• March 2, 2022
  • By Ian Jacobs, vice president and research director, Forrester Research

Your Employee Technology Also Drives Your Customer Experience

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“I told you my mama didn’t raise no fool/ I can do anything if I got the right tool” —Bobbie Gentry (“Reunion”)

AS I WRITE THIS, it is early February and the plum trees on my property have exploded into white puffballs, dripping with an absurd number of delicate blossoms. In early February! Despite the steady stream of droughts, earthquakes, and wildfires, California can still blindside me with its wonders. I guess with all those natural disasters, we need some natural joys as a form of compensation.

While I stood slack-jawed, ogling the exquisite foliage, I began to ponder the hundreds of thousands of contact center agents who have been working from home for the past two years. I started hoping that at least some of them got to enjoy similar splendor in their work-from-home working environments, because they too need some form of compensation for the difficult jobs they do. At that moment, I wasn’t, however, thinking of the challenging or rude customers or intransigent company policies or the brain-dead scripts they are forced to follow. No, I was thinking of the tools, such as agent desktops, that these folks must daily fight to provide even a modicum of a decent experience to customers.

In a recent blog post, one of my colleagues wrote, “I’ve asked before if it’s a given that employees should use frustrating systems. Should employees be forced to endure extra effort just because they choose to work at a company? Do their managers believe workers have to strain to feel like a full days’ work has been done?”

These questions have always been around in the contact center because tools for customer service representatives have always been major impediments to be overcome at best and a baroque form of exquisite torture at worst. But the work-from-home revolution has thrown these questions into sharper relief. With agents isolated, with supply chain issues exacerbating the nastiness of some customers, and with an overall increase in life’s stress level, the lack of good tooling is being more deeply felt. And while in the past, companies thought about those tools as an impediment to efficiency, many are starting to realize they are also dampening the employee experience, and through those disaffected employees, they’re creating less-than-stellar customer experiences.

So if you buy the argument that the tools you supply to your customer service teams impact your costs (through wear and tear on agents) and your revenue and profitability (through the customer experience those agents provide), what should you do? Start by thinking of employee-facing tools the same way you think of customer-facing products and employ professional design talent. Bringing human-centered design thinking to the process, from user research to proper iteration, can help you create more compelling technology experiences.

This is not as far-fetched a proposition as it once was: Forrester Research’s last survey of design leaders identified 30 percent growth in dedicated design teams focusing on employee software. Unfortunately, the number of design teams working on employee tools is still dwarfed by the number that are designing consumer-facing tools. Luckily, the technology vendors in the space are also starting to take design more seriously and are ramping up the design talent they bring into the development process. So if you are looking for vendor-supplied technology, you should be holding your suppliers’ feet to the fire and ensure that they have invested in professional design talent and use human-centered design best practices. And hey, maybe your agents will have a little more time to go and gawp at the blossoms on their trees.   

Ian Jacobs is a vice president and research director at Forrester Research.

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