Prioritizing the employee experience isn’t a new concept, but with employees the world over continuing to exit their jobs in droves, it’s become increasingly relevant. With customer service enjoying the unfortunate distinction of having above-average employee attrition rates, service leaders need to start prioritizing the agent experience, well, yesterday.
Apart from retaining talent and avoiding the need to constantly onboard and train new employees—not to mention what this costs—prioritizing the agent experience can have an outsized impact on your customer experience as well. And this goes beyond the “happy agents equal happy customers” adage, which, though it sounds overly simple, has some truth to it.
In our latest report, State of the Agent Experience, our Senior Director of CX Strategy, Devin Poole, dives into exactly what has gone wrong with the agent experience and shares concrete steps service leaders can take to improve it. Devin has been researching and advising leaders in customer service and customer experience for over 16 years, having been an analyst at Gartner prior to joining Dixa. We sat down with him for his top takeaways from the report, but if you want all the goods, you can download the full report.
Hi, Devin. Thanks for being here! Let’s get started.
If you’re a service leader today, why is it important to prioritize the agent experience? And what should be top of mind for you when you think about reducing agent effort? Where do you start?
“For so many customers today, the only human experience they’ll have with your brand is through a customer service agent. So, to the customer, the agent is the living breathing manifestation of your entire company. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person! So, our job, as leaders, is to set agents up for success by making it as easy as possible for them to focus all their energy on helping the customer. The first step to improving the agent experience—so often overlooked—is to involve your agents from the very beginning. Sit down and talk to them about the most difficult parts of their job. Watch and observe their workflows to see the pain points in action. Once you’ve done this, any actions you choose to take already have implicit buy-in from your frontline.”
We hear the term “effortless” a lot when describing an agent’s ideal workflow – yet your report talks about reducing effort. Can you explain why this is more realistic?
“Any workflow will require at least some type of effort, but the idea here is to remove unnecessary and low-value tasks from your team’s day-to-day, freeing up agents to spend time on activities that will bring more value to the customer and the company. The desire to reduce effort and optimize our tasks is inherently human. We naturally seek out ways to make our own lives easier, finding more convenient ways to get our personal tasks done, so the same should apply to our working lives. And as I mentioned above, your frontline employees will already have lots of ideas about what would make their lives easier. But while agents will be able to provide insight into the most frustrating parts of their work, they may not be able to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the pain. This is why the observation of workflows is so important. It’s up to us as leaders to seek out the common frustration points and remove them.”
You break down how to improve the agent experience in four steps. Could you give us a sneak peek at step number one?
“Absolutely. The first step will come as no surprise; it’s all about automation. Agents spend a lot of time on tasks (and I’m not talking about customer issues here) that create no value for the customer but are necessary for the business to function effectively. One great example of this is the manual tagging of customer inquiries. This is really valuable information for the company to have, so you can analyze why customers are contacting you and how frequently each type of query is occurring, but not something that requires a human to complete. There are tons of great examples like this that I’ve observed in my time working with customer experience leaders, and they often get passed over in favor of the “one big gain.” If you can find and remove two to three smaller tasks, which are usually much easier to fix, not only will your agents be much happier, but the entire service function will run much more effectively, producing higher quality experiences in more efficient ways. It’s a total win-win for leaders!”
And, last but not least, could you talk a little bit about how low agent effort can tie directly into low customer effort and an improved CSAT?
It really comes down to this question: “Where do you want your agents to focus their time and energy? On the customer or on the systems and processes they’re working with? Of course, it’s the former. When we inadvertently make the job of serving customers harder by adding too many different systems or making our agents hop from screen to screen, it’s the customer who feels the effects of that effort. They feel it in the form of long wait times, and they feel it when they’ve got to tell their story all over again. And they especially feel it when they’re stuck with an agent who lacks the skills to handle their inquiry. All of these key drivers of customer effort are directly linked to how well we set our agents up for success.