Why agents fail: the origin of unsatisfactory service and how to avoid it

By:Joyce Cruickshank

21 Oct, 2021

User Satisfaction with AI

In 2020, contact centers were spontaneously cast into engagement centers owing to the rapid wave of digitization that quickly raised the bar of expectations that the customers had of the brands they chose to do business with. In the process, contact centers were forced to rationalize their investments in infrastructure within weeks, and had to untether their agents from their desks. With the birth of the post-2020 contact center technology, agents were now armed with platforms that activated them on the virtual mode. However, much of what was wrong with legacy contact center technology remains unchanged.

Today, over 60% customers reach out to an agent after self-service didn’t do the trick for them. In such a scenario, service agents are already dealing with a possibly frustrated customer that faced an issue with your service/product and couldn’t resolve it on their own. Add to this, the frustration of being unable find adequate information on the customer, or the knowledge about your product or service when the customer is on the call. Sub-optimally configured agent platforms only add to an unsatisfactory employee experience. It is no wonder then, that contact centers suffer with high attrition rates, averaging around 32.6%. That high an attrition rate costs over half a million dollars to the contact center, while also continually detracting from the customer experience. A perfect recipe for a multiple impact loss.

This is where most organizations get their customer experience strategies wrong. Customer experience is a direct function of the employee experience in the contact center arena or any group of employees who need to support internal and external customers. When customers are interfaced with an agent that is not armed with all the answers, customer serving staff KPIs / SLAs and satisfaction continue to drop while the customer grows dissatisfied with the experience. This is not a failure that your agents are accountable for – very much otherwise. It is the imperative of the business to arm their staff with the right answers instantly at the right time. But what if the contact center could be pivoted from turning into a cost center, and reinvented to serve as a source of competitive advantage?

While the agents at the front lines continue to overstep neat legacy segregations of sales, marketing and service, expecting them to comb through multiple manuals and attachments will not contribute to sustainable satisfaction levels – for the agents and the customers alike. Artificial Intelligence comes in and makes sense of all the volumes of information that staff is expected to know and be able to articulate to any contacts. Here are three key needs of a post-2020 contact center agent:

1.A bird’s eye view: Today, customers expect their agents to know the product, their history of contact with the business, and to anticipate their needs before they jump on a call with the agent. This information must be presented to the agent within their platforms – armed with the right context, the agents are more likely to be able to connect emotionally with the customers while the software takes care of the rest.

2.AI-powered search:When agents work on a customer’s issue over a call, they will never get it right on first contact, unless they have the right information at the right time in the right situation at their fingertips. Enterprise AI-powered search capabilities, that can comb through past interactions, multiple file formats, and knowledge objects from multiple contexts therefore become mission-critical must-haves that enable the agents to deliver excellent experiences while solving problems in the first contact. Nirvana for a customer and a business is 100% First Time Fix.

3.Data trust:Contact center agents deal with terabytes of information on a daily basis, much of which contains sensitive and private information. Instead of creating surveillance perimeters to ensure high productivity or to prevent leakage of private and confidential data, trust must be internalized through the platforms that bridge your agents to their workflows. This is because data creation is growing exponentially. 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years alone! And it’s expected that moving forward, our volume of data created will double every two years.

While digital products and services grow more complex, support for customers continues to become more difficult and diverse. Today, customers expect businesses to proactively identify issues and solve them at pace, while keeping them informed about the status of pending actions. Customer serving staff sit at the crossroads of this complexity, and despite building automation and self-service routes, empowering the agents with AI and ML-powered toolsets is critical to simplifying this complexity, and enabling them to focus on what matters the most: that is, the customer.

About the Author

Joyce Cruickshank

Senior technical and operations executive partnering with C-suite and leadership to drive customer retention, operational improvements, profitability and growth.