The customer service technology space is growing rapidly. As it grows, logic would suggest that the quality and success of customer service should be improving along with it. But in reality, delivering exceptional support continues to be the outlier as opposed to the norm

As an industry, this presents us with a simple, yet significant question: What are the disconnects that are causing the gap between investment in tools and technology, and the delivery of great customer experiences?  

While we could approach an answer to this question in a multitude of ways, the area that still often gets overlooked is the neglect of service agents, or the agent experience (AX). The biggest indicator of this is that the average rate of agent turnover for contact centers is 58% year-over-year. And the problem with this high churn rate is that your service agents and employees are part of the same puzzle to delivering a top customer experience.

The following four steps are a recipe for putting this right, setting you up to improve your AX, reduce your employee churn rate and, while you’re at it, improve your customer satisfaction.

Step 1: Build the Foundation

It may seem obvious, but many brands still don’t get the fundamentals right. And by fundamentals, this means acknowledging the importance of agents within the business and giving them structure.

You can spend thousands updating your brand identity, or employing user experience (UX) teams to help optimize the user journey on your website but, when it comes down to it, your agents are on the frontline, speaking to customers and representing your brand. It is these employees that arguably shape your customer experience just as much as the look and feel of your website; so how happy they are in their job will have a direct impact on your CX. The first ingredient to improving AX is treating them like the significant partners they are, rather than just an unimportant cog in a wheel.

Once you’ve got this foundational layer in place, you can start to put together and add the next ingredient: Giving your agents the context they need and visibility across channels.

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Step 2: Provide the Connect

How many times have you had to continually repeat information that you’ve told a brand multiple times before when you have called in to the customer service department? It’s probably the majority of the time and in "The Effortless Experience," CX leader Matthew Dixon demonstrates that having to repeat basic information is one of the biggest drivers of customer disloyalty today.

Addressing the “what” is, therefore, the second most important ingredient. What is the customer contacting you about? What have they contacted you about in the past, on what channels, and what was the outcome? These are all questions that agents should have the answers to at their fingertips, but can only do so if they have access to the context from previous conversations and interactions, across every channel.

By giving them this access, not only will agents have the understanding they need of the customer’s current issue and how it relates to previous questions — or the context — but this also brings the added benefit of empowering your customers to switch from channel to channel without the irritation of needing to repeat themselves each time.

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Related Article: 6 Essential Call Center Agent Skills and Traits

Step 3: Serve the Information  

Once you’ve addressed the “what,” the next ingredient in our recipe for better AX is the “who” or, more specifically, ensuring your agents have the information they need to offer a personalized experience with every customer they engage with.

“Personalization” is a buzzword that’s pretty overused in our industry, but the point it makes is still very true: your customers want to feel heard and understood when they reach out with a problem, not be on the end of an unfriendly and irrelevant experience.

Who are they? Do they frequently spend money with your brand? Have they had delivery issues in the past? Was their purchase a gift? By pulling this information in from your backend system and showing it to your agents, they will immediately be able to deliver the personalized, conversational service that consumers are increasingly expecting.

Step 4: Offer the Tools 

Steps one through three may probably seem quite obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many brands still ignore or overlook them. But for those that really want to take their AX to the next level, the final ingredient is the “how,” or giving your agents access to the knowledge they need to solve customer questions in an intelligent way.

Agents are faced with countless inquiries every day, and without giving them the knowledge they need to answer those questions is a little like asking an NFL player to play without shoulder pads or a helmet: it’s going to be an all-around painful experience. But this experience is more commonplace than you think; our data from speaking to 3,000 service agents in the US and UK shows that 29% still have to Google answers to customer queries, while 27% ask their colleagues for the answers.

Fixing this requires a centralized knowledge base, which means agents won’t have to waste time using multiple applications or disturbing colleagues to get the answers they need. Instead, they will have a means for quick and easy answer-finding, saving precious time and delivering a holistically better experience.

By taking these four steps into account, brands will be able to elevate their agent and employee experience this year. And happy agents mean happy customers.