The Key to Happy Agents in the Contact Center

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A few years ago, I started hearing the phrase, and seeing it pop up on kitchen trinkets like tea towels and coffee mugs: “Happy wife, happy life.” I won’t go into details on why this phrase drives me crazy but I think it does make for a good contact center illustration. Happy agents, happy customers. It isn’t catchy but you get the point. You could even extend it to say: happy agents, happy customers, happy stakeholders.

There are countless studies that examine what makes employees happy and productive – and for good reason. A recent Gallop survey found that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. The natural next step is to search for the secret to keeping employees engaged. Most studies like this Employee Experience Index released last month by IBM shows that meaningful work and empowerment come up consistently as themes when speaking to engaged employees. While that’s helpful to know, it isn’t a very specific recipe for employee happiness and leaves a lot of room for employer error. To help contact centers better understand exactly how to keep agents engaged and empowered, Aspect partnered with Conversion Research and surveyed customer service representatives to find out what makes them happy at work.

The Aspect Agent Experience survey confirmed that engaged call center agents are notably more satisfied at work. We describe engaged as “feeling good about, satisfied with, and committed to your job.” So what does it take to get engaged agents?

Responsibility. Seventy-six percent of agents feel responsibility and autonomy is important to their engagement. Specifically, they want to be empowered to handle moderate and complex questions. You might be asking, “What a moderately complex question?” A question that can be answered or issue resolved in 3-10 minutes and needs some discovery on customer history and company policy, and contains multiple questions/ concerns. And 36% of all agents said handing complex tasks make them feel more committed and satisfied with their work. A complex question takes 10 minutes or more to be answered or issue resolved and takes troubleshooting and/or the assistance or several company resources to be handled.

 

Opportunity.  Seventy-five percent of call center agents say the ability to move up in their organization is important to their engagement. Less than half of agents indicated they are optimistic about opportunities for advancement in the contact center where they work. This is troubling since only 65% of agents intend to stay where they are currently employed. If agents want to handle complex issues to be more valuable to the organization, who will take on the simple inquiries? Customer support chatbots to the rescue. Customer service agents feel chatbots will indirectly lead to improving their value to the organization since they can focus on the complex inquiries. The clear majority (79%) feel that handling more complex customer issues improves their skills, 72% think handling complex issues makes them feel that they are having a bigger impact in the company, and 64% say it will enable them to provide more personalized service experience for customers.

Respect. Ninety-four percent of agents feel an environment where they are respected as individuals is important to their engagement. This one is straightforward so I won’t go into detail but I do want to point out that it is important to provide appropriate coaching, schedule agents properly, and provide communication tools that allow your agents to easily get in touch with you.

With a force of dedicated agents and happy to serve customers, imagine the possibilities for your organization. Less turnover? More sales? More revenue? Stronger customer base? Take a look at the full results of the Aspect Agent Experience survey.

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Rebecca Anderson

Rebecca Anderson writes on the latest research and trends related to the customer experience focusing on omni-channel and the agent experience. Rebecca provides strategy for Aspect’s social media and public relations objectives.
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