Agent workloads are a serious threat to the customer experience (CX). The Great Resignation hasn’t helped as many organizations are dealing with rising customer service agent turnover on top of preexisting talent shortages. This leaves remaining agents with significant and unmanageable workloads that make it hard for them to perform at their best.

Research shows that when agent workloads increase, customer service suffers. According to a new survey from Webex by Cisco and CMSWire, nearly half of managers (47%) ranked workloads as the primary cause for poor customer service. Although many organizations are actively scaling up hiring to address staffing issues, there are alternatives that can also be considered. Here’s a look at some ways companies can support and ease customer service agent workloads.

Invest in the Right Technology Stack

Although the right technology can significantly improve agent performance and mitigate workloads, many organizations have yet to fully implement a centralized CX technology strategy. According to Webex by Cisco’s survey, “advanced” organizations – those with a fully mature technology stack – are more likely to see stronger agent performance and better overall customer experience. Advanced organizations in the survey were also less likely to point to workload as a cause of poor performance.

For example, using an integrated agent support platform grants agents access to needed knowledge, expertise and information in real-time, creating more robust, accurate and informative customer support experiences. Other technologies can automate post-call tasks, other background work, or use machine learning to route calls correctly and ensure agent productivity. The key here is an integrated support platform that is designed to make agents more efficient and effective at creating great customer experiences.

Encourage Customer Self-Service

Encouraging self-service allows customers to easily get answers without agents needing to oversee the process. Research finds that self-service is growing in favor among consumers. According to Statista, 88% of U.S. consumers expect companies to have a customer self-service portal.

Self-service can include anything from FAQ pages and knowledge bases to more advanced tools such as bot-assisted chat and augmented reality (AR) tutorials. In fact, marketers in CMSWire’s 2021 State of the Digital Customer Experience report said that “enabling customer self-service” was the second most likely area where AI and machine learning would have an impact in 2022. In addition to letting customers get answers on their own terms, self-service also reduces the time agents must spend addressing routine issues.

Reach Customers Where They Are

Deploying omnichannel communication technology allows agents to meet and help customers where they are, especially as their methods to connect grow more diverse. Although email and voice are still the most common channels for agent interaction, 61% and 56% of respondents in Webex by Cisco’s survey cited live chat and social media as their top channels for interaction, respectively. Omnichannel communications technology helps agents to go beyond baseline channels to connect with customers in their preferred way, including SMS, text messaging, live chat, or social media.

Giving customers a choice as to where they want to connect improves satisfaction and ultimately makes it easier and faster for agents to deliver great customer service.

Learning Opportunities

Use Data to Address Problems Proactively

While most organizations collect agent engagement data to track performance and keep leadership updated, they can also use this information to take steps that improve agent performance and as a result, reduce workloads. Having a centralized technology strategy can help in pulling together data and metrics from various sources to create actionable insights. In fact, Webex by Cisco found that organizations with a more mature tech stack were more likely to act on agent engagement data.

Managers can use data-driven insights to identify and isolate problems before they seriously affect workloads. Some of the top interventions include:

  • Learning and development opportunities
  • Resources, checklists and toolkits
  • Knowledge bases
  • Mentoring and shadowing options

Conclusion: Act Now

There’s a clear correlation between employee experience and customer experience, according to research from IDC. Keeping agents engaged and workloads manageable translates into better customer experiences, increased customer retention and more brand loyalty. On the other hand, poor customer service may create negative customer sentiment, and vice versa, creating an “unvirtuous loop” over time.

Companies that can act today to implement the right processes, technology and strategies stand to avoid these scenarios in future years and win over consumers with cutting-edge CX programs.Companies that can act today to implement the right processes, technology and strategies stand to avoid these scenarios in future years and win over consumers with cutting-edge CX programs.

Learn more about supporting customer service agents at Webex Ahead.