The Disposable Agent

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About four months ago these two words popped into my head “Disposable Agent.” It was during a brainstorming session on how to improve the agent experience and what came to mind was a simple epiphany: we need to stop treating agents as disposable.

So what do I mean by the term disposable? Not viewed as a medium or long-term investment, easily replaced. We seem to accept attrition rates with agents that are higher than any other role and we’ve put in place hiring machines to onboard new agents as fast as departing agents walk out the door. Why? Disposable Agent

Customer interaction organizations spend a lot of time and money training agents to deliver the best possible customer experience. These are employees that you have trusted to be on the frontline managing your customer relationships.

So why does this disposable philosophy matter?

It hurts your bottom line. For a contact center of 500 agents to replace 20% of its agents annually, at an average of 13 weeks to onboard, this equates to around $800K per year not including productivity loss due to lack of experience and higher than average resolution times because of knowledge gaps.

It hurts your customer experience. If you believe that happy agents create happy customers, then it’s safe to also believe that agents who are not yet fully connected to your company will deliver a disconnected experience. Aspect’s 2014 Consumer Experience Index found that 72 percent of customers have stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience.

At the Aspect Customer Experience event this year in Las Vegas, I asked a group of contact center leaders what they thought of the term ‘disposable.’ Was it too offensive or did it make people think? Their response was telling: Most of them felt it was true. They agreed that both in the past and perhaps even today they have treated agents as disposable. They also agreed that the thinking needs to change.

So what can you do?

Create a culture that engages agents and makes them feel part of something big. Make sure they know the importance of creating and exceptional customer experience and they know they play a crucial role in that creation. Here are a few ways this can be done:

  1. Create brand ambassadors – evolve the role of an agent to brand ambassador
  2. Create advisors and consultants – elevate the agent stature to advisor/consultant: Customer interaction is not about reading a script anymore
  3. Invest for success – invest in tools and training to make agents successful
  4. Develop a career path – develop a clear career path so agents can see a future and help them understand how to get there

Perhaps one day the role of the agent will be seen as a career choice. A group of advisors grounded in traditional agent characteristics.

I believe the shift is happening. What are your thoughts?

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Lisa Gillespie

As a professional services executive in the contact center industry leading the Performance Improvement team at Aspect, I have the opportunity to work with companies looking to push the boundaries on delivering great customer experience, increase the return on investment of their solutions (products and process), and enhance their employee experiences.

My passion is to help customers push the boundaries of what is possible to realize their vision.

I constantly strive to deliver value and to make a difference to my customers, enabling them to make a difference to their customers.
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