In recent years, there has been a discernible shift in the contact center industry towards placing more importance on the agent experience. This evolution has been driven by several factors, including the rise of artificial intelligence, the increasing complexity of customer interactions, and the recognition that a positive agent experience can significantly impact the overall customer experience.
It’s also a reflection of a broader demand for better employee experiences, which was largely driven by the recent global pandemic. While the trend may have already been emerging, it built strong momentum as workers began to see various ways their work experiences could be improved. The same holds for contact center agents. In an industry where turnover has always been high, it’s not surprising to see the agent experience become increasingly important to employees – and valuable to employers.
Historically, the contact center industry primarily focused on the customer experience. KPIs centered around CS scores, FCR rates, and AHT and, while these metrics remain important, they no longer tell the whole story. Today, there's growing recognition that the agent experience is a critical component of CX. It makes sense; after all, it's the agents who directly interact with customers, solve their problems, and build relationships. What’s more, agents understand that, which has changed their perspective on their own experiences.
“Businesses have settled into the new normal amid a 3-year pandemic and everyone is in a different place,” said Jeff Woodland, Director of Industry Marketing at Five9. “Customers are digital first, impatient, and demand communications that are personalized and fluid across channels. Employees are also more demanding in their expectations and, if not met, they quit.”
Five9 set out to show exactly how contact center priorities have shifter with its recent CX Bracket Challenge, which, as the name indicates, mimicked the NCAA’s annual March Madness tournament bracket. The idea was to present a new perspective on what’s important to contact centers today through gamification, using the bracket as a means of determining the top contact center priorities today.
The bracket began with four regions, so to speak. In reality, they represent four distinct categories of priorities:
- Agent Experience
- Customer Self-Service
- Contact Center Orchestration
- Insights & understanding
Each of the categories featured four specific priorities, which faced off against one another in a head-to-head competition based on voting by contact center practitioners who lead contact centers of all sizes and across different industries each day.
The top priorities, as determined by the challenge, reflect Woodland’s comments and the growing value placed on agent experience.
- Automating Agent Workflows –Your champion of contact center priorities, out of the Agent Experience region, involves automating work that agents need to perform post-interaction, such as updating customers about their purchase progress.
- Utilizing Conversation Analytics – This was the leading priority in the Insights & Understanding region, and involves analyzing every customer interaction from voice and digital conversations to discern actionable trends.
- Improving System Integration – This emerged as the top priority in contact center orchestration, with a focus on enhancing the integration of the contact center with other systems.
- Automating Common Requests – The top priority out of the Customer Self Service region involves using virtual agents to assist customers with tasks, such as resetting passwords or opening claims.
“What you are looking at here is an evolution of contact center priorities,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research. “While omnichannel is important, with the rise of AI and agent workflows, there is a real focus on agent experience. This industry used to only think of customer experience but now is starting to think more about agent experience.”
Kerravala is right. The rise of AI and automation technologies has undoubtedly contributed to this shift in focus – or at least has offered an opportunity for businesses to create better agent experiences. By automating routine tasks and providing agents with real-time insights and decision support, AI and automation tools can make the agent's job less stressful and more engaging. This not only improves agent satisfaction and reduces turnover, but it also enables agents to provide higher-quality service to customers.
The increasing complexity of customer interactions also plays a role. As businesses embrace omnichannel strategies, agents must manage interactions across multiple channels, from voice and email to social media and live chat. This can make the agent's job more challenging, but also more critical to the success of the organization. Consequently, it’s more important than ever for agents to have the tools and training they need to manage these complex interactions effectively.
Finally, there’s a growing recognition that investing in the agent experience can have a positive impact on key business outcomes. Satisfied, engaged agents are more likely to stay with the organization, reducing the costs associated with agent turnover. They're also more likely to provide excellent service to customers, which can improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and lifetime value. As such, improving the agent experience isn't just a nice-to-have – it's a strategic imperative proven by the results of the inaugural CX Bracket Challenge.
Edited by Erik Linask