We spent the last couple of months asking influencers and industry leaders how they thought the pandemic had impacted customer service.
One recurring theme was that of agent satisfaction.
Our research for The State of the Contact Center 2020 Report indicates that the change to remote work, along with increasing public scrutiny and growing corporate EQ, will cement Agent Satisfaction as the ‘Master KPI’ on which all other metrics depend.
Here’s why it’s time to rethink your contact center — and make agent satisfaction a top priority.
Agents Were Our Virtual Frontline
From the start of shelter in place, contact agents were placed in the same category as healthcare workers — they were frontline heroes of the pandemic.
And it wasn’t just the public who realized the importance of their contact centers.
“The first surprise was how many CX professionals got laid off at the outset of the pandemic – and then how quickly they were hired elsewhere. Suddenly, customer insights became the golden ticket!”
— Annette Franz, CEO at CXJourney Inc., Keynote Speaker and Official Forbes Coach
We were all intimately aware of the importance of customer service — and the frustration of long hold times and poor service.
“One lasting impact of the pandemic will be “immediacy.” The need to be available to engage at whatever time and in whichever channel the customer chooses.”
— Peter Lavers, CX & Customer Service Expert, Founder of ThinkCX
That ‘immediacy’ has now been achieved by many brands. And that affects all of us.
“Painless experiences with brands in any industry set a bar for consumer expectations about what is technically possible and shine a harsh light on experiences that fall short.”
— Kristyn Emenecker, Executive Leader — Marketing, Strategy, Product, CX
We Were All Forced to be More Empathetic
One word we repeatedly heard during our research was “empathy.” This deeper emotional trend drove the changing perception of contact centers.
Support agents were — sometimes literally — a lifeline for isolated, lonely, afraid customers.
“Given their anxiety and angst about their own personal situations outside of work, contact center agents moved from the service principle of ‘Think like the Customer’ to ‘Be the Customer.’ They are responding with genuine empathy and care because they feel as worried and concerned as their customers do about this pandemic and its impact. That awareness will stick with them hereafter.”
— Bill Quiseng
CX Expert, Speaker & Consultant
Everyone was forced into a situation where they had a bad customer experience once a week or more.
“Contact center agents had to up their listening and their empathy beyond what they had ever faced before. I predict that all the leaders, managers, team leaders, and agents will look back and realize how much they grew from the empathy and compassion they gave and how it helped their customers; their fellow human beings.”
— Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, Author of Leading Morale, Customer Service & Leadership Consultant
The increasing public awareness about health and hygiene has changed how customers expect companies to treat their staff.
Customers appreciated contact center employees more for working through despite the risks. They condemned companies that didn’t take their employees’ health and safety seriously. And companies like McDonald’s, that could have stayed open but didn’t, were applauded for putting people before profits.
“Customers are savvier about health, safety and employee treatment. Brands will have to find ways to not only talk about their values but show how they live them. Younger generations are showing this as a primary driver for their decisions, so this trend will continue well into 2021.”
— Jeannie Walters, CX Expert & Speaker, CEO of Experience Investigators
Agent Attrition is a Growing Problem
The puzzle’s final piece is an omnipresent trend in the contact center world: agent attrition. Our State of the Contact Center 2020 report found that agent attrition continued to increase in the last year.
“Not only are agent attrition levels worryingly high and growing, but the cost associated with finding new agents and developing initiatives to keep them is also climbing. This creates a disturbing situation for contact centers, considering the impact that the vicious cycle of agent churn has on customer experience.”
— Peter Ryan, Snr. Advisor, Ryan Strategic Advisory
Contact center executives are aware of the problems and expenses associated with high agent turnover. But they’ve struggled to do anything about it.
Investment in agent hiring, training, and retention is now a top priority for contact center executives. And it needs to be. In the past, there were always more fresh college students in the hiring pipeline to fill seats.
But it’s getting increasingly harder to find the emotionally intelligent and committed workers needed to perform in the modern contact center.
The gig economy has been looming over contact centers for years. And the move to remote working has created the — previously lacking — infrastructure to do it properly and securely.
Call Center Agents Are A Long Way from Satisfied
The systemic change will force employers to reassess how they look at employee satisfaction because agents have had a taste for what could be.
Recent attempts to bring a ‘gig’ economy to the contact center missed the reason people take on these jobs — freedom and flexibility.
Tech companies are already solving many WfH problems and will solve many more in the coming months — and take advantage of a new, large market. The ones that get agent satisfaction right will be the winners and stand to make a LOT of money.
“The most significant trend is the move to remote work and a better quality of life for contact center workers. When contact center employees can effectively and happily work from home, customers will reap those benefits.”
— Evan Kirstel, B2B Tech & Marketing Consultant