Since the dawn of man, people have been engaged in a compelling quest to make life easier for themselves. We have instinctively sought ways to accomplish our daily tasks better and more efficiently than we did the day before. When hunting for deer, we discovered that a wooden spear was not very effective at bringing down our target, but if we attached a small pointed stone on the leading end, it greatly improved the odds of feeding the family that week, and as an added bonus, we needed less time for hunting. That simple innovation made our lives easier. When we wanted to travel great distances, we found that riding on the backs of a horses was much more effective than traveling on foot. That realization made our lives easier. There are countless ways in which the lives of people have been made easier over time, but that natural urge is no less strong today than it was 10,000 years ago.
So, it’s not surprising that contact center employees, like the rest of the human race, would like to be able to make their lives easier. Unfortunately, the contact center environment has a few more limitations. For the most part, contact center employees are provided a limited set of tools and processes, and they must live with what they are provided. The job of satisfying that natural urge to make life easier necessarily falls on the shoulders of the contact center owners and administrators. They must deliver an environment in which the lives of employees are continually made easier if they expect satisfied, happy employees.
And happy employees are vital to an effective contact center.
Although it’s intuitively obvious, we have recently seen agent happiness come into the limelight as a primary influencer of customer happiness. Much has been written by industry analysts, and studies have shown the direct relationship between agent happiness and customer happiness. A recent Aspect survey of 500 consumers showed that 72 percent of consumers would rather interact with a happy agent and have their experience take longer than deal with an uninterested agent. The conclusion is obvious: If you want to make your customers happy, you have to make your agents happy, and you can do that, to a large degree, by making their lives easier.
Contact center software providers have responded to this revelation by introducing new features that cater to the needs of agents. But enhancements to agent software tools are only part of the picture. These breakthroughs don’t address the needs of the contact center staff who are not agents. The morale and productivity of supervisors, quality analysts, workforce planners and administrators of all sorts have a direct impact on the morale of agents and their ability to serve customers well. So, what’s more important, making life easier for agents or making life easier for administrative staff?
On one hand, every automation and simplification destined for agents can be multiplied by the number of agents to realize the net benefit. On the other hand, single automations and simplifications that make the lives of non-agents easier can impact many agents both in terms of morale and in terms of productivity. It’s not enough to focus on the needs of agents alone. You need to make life easier for your entire workforce.
What kinds of improvements make life easier for the entire workforce? Here are a few examples:
- Software tools that use advanced human-computer interface techniques: As seen in modern UIs, graphical icon and widget-based dashboards show employees exactly what they need to know at a glance.
- Easy, remote access to key contact center workforce management tools: Mobile apps allows agents to easily change their schedules and let supervisors easily manage agent schedules…from anywhere.
- Purposeful simplification of software applications: It’s challenging work, but reducing the number of steps required to complete complex tasks like sequential shift bidding eliminates much employee frustration.
- Ability to communicate with software applications in any channel: Voice, SMS, web chat, or digital assistants like Amazon Alexa make it easy to quickly schedule a vacation day or determine yesterday’s service level (for supervisors).
- Software applications that pay homage to contact center employees: Consider individual employee preferences, for example in what communication channel contact center notifications should be sent and at what times.
- Elimination of mindless, enervating repetitive tasks: Agents using Robotic Process Automation or automated supervisor responses to schedule change requests.
- Concise and regular feedback on the employee’s personal performance vs. goal: Graphically display individual agent’s adherence vs. goal and team adherence vs. goal (for supervisors).
- Automated real-time guidance: Provide a screen pop to agents during a call when predictive analytics have shown a high probability of a successful upsell.
- Easy access to valuable information that can help employees do their jobs better: Available both on request and pro-actively provided, use an SMS chatbot to query an agent’s customer sat score or query overall center adherence (for a workforce planner or manager).
- A fun environment where employees can interact with their peers: Add individual and team gamification with awards and badges.
Yes, these enhancements are more complex than adding a stone tip to a spear, but they are easily doable, and many software providers are starting to introduce these improvements into their contact center software.
Aspect has been a pioneer in employee engagement, introducing the first icon and widget-based workforce optimization interface in 2014. Since then, we’ve added many of the above features, and we have recently introduced intelligent automation for employees at all levels, which we aptly call Workforce AI i.e., Artificial Intelligence for the contact center workforce. Stay tuned for our next blog explaining how we are using Workforce AI to make life easier for the entire workforce.