Agent Engagement Has Been Undervalued
It’s hard to read a blog or listen to a webinar related to the contact center without the author regurgitating the mantra of the importance of “Customer Engagement” or its synonym, “Customer Experience.” That’s not too surprising, since studies by industry analysts confirm the importance of customer engagement. Recent research by Aberdeen shows that in the past two years, the pursuit to delight customers has surpassed the need for better agent productivity as the most important goal for contact center workforce optimization systems. If agent productivity is less important, what should the focus on agent behavior be to ensure customer delight? Knowledge of human nature would tell us that the agent’s level of happiness and job engagement would be an important contributor to customer engagement, but we don’t hear much about the agent’s role.
Try this experiment. Google “customer engagement” and you’ll get about 4.4 million hits. Now try Googling “agent engagement.” You will get only about 30,000 hits. So people are talking, posting, blogging and promoting customer engagement about 150 times more frequently than agent engagement. You get even more disparate results when you Google “customer experience’ and “agent experience”. Yet agent engagement is certainly much more important than those Google results would lead us to believe. A study by Forrester in 2011 showed that almost all executives surveyed were convinced that customer satisfaction and agent experience are very highly correlated. Further, they thought that improving the agent experience was among the top 3 factors likely to improve the customer experience. The agent is clearly not getting enough recognition in the marketplace when it comes to factors that help to delight the customer.
Aspect models the relationship between customer engagement and agent engagement as shown here. In a conversation between two human beings, you really can’t separate their experiences. They influence each other significantly, continuously and symbiotically. If the agent is really enthusiastic and positive, it has to 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.
Engagement Quotient as a Holistic Measure
Knowing that both customer engagement and agent engagement are important to ultimate customer satisfaction and that you really can’t look at them separately, we need a measure to capture the level of engagement of both the agent and the customer. This gives you an objective view of how well your contact center is succeeding with a comprehensive measure of engagement. At Aspect, we call this the “Engagement Quotient” of EQ for short. We have developed a formula that embodies the notion that customer engagement is more important than agent engagement, but only by a factor of 2 or so, which is quite different from the factor of 150 that we might impute from the relative presences of these factors on the web. In essence, since customer engagement is our end objective, enhancing customer engagement by whatever means is somewhat more directly powerful than enhancing agent engagement, which indirectly improves customer engagement. Also, the total Engagement Quotient is inversely proportional to N, the number of interactions required between agent and customer, which is a measure of customer effort. We are currently working with outside analysts to verify the integrity of our EQ calculation using actual call center data.
The Aspect EQ Workforce Optimization Portfolio
We’re serious about driving agent and customer engagement, and we have refined our WFO portfolio and renamed our WFO offering to embrace the contribution that WFO can make to customer and agent engagement. The new name: Aspect EQ Workforce Optimization. In March, Aspect will be releasing the 8.1 version of our Aspect EQ WFO software with many new features. Most think about WFO as a way to enforce contact center rules and practices rather than as driver of customer and agent engagement, but consider the following chart highlighting the primary engagement effects of some key WFO capabilities:
The chart above shows the primary engagement beneficiaries of these important WFO features, but many of them also have a secondary beneficial effect both directly and indirectly through the virtuous cycle effect mentioned above. The power of WFO to influence customer and agent engagement in a positive way is undeniable, and that makes WFO increasingly important in the rapidly changing contact center environment. Continue to follow our blog as we unfold more information about computing the EQ of your contact center and using advanced WFO tools to drive that engagement quotient for customers and agents.