better, more efficient service. The end results? Quicker solutions for more customers who are willing to spend more because you treat them well.
Key point: The right digital customer service solution increases agent efficiency so they can use their time to please more customers, leading to higher revenue.
Why efficient agents = big ROI
We often hear the word “proactive” thrown around in connection with outstanding customer service. But what does that really mean? It depends whether we’re talking about the company’s point of view or the customer’s point of view. It's one thing to be able to offer better customer service but giving agents the right tools allows contact centers to evolve from places where problems are solved to places where sales are closed.
The end goal of every contact center should be to transition from service-based to sales-driven interactions with customers. But that can't happen unless agents are given the tools to work smarter rather than harder. Along the way the classic contact center will be transformed into an interactive support center. We exist to help contact centers evolve. Our digital customer service solution provides contact center agents with customer data, saving them time and helping them make more satisfying connections with customers, which leads to loyalty and growth. We’d love to show you more about how our software can help your business.
We also recommend watching Digital-First Customer Service: The Future is Here Today, a webinar that explains how digital customer solutions help both customers and contact center agents.