Agents of Change:
Transforming the Workforce – and Customer – Experience

By Jorge Cruz, Aspect Software

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So much has been written recently about the importance of the customer experience that we have forgotten about the importance of the agent experience – and that can be a big mistake. Ian Jacobs, Senior Analyst at Forrester Research puts it this way in a recent report, “Unhappy contact center agents equal unhappy customers. It’s that simple.” The symbiotic relationship between customer and agent attitudes should not be surprising. It’s a natural phenomenon in all human communication. So if we want to create great customer experiences, we need to ensure great agent experiences. Question is: just how do you go about doing that?

A great agent experience is certainly a byproduct of many factors, but one of the primary ones is the quality of the tools agents use to earn a living, day in and day out. Like all of us, technology can make an agent’s work life enjoyable or miserable. In a survey of 127 workers, Forrester found, “Customer service workers that feel happy with the tools they use are more likely to be happy with their jobs and to recommend their company as a place to work.” In fact, customer service workers satisfied with technologies at work are twice as likely to recommend their company as a place to work. That’s a strong statement about the importance of good technology to a good agent experience.

Agents Are Consumers

When you think about it, contact center agents are a microcosm of your customer base. In them, you will see the same needs and characteristics that are top of mind for enterprises when considering how to deliver a great customer experience. Aspect research has revealed the following as some of the most important trends among consumers (and by implication in the agent population):

  • Increasingly composed of Millennials
  • Preference for self-service tools
  • Desire to communicate across many channels
  • Texting is a favorite means of communication
  • Favor access to the web via mobile phones
  • High expectations of technology (especially given their everyday experiences with smartphones)
  • Readiness to turn to another provider (or employer)
  • Need to feel valued by providers (or employers)

Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose the traditionally complex and awkward agent desktop could undergo a dramatic transformation and simplification, offering the thoughtful design and appeal of the iPhone to agents as they go about their work. Don’t you image that agents would be stimulated to do their jobs in a more effective,

productive way? Do you think turnover would continue at the current average 36% per year for US contact centers? Suppose agents and supervisors could use conversational speech (a la Siri) or conversational text (a la Google search) either on-site at the contact center or remotely for daily interactions with their workforce management system? Wouldn’t that enhance the work life of the agent?

Many enterprises have invested in creating wonderfully engaging mobile apps to simplify customer communications with the enterprise. Shouldn’t agents have the same expectation? Agents can readily see the technology their employers have developed for customers, but not for them. It sends a strong message about the way enterprises perceive agents.

Yet, the reality is that a single agent can affect the loyalty, lifetime value, churn risk, threat of negative social media posts, etc. of potentially thousands of customers. Each agent has a significant amount of power that can impact the brand and profitability of an enterprise in a material way. Compared to the average CEO, how many more customers do frontline agents engage every day?

WFM for Engaged Agents

In this day and age, would a large enterprise design a new mobile app or web app without careful attention to making it as simple and user friendly as possible? Of course not. Why would you ever frustrate agents with anything other than a good user experience that’s ultimately reflected in increased customer loyalty, reduced turnover and higher productivity?

These are some of the features you should expect from your WFM technology to make it highly engaging for the agent population:

  • Intentionally simplified interactions for common agent and supervisor tasks
  • Clean and simple mobile apps for smartphone access to WFM
  • IVR-based remote access to WFM and Performance Management
  • Conversational SMS-based access to WFM and Performance Management
  • Conversational chat-based access to WFM and Performance Management
  • HTML 5 web user interface for the entire WFO suite

Incorporating the needs and wants of the modern agent (aka consumer), WFM and WFO software providers need to be going the extra mile to ensure that agents have the rich technology that can change the very fabric of their day-to-day work environment.

Bringing over 25 years of contact center operational and consulting expertise, Jorge Cruz is Aspect’s Director of Innovations and Agent Engagement Evangelist. Working in Aspect’s Professional Services organization and having been an Aspect customer for years, Jorge brings a wealth of specific knowledge and expertise on what contact centers need to be successful in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. With an uncanny visionary perspective and passion, Jorge has been instrumental in developing hundreds of creative and value-add Innovations & Solutions to many Fortune 500 customers.