Recently, we measured the impact of happy customer service agents on customer experience at several of our clients' contact centers. The results were no surprise: Happy agents drive happy experiences. (They also drive down attrition rates, a costly challenge within most contact centers.)
According to recent research, 90 percent of consumers confirmed that an agent's perceived happiness directly affects their overall customer experience. Moreover, 66 percent said that their experience with an agent significantly affects their impression of the overall brand.
Given this information, what is the optimal way for organizations to secure happy agents?
While work conditions, salary, and benefits certainly play a role, the research confirmed that agents give a high rating to "being provided with the tools I need to improve productivity and drive better customer experiences." We have yet to find an agent who doesn't want to do a great job resolving customer inquiries or be productive on the job. Today's agents are keenly aware of the need for superior technology to help them better serve the tech-savvy consumers they interact with daily. Unfortunately many organizations continue to cobble together applications on the back end that adversely affect performance of the agent's desktop, requiring the agent to review too many applications and screens, making it increasingly difficult to perform his job well.
There is no part of an organization's workforce that touches the customer as much as the agent does. Yet all too often, organizations undervalue or underestimate the role that agents play, and fail to arm them with the right tools to do their jobs well. Add to this the fact that the new generation of digital consumers increasingly uses social media channels in addition to traditional communication channels. These consumers expect organizations to work across channels. They expect organizations to not only have a presence on social and mobile channels, but to engage with customers there as well.
Organizations need to go beyond talking the talk and walking the walk. And here comes the good news! There have been several exciting advances in tools that allow agents to communicate with customers via their desired channel. One vendor, LiveOps, is leading the pack in terms of offering a multichannel agent toolset. The agent is able to receive and respond to customer phone calls, emails, chat, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook questions—all from a single screen.
Gone are the days when an agent, according to Aberdeen, used five screens to access separate systems to obtain needed information, or spent 26 percent of her time looking for relevant data across different systems during a customer interaction. Gone is the risk that desktop problems, resulting from the need for an agent to access multiple systems, negatively affect customer experience.
Agents can now utilize a simple, modern interface that incorporates multiple channel requests to provide customer information in a timely manner. This positively affects customer experience and helps secure happy, more productive agents. Agents believe they can be up to 50 percent more productive if they have an integrated, multichannel customer engagement desktop.
The growing demands of digital customers will further propel the need for integrated, multichannel customer service. To ensure that customer service agents master this new technology, we predict that gamification will play an increasingly important role in the contact center in the immediate future. Gartner forecasts that 50 percent of Fortune 200 companies will have a gamification application by 2015. Organizations will apply gamification first and foremost to help ensure that agents have lots of fun while learning how best to successfully implement integrated, multichannel customer service.
It's a whole new world, and organizations have to keep up with the times or end up as dinosaurs. Now more than ever is the time to reflect on how well your contact center is leveraging the latest tools to drive happy agents and happy customers.
Barton Goldenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher of The eGuide to Mobile and Social CRM.