In today’s world, where customers have endless options and high expectations, providing exceptional customer service is more important than ever. It can be the key differentiator that sets your business apart from competitors and keeps customers coming back; however, delivering outstanding customer service requires more than just a friendly voice on the other end of the line or a chatbot that responds promptly.
To truly provide a superior customer experience, businesses must focus on their agents – the frontline employees who interact with customers every day. These agents are the backbone of your customer service, and their experience plays a critical role in shaping how customers perceive your brand.
“Agents are the backbone of your customer service, and their experience plays a critical role in shaping how customers perceive your brand.”
While many businesses focus solely on training their agents to follow scripted responses and adhere to specific protocols, this approach falls short in today’s market. Customers want and expect more than just a one-size-fits-all approach to their needs; they value interactions that feel personal and authentic.
Investing in agent experience (AX) can help businesses meet these demands by empowering agents to provide personalised, high-quality customer service. By equipping agents with the right tools, training and support, businesses can empower them to go beyond scripted responses and deliver a superior customer experience (CX).
In this article, we’ll explore the importance of improving agent experience in customer service and the benefits it can bring to businesses. We’ll discuss practical ways businesses can invest in their agents, including technology upgrades and ongoing support. By the end, you’ll have a deeper understanding of how focusing on agent experience can help you build stronger relationships with your customers and grow your business – ultimately ensuring the future viability of your company.
What is Agent Experience?
Agent experience is a combination of various work-related factors that affect an employee’s day-to-day performance. Things like job satisfaction, pay and benefits, safety and security, working conditions, number of hours worked, and potential for career advancement all contribute to agent experience.
Business owners looking to invest in their agents should consider all of these elements when designing an optimal environment for their teams. Generally speaking, the more flexible you are as an employer, the more you listen to your agent’s needs, and the more willing you are to put in place adaptations that contribute to a more positive working environment, the better the agent experience will be.
Does Agent Experience Actually Matter?
As a business, you understand that customer service is one of the most critical aspects of your business. However, it’s essential to recognise that the customer experience is only as good as the agent who is providing it. That’s why agent experience is so important in relation to customer service and why providing a positive agent experience is vital – but that’s not all.
According to a survey conducted by PwC, 73% of customers say that customer service is a crucial factor in their purchasing decisions. This shows that the quality of customer service has a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty.
A study by Walker Information found that in 2020, customer experience overtook price and product as the key brand differentiator. This means that providing excellent customer experiences has become more critical than ever before – a better product and better pricing aren’t enough to sway customers anymore.
A report by Forrester Research found that 77% of customers say a company valuing their time is the most important thing they can do to provide good service. This means agents who can provide quick and efficient service are more likely to create a positive customer experience, again boiling down to agent experience and equipping staff with the tools they need to excel.
According to a report by the Harvard Business Review, customer service interactions that exceed expectations can lead to a 10-20% increase in customer satisfaction and a 15-20% increase in word of mouth recommendations.
A study by Zendesk found that companies with higher agent satisfaction scores have higher customer satisfaction scores as well. This shows that investing in agent experience can have a positive impact on the overall customer experience.
Motivation and mood
First and foremost, your agents are the frontline of your business. They are the ones who interact with your customers and represent your brand, and if they’re not happy, this will translate through to their output and have a direct impact on customer experience. Agents who are happy and empowered at work generally want to perform better and therefore have better engagement with customers, leading to an increased customer satisfaction rate, enhanced loyalty, and repeat business as a consequence.
On the other hand, agents who are unhappy and disengaged at work are less likely to strive for optimal performance due a lack of incentive to do so, meaning a negative agent experience can result in customer dissatisfaction, poor reviews, and ultimately lost business.
Agent experience should be prioritised, not just because it translates to better customer experiences, but because it can lead to increased employee retention, too. When agents are happy and satisfied with their job, they are more likely to stay with your company, reducing turnover rates and saving your business time and money in the long run. This can also lead to better-trained agents who are more knowledgeable about your products, services and processes, resulting in more efficient customer service and higher conversions.
Given that the average tenure of a service agent is around a year, and the fact that turnover rates in the customer service industry generally sit between 30-45%, it’s easy to see how costly poor employee retention can be. Most businesses in the B2C sector rely on recruitment agencies to find new staff, and the average cost of this is £3,000 per employee hired. If you’re constantly having to hire new employees after one year, your overheads increase significantly, and that’s before equipment and training time.
Increasing employee retention has obvious monetary benefits, but it can also affect customer experience in its own right, as Rommon Thompson, Head of Demand Generation here at Vizolution, explains:
“For too long, businesses have seen advisor or agent churn as a line within their budget that they simply needed to manage. Finally, businesses are starting to understand that agent experience has a directly correlated impact on customer experience. Providing your team with the tools and platform that enables them to move from novice to expert and be happy and secure is a win for all stakeholders. ”
Training and problem solving
Another critical aspect of the agent experience is the ability to handle difficult situations effectively. Whether it’s a defective complaint, a service issue, or a minor problem, customers want a quick and satisfactory resolution. Agents who are trained and experienced in handling these situations can help de-escalate tensions, find solutions, and create positive outcomes in a faster time-frame, resulting in a better overall customer experience. Oftentimes customers are willing to forgive a company and leave a positive review if their issues are solved quickly and professionally first-time, meaning it’s in your best interest to improve AX if you’re looking to grow your customer base.
What Makes a Bad Agent Experience?
Due to the fact that there are so many mitigating factors that contribute to overall agent experience, there are a lot of things that make it negative; with the main one being a lack of training.
Many agents feel like they’re being set up for failure. In fact, according to a Dixa report, 59% of agents said they don’t have the knowledge required to provide a better service. This means customer queries may not be solved due to a lack of know-how, resulting in low customer satisfaction and a negative overall experience.
Lack of tech support
It’s not just training gaps that are causing issues, however. The same Dixa survey revealed that 72% of agents want an easier way to find customer information, suggesting that the tools and softwares in place largely don’t work for agents or enable them to do their job quickly and efficiently. This can lead to delays and convoluted resolution times, resulting in frustration on both sides. Customers want their queries answered sharply, but agents may get frustrated if the systems at their end aren’t working in their favour. Rommon explains further:
“Agents have a lot to handle all at once: multiple windows/systems, KPIs around call handling, rigid scripts, and more. What they need is any intuitive platform with a single view, dynamic scripting and a level of automation that doesn’t require duplication of effort – all of which would allow them to upskill quickly and ensure a compliant repeatable procedure.”
Delayed response times due to poor infrastructure, paired with staff shortages and worker gaps, all contribute to increased workloads. The Dixa survey found that 79% of agents feel like their workload is too much, leaving them with little time to do everything they need to. In fact, 75% of agents said they feel like they’re pressured to work faster. This results in a high-stress, tense work environment, and this is a heavyweight factor when it comes to a negative agent experience and how it can cause lapses in customer service
How Can Agent Experience be Improved?
Overworked, stressed, frustrated and undertrained agents generally do not provide good customer experiences, so it’s vital that you do all you can to quell their concerns and listen to them when they say existing agent assisted journeys aren’t working. If you don’t, their frustrations may be felt by your customers, and this can damage your company’s reputation and directly affect your revenue. An investment in your staff is an investment in your customers, but what exactly is it you should be focusing on?
“An investment in your staff is an investment in your customers.”
Onboarding and training
Proper onboarding and training should be at the top of your list of priorities when it comes to improving AX. You must ensure that your agents are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide excellent customer service, and that means going heavy with training and comprehensive onboarding.
This can include teaching agents how to handle difficult customers (with examples), how to use your company’s software and systems, and how to handle sensitive customer information. When your agents are well-trained, they can handle almost any situation that comes their way with ease, resulting in more positive interactions with your customers and a higher, faster resolution rate.
Moreover, proper onboarding and training can help agents understand your company’s values, goals and culture. This understanding can lead to better alignment between your team and your business objectives. This alignment leads to more cohesive teamwork, which translates to better customer experiences, increased customer satisfaction, and ultimately, increased revenue. This level of continuity and commitment to brand values will play a key role in differentiating your company from others.
Modern software and technologies
Investing in modern software and technology is a smart business move for many reasons, and improving agent experience is one of them. By upgrading your technology, you can provide your agents with the tools they need to excel in their roles, which can lead to more engaged and satisfied employees and better customer service overall.
Modern software and technology can simplify and streamline many of the tasks that agents perform on a daily basis. Automated chatbots, for example, can handle simple queries and free up agents to focus on more complex issues, therefore reducing the heavy workloads many agents say they deal with. This also tackles the self-autonomy issue, with many customers across sectors saying they’d rather take control of interactions where possible and self-serve.
Along the same vein, implementing online document exchange software can make application and verification processes much easier and faster. Customers can complete and upload documentation as and when it is required from wherever they might be, and agents can review the documentation as soon as it’s uploaded, enabling them to make decisions faster and update the status of applications and processes in real time. This results in better resolution rates, freeing up more time for agents and giving them some much needed breathing room, whilst ensuring customers aren’t stuck in long queues or having to take time out of their day to send paperwork through the post or visit a location.
Upgraded technology can also provide agents with better communication tools, which can make it easier for them to collaborate with each other and with customers. For example, complex issues such as filling out forms or learning how to use your app, website or portal, can be solved with the likes of co-browsing software. This allows agents to take the reins and press buttons, enter text fields, and annotate the customer’s screen. This is a personal customer service method that shows customers you’re dedicated to solving their issues in a direct and efficient way, and it also reduces the chances of miscommunication problems.
By providing agents with the latest tools and technologies, you are showing them that you value their work and are invested in their success. This can lead to higher job satisfaction, which can, in turn, lead to better customer experiences as agents are more motivated to go above and beyond for customers when they have the means to do so.
Additional benefits and perks
It goes without saying that AX is about more than just a decent salary and good working tools. You need to nurture a positive working environment to keep morale up. One of the easiest ways to do this is by looking into additional benefits and perks, and asking your agents directly what they would like is the best way to do this. Some examples may include flexible working, gym memberships, incentive/bonus schemes, and a clear route for career progression and/or development (such as investing in additional training courses.
These can all go a long way towards improving agent experiences. Employees who feel supported, appreciated and looked after will strive to serve your business in the best way possible, i.e. through enhanced customer service.
Improving Agent Experience with Vizolution
At Vizolution, we specialise in helping businesses improve customer journeys and experiences, and one way we do that is by emphasising the importance of investing in agent experiences. We offer a wide range of tools and softwares that can streamline your customer service operations and improve working environments for your agents simultaneously.
Get in touch with us to discuss your existing agent experience and any pain points within your customer journeys, and learn more about how we can help you simultaneously improve your AX and CX. Secure the future of your business as a great place to work and an even better place to do business with.