Why Contact Center Engagement Needs to Be a Top Priority This Holiday Season
As industries like retail, travel, and more gear up for the upcoming holidays, brands can’t afford to ignore the impact of customer service during this time of year. After all, the root of positive experiences for many customers derives from interactions with the contact center—frontline teams that drive business success and have a direct impact on establishing and strengthening brand trust.
The Contact Center Experience Can Shape the Customer Experience, and Agents Are the Face of the Brand
For too long, leaders have viewed contact centers as cost centers, departments that exist to deal with customer complaints. But in reality, agents often provide one of the few human touchpoints customers have when reaching out to a company and become the face of the brands they work for. They also serve as organizations’ first line of defense in resolving customer issues and removing high-effort experiences.
As a result, contact center interactions have the power to have a long-lasting impression. In fact, a Medallia Institute survey found that negative customer service experiences impact consumers’ willingness to recommend brands the first time it happens (52 percent) and their willingness to recommend after multiple experiences (62 percent). Additionally, some negative experiences motivate them to consider competing companies (66 percent).
To avoid these outcomes, leaders should make sure that agents are empowered and motivated to provide the best experience possible to every single customer. After all, increasing employee engagement in the contact center not only improves the employee experience but also has the potential to boost the customer experience as well.
For Already Struggling Agents, Increased Holiday Workloads Create More Challenges
Agent engagement is an ongoing challenge for contact centers—at any moment in time, some portion of a company’s customer support team is likely already disengaged or getting ready to leave. Gartner finds that only about one-third of agents report being engaged on the job, while the other two-thirds report feeling neutral (28 percent) or, worse, disengaged (38 percent). Moreover, customer service representatives have one of the highest turnover jobs and experience annual churn rates reaching 30 percent to 45 percent—twice the average of employees in other departments.
Both turnover and disengagement are costly for companies. McKinsey & Company reports that the expenses associated with recruiting and training new hire replacements in the contact center add up to $10,000 to $20,000 per employee, whereas engaged call center employees are 8.5 times more likely to stay than leave a company within a year and are also 3.3 times more likely to feel extremely empowered to resolve customer issues.
It’s no wonder then, that when asked about their top priorities for 2023 and heading into 2024, contact center executives listed reducing agent burnout among their top choices.
As difficult as circumstances can be for contact center employees in general, the holiday season has the potential to add to the burden for agents working at organizations that don’t take time to prioritize employee morale and well-being.
Many brands generate as much as 28 percent to 36 percent of their annual business during the holiday season. As a result of this uptick in sales, the holiday season is typically the busiest time for most contact centers, particularly during peak volume times like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Cyber Week. During these times, agents have the potential to be pushed to their limits due to an increased influx of calls, live chat sessions, tickets, emails and social media interactions.
Next Steps: How to Activate the Contact Center, Ensuring the Best Customer and Employee Experiences
Savvy organizations today are taking steps to activate the contact center by removing friction for agents, finding opportunities to recognize the great customer experiences these individuals deliver every day and ensuring employees feel supported. They’re doing this by capturing agent and customer feedback, leveraging listening tools, employee crowdsourcing platforms, and AI-powered solutions that eliminate repetitive, time-consuming tasks from agents’ ever-growing to-do lists.
For instance, companies that have adopted generative AI in the contact center to automatically create post-interaction summaries are saving agents up to about half a minute of time on post-conversation work, per call, chat, email, or other touchpoints. This means less time spent on the kinds of tedious work that can lead to disengagement or burnout and more time for rewarding work, such as providing high-quality experiences for customers.
Innovative organizations are also collecting real-time insights from agents and customers to improve operations across the board. For instance, learnings uncovered from customer interactions can be used to enhance one-on-one meetings and training sessions with agents to optimize their performance, modify agent scripts to streamline interactions, provide positive encouragement and rewards to individual team members, and pinpoint instances where there is risk of churn to intervene before it’s too late.
When companies gather feedback and suggestions from employees via surveys, crowdsourcing platforms, and listening tools, they have the power to improve both employee and customer satisfaction and engagement. Researchers have found that most employees whose companies do not ask for their feedback are dissatisfied with their employer, and it’s likely that customers can sense these feelings of disengagement during their contact center interactions. Making sure that agents have a platform to share what’s on their minds gives organizations the chance to identify and resolve potential employee disengagement before it impacts the front line.
The holiday season can be stressful for customers and employees, but this time of year also presents a unique opportunity for leaders to take meaningful action to deliver better outcomes for contact center agents, customers and the brand as a whole.
Simon Gough is vice president of product, customer experience, at Medallia.