Updated: 5th August 2020
According to Culture Amp, the company behind the world’s top-ranked employee feedback and analytics platform, employee experience is “what people encounter, observe or feel over the course of their employee journey at an organization.”
To most of us, it seems crystal clear as to why an employee’s perception and feeling of their employer directly impacts how that employee treats the customers s/he interacts with. After all, you don’t need scientific data to prove that an employee who feels valued, trusted, and supported will undoubtedly be giving more discretionary effort at work versus an employee who feels overworked, undervalued, and micromanaged. (But trust us, there is A LOT of scientific evidence to support and validate this statement).
In a time of deep uncertainty, when contact center employees are being thrust into new working environments and have to manage interactions with customers who are feeling more anxious than ever before, agents need leadership support like never before.
When it comes to the contact center, or any business in any industry for that matter, the EX you’re delivering should be one that aims to keep every person there for the long haul. After all, the foundation of your customer experience is your agent experience.
Don’t you want your agents to feel happy at work? To feel supported by their bosses? To enjoy what they do because the technology they’re using is intuitive and sets them up with all the information they need to end each customer interaction in a positive way?
The answer is undoubtedly YES to all of these questions. After all, as noted above employees who feel valued and trusted (and therefore are most likely happy too) work harder and care more. Any agent with these characteristics is surely going to go above and beyond to create positive customer experiences.
The way to make this “yes” a reality is really quite simple: give your agents software that acts as a single pane of glass, make sure they have the flexibility and tools necessary to do their jobs, hire the best managers -- who are both transparent and authentic -- to help coach them into being the best agents they can be, and build a culture of praise and recognition so each individual feels respected, valued, and appreciated.
Right now, we’re all together in facing the global COVID-19 pandemic. A recent Fast Company article accurately characterized the Coronavirus outbreak as the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. What exactly is the plan when teams cannot work in the same physical space as one another? How do you protect your workforce and still run your business and serve your customers? As we battle to grasp how COVID-19 will continue to impact people and businesses long-term, one thing became certain very early on: sending entire workforces home is both critical and necessary.
Perhaps the most surprising result of this prolonged work-from-home experiment has been that working from home actually works - provided employees have been given the tools and technology to do so effectively.
With little more than a cloud-based contact center platform, built-in Unified Communications, a laptop, a desk and a headset, call center agents can continue working from the safety of their own homes and serving customers without disruption. Leading industry analyst Donna Fluss even talked about how this pandemic has proved the flexibility of Call Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions.
Customer service representatives serve as the front door to your organization, so ask yourself:
Global pandemic aside, it’s been shown that remote work benefits both employers and employees, too. Forbes reported that letting employees work remotely reduces distractions, reduces stress, and decreases company overhead. And a survey from SurePayroll found that 86% of people prefer to work alone to hit maximum productivity. If people are more productive while working remotely, it’s a no brainer for leaders and managers to embrace the work-from-anywhere trend (P.S., the world is headed there anyway).
In May, a Gallup study revealed that “the percentage of ‘engaged’ workers in the U.S. -- those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace -- reached 38%.” This is the highest that number has been since the organization started tracking it more than two decades ago. Shortly afterwards, in July, Gallup reported that, “tracking finds the most significant drop we have recorded in our history of tracking employee engagement in the U.S.” down seven points to 31%. Regardless of whether we are at 38% or 31%, the number of truly engaged employees is not high enough, proving that efforts companies currently have in place simply aren’t -- and haven’t been -- effective.
Leaders need to start thinking about their people in a new way.
A recent Omdia report says, "Looking at employee experience through a CX lens will allow businesses to spot trends, implement new processes, and monitor and evaluate the impact these changes have on overall satisfaction and retention rates."
This philosophy is one Edify believes in deeply. The employees on the front lines will have ideas, points of views, and insights that the C-suite will never have and this information is imperative to creating a culture and employee experience that leads to successful customer experiences too. Where are you on this journey? See what else Omdia has to say on this topic.
Contact center work is tough, and turnover is higher in this industry than in almost any other. Every time an agent accepts an incoming interaction, they never know what awaits them. Combine that high-stress with long hours, seasonal fluctuations, limited opportunities for advancement and being stuck at a desk (usually in a cubicle), it’s no surprise that the call center industry struggles with high employee turnover and job dissatisfaction.
Research found the average annual turnover rate for agents in U.S. contact centers to be between 30-45% (we’ve seen it go over 100%!), which is more than double the average for all occupations in the U.S. Attrition may be your biggest threat, but even if your employees don’t just outright quit, unhappy ones aren’t going to result in happy customers. Reasons for low job satisfaction and agent attrition can include:
Agents have the difficult task of interacting with unhappy customers and dealing with people complaining about a product or service they disliked. And, unfortunately, most contact center leaders don’t help the matter. They’re not that great at training people to handle these interactions with grace, and supervisors often don’t even have the data and insight to help agents do better. Luckily, there are ways to turn that around.
When you fail to give agents the experience at work that they deserve, they can’t help your customers (and trust me, they want to). A recent Gartner survey found only 13% of employees feel their company is fully meeting their needs. So, not only do you have frustrated customers, you have frustrated employees too. Customer expectations aren’t slowing down, either - their expectations for customer support are continually rising.
Earlier this year, Edify CMO Candace Sheitelman wrote an article for Contact Center Pipeline outlining five ways to elevate your agents’ experience at work, with tips including “define your organization’s higher purpose” and “lead with transparency and empathy”. In her own words, "unless we start putting the employee experience at the top of the list, the customer experience will never reach its potential." Check out her tips and see if there are any that resonate with you. Learning new ways to engage employees at work and enhance the employee experience you’re offering your people is always a good thing.
We often find ourselves in the ugly dilemma -- what comes first, customer or agents? The answer is: your agent. A recent article on CMSWire addressed the missing piece of the CX conversation - the employee experience - stating:
Experience-led companies will thrive only by investing in their internal processes and connecting every front-end initiative to the back and middle office employees. The experience you provide customers is fueled entirely by the capabilities you provide your employees. And to give your people what they want and need, there’s only one solution: an omnichannel one. True omnichannel solutions provide better service for everyone, from clients and prospects to call center managers and agents, even back-office employees.
So, if today’s customers demand seamless interactions across all channels and on all devices, don’t your agents require the same 24/7 access? Your contact center technology should show agents the full journey of each customer with full details and context into each interaction. It should empower agents to provide top-notch service on every channel and also enable them to seamlessly switch between channels without transferring or disconnecting. If you want to provide stellar customer experiences, you must first arm your agents with the tools and technology they require.
Rich, rewarding work experiences are possible (and even easy). Try it out.
Questions? Give us a shout.