A great customer experience is when you truly know your customer, satisfy them and keep them coming back for more as a loyal fan. Brands know this, but while improving CX is a major goal, they might overlook the important role that the customer service agents play. In many cases, the agents are the face of your brand and directly shape the customer experience. Therefore, it’s critical that the agents have a high-quality experience and the right tools.

However, recent working conditions and a lack of strategic investment into contact centers leave many agents without the tools and support to perform their best.

Lorrissa Horton, SVP and General Manager, Webex Calling and Contact Center, shared some thoughts on the challenges facing agents with CMSWire, as well the factors that go into improving their experience.

Increased Workloads, Expectations

Agent workloads are rising swiftly. According to a survey from Webex by Cisco and CMSWire, nearly half of managers (47%) ranked workloads as the primary cause for poor customer service. In addition to consistently high turnover in the industry, Horton pointed to numerous factors making agents’ jobs more complex.

Due to the omnichannel presence of brands today, and increased online buying, agents now have to engage customers through more channels than ever before, she explained. Customer interactions and outcomes are dependent on the level of skill an agent has using the different channels.

“In most cases, they're operating across multiple systems or tools, and they're going off of training that they've received,” Horton said, adding that when the training isn’t up to date, agents end up dealing with frustrated customers who expect them to provide a consistent experience across channels.

A Need For Strategic Investment

Despite the business results that a positive agent experience can drive, many organizations fail to invest in their agents. While 75% of respondents in Webex’s survey said agent engagement data is reviewed by leadership, fewer organizations are using this data to implement action plans for learning and development (56%) or targeted interventions and incentives (42%).

“Most contact centers are just considered cost centers, so they're trying to meet as many customers based on the call or based on the wait time,” Horton said. “They optimize [them] in a very pragmatic way, and making these kinds of transformations takes a pretty significant investment.”

With companies already facing increasing wait times, dissatisfied customers and other operational challenges, it can be difficult to take the first steps towards making significant changes. To break this cycle, companies need to start evaluating their contact centers and agent performance differently by rethinking the metrics they use (such as first call resolution) and considering other ones, such as customer lifetime value, Horton explained.

Learning Opportunities

Building the Right Technology Strategy

Technology plays a role in improving both agent and overall customer experience. But while there’s no shortage of industry trends that brands are trying to keep up with, they don’t always make sense for your contact center’s current operations. Instead, Horton reiterated the importance of looking at how your company measures the success of its contact center and identifying what you want to improve to guide the direction and pace of innovation.

With vendors flooding the marketplace, Horton suggested that companies narrow down what they truly need to improve agent experience by considering what problem they’re trying to solve. Ultimately, the agent experience also depends on the customer experience.With vendors flooding the marketplace, Horton suggested that companies narrow down what they truly need to improve agent experience by considering what problem they’re trying to solve. Ultimately, the agent experience also depends on the customer experience.

“What are customers complaining to agents about and what kind of concerns keep coming up? Think about the tools that will help improve visibility and understanding of the customer, and ask how you can improve them,” Horton said. Not only can technology help you get up-to-date analysis on customer complaint trends, it can also automate common and tedious tasks for agents, thereby simplifying and reducing workloads.

The Personal Touch

For brands who are mature in their technology strategy, and have already migrated to the cloud, the next step may be looking comparatively at others in their industry who are succeeding at customer experience, Horton said. In many cases, these kinds of companies are focused on developing strategies to truly personalize the customer experience at every touch point, which both delights the customer and improves an agent’s ability to serve them.

“Those are the factors that really start to change the game,” Horton said. “Even mature stacks still do not incorporate those capabilities, because a lot of that technology is so new and up and coming.”

Read the full report, Supercharging Customer Experiences Through Great Agent Support, at webex.com.