Engaging Your Agents for a Better Customer Experience

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In Forrester’s recent report, How to Measure and Improve the Contact Center Agent Experience, Ian Jacobs explains some guiding principles that can be used to significantly improve the customer experience by improving the agent experience. This report makes a compelling case that you can definitely drive better customer experiences by improving the agent experience and that there are technologies and cultural changes that are surefire ways to improve that agent experience.

Here are five poignant quotes from the Forrester report I found particularly important:

“Contact center agents can have a huge impact on customer experience”

I like this quote because it captures the very essence of the inextricable relationship between agent and customer, and it echoes one of the concepts outlined in a blog I wrote on customer and agent engagement a few months ago. We coined the term “contact center engagement cycle” to describe the Engage your Agentssignificant, continuous and symbiotic influence that agent and customer have on each other. If the agent is really enthusiastic and positive, it will affect the customer in a positive way. If the customer is angry, it will be perceived by the agent, and sometimes the agent gets angry as well. The attitude of one party will definitely affect the other, and this dynamic can often induce antagonistic spirals if negative feelings come in or virtuous spirals if positive feelings come in. The secret for the enlightened contact center is to take steps to ensure that agents start with as much positive energy as possible to create those virtuous spirals, and to do this, agents need to feel really empowered and engaged in their jobs.  Customer and agent engagement are primary objectives of the Aspect WFO suite, that’s why we recently renamed it Aspect EQ Workforce Optimization, where “EQ” stands for Engagement Quotient. The Engagement Quotient takes into account both the level of customer engagement and of agent engagement.

“Customer service workers that feel happy with the tools they use are more likely to be happy with their jobs”

Last year, Aspect released a radically new WFO user interface that draws from the best user experience design principles of Apple, Google and Microsoft. It was the culmination of several years of critical thinking about how employees really use their workforce optimization tools. Working closely with one of the best known user experience (UX) design firms and actual users of the software, we re-imagined the way agents and supervisors could accomplish day-to-day WFO tasks. Incorporating intuitive icons and widgets, the WFO 8 UI removes the technology barrier between users and the complexities of workforce optimization, so anyone can quickly learn the WFO system as well as use it efficiently. By the way, agents and supervisors really like it for the same reason that people like the iPhone. It’s simply fun to use, and as Forrester says, when workers are happy about their tools, they are happy with their jobs.

“Get agent input on what functions they think their tools need”

When Aspect went about the process of developing its new WFO user interface, we spent months testing and re-testing graphical screen designs with experienced WFO users from our customer base. Arm in arm with our UX design firm, we created WFO screen mock-ups using proven UI design principles and asked for a candid reaction from dozens of seasoned agents that use WFO day-to-day. After narrowing the field of possibilities with pictorial representations, we prepared computer simulations of the best alternatives so users could really experience the true look and feel of using a WFO tool with these potential UIs. That allowed us to zero in on the very best graphical user interface for each of the complex functions included in our robust WFO offering. Forrester is right on the money when they advise getting input from agents, and adoption of the new Aspect WFO UI has been high.

“Deliver a scheduling portal that allows agents to create and execute their own swaps and time-off requests”

Progressive contact centers are looking for innovative ways to empower their employees to take more control over their own schedules, while still meeting the on-going need of the enterprise to properly serve customers. Employee-driven scheduling practices supported by the right WFM technology can really improve the agent experience, since viewing and changing one’s schedule are traditionally among the most common yet frustrating tasks. From the employee’s perspective, these regularly used features can be a constant reminder either that the enterprise cares about their employees and has made it easy to self-serve or that the enterprise does not care and forces the agent body to use a clunky and awkward UI that wastes the agent’s time. Aspect invested quite a bit of thought into redesigning those features in our Aspect EQ WFM user interface. Recent versions of our WFM solution include dramatically simplified schedule trades, sequential shift bidding between two or more agents, a schedule trades bulletin board, time-off requests, vacation balance checking and more for the employee in an intuitive interface.

“All of the principles discussed above apply as much to contact center managers as they do to contact center agents”

Management sets the tone for the culture in any contact center. Just as the agent experience can dramatically affect the customer experience, so can the supervisor/manager experience affect the agent experience. After all, they work together all day long, and each supervisor or manager has a huge influence on the existence of numerous agents while they are at work. It’s as important if not more important to ensure that your supervisors are engaged in their work and made happy. That’s why Aspect has applied the same type of UI design enhancements to the supervisor/manager WFO screens that it has to the agent WFO screens. For example, the WFO graphical user interface allows supervisors to easily view schedule information for a list of employees, do batch schedule edits, preview the effect of a schedule trade on agents’ schedules and broker schedule trades. Complex supervisor tasks that are time consuming and awkward in traditional UIs are made simple with a graphical, icon and widget-based UI.

Putting It All Together

Given all of the attention to the importance of the customer experience in recent years, it’s not surprising that contact centers would be re-thinking their approach to delivering customer service. In an environment where low cost has been the primary objective for decades, the increasing importance of quality customer experiences is a significant disruption and requires a new culture, processes and technology. Forrester makes a strong argument that the agent experience is a primary contributor to the customer experience. Aspect has been an advocate of that thinking for quite some time, and it shows in the capabilities and features of our workforce optimization portfolio. If you would like a complimentary copy of the complete Forrester report, you can find it here.

 

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Mike Bourke, SVP & GM Workforce Optimization

Mike Bourke is Aspect’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Workforce Optimization. Mike is responsible for charting the strategic direction, and continuing the momentum of Aspect’s global workforce optimization suite and continuing the solution’s availability in the Aspect Cloud.
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