Contact centre agents are the frontline of your organisation. However, their jobs can be very stressful. Agents are often called on to help customers who may be angry or upset and they have to react with professionalism, compassion and empathy. Their jobs can often be monotonous and pressurised, with continuous monitoring to ensure they are resolving customers queries as fast and as efficiently as possible. Add in the potential isolation of working from home, and stress levels climb even further.
With this in mind, not only is looking after agents’ mental and physical health a moral imperative, but it is also good for business. Happy, motivated agents are more productive, less likely to take sick leave or look for another job. And above all they are more likely to deliver better service, satisfying customers who become more loyal and potentially spend more.
Essentially there are three business benefits of focusing on your agents:
1. Increased employee retention
Staff retention problems have plagued the contact centre sector for many years. And the mean staff attrition rate in the sector during 2020 was 20% according to Contact Babel research. The pandemic has only worsened this trend – a study by Enghouse Interactive found that 91% of agents were likely to change jobs in 2021. Finding antidotes to the stresses of the job and ensuring employees are happy, satisfied and motivated should be an important priority if you want to avoid high employee turnover in your own contact centre. Keeping your employees mean you reduce costs too – you don’t have to spend money on finding, hiring and training new staff who take time to get up to speed. Sick leave drops and productivity rises too.
2. Deliver better customer service
If morale is high and agents feel satisfied, then they are more likely to be engaged in their jobs and to deliver a better service. This has long been the case, but with routine customer service queries now increasingly handled through self-service and chatbots, agents are more likely to spend their time supporting customers with more complex, harder to resolve issues. That makes them even more vital to delivering an experience that ensures customers remain loyal to your brand.
3. Employer brand
Ensuring you have a reputation as an understanding employer that advocates a positive supportive working environment can help any business attract and retain talent. But it’s probably even more important in the contact sector arena with the pressures that agents face – and the competition for people. Building a welcoming workplace that prioritises agent wellbeing is the answer. This also positively impacts your overall brand – consumers want to buy from companies that look after their people.
How technology can help
Supporting agents is about much more than technology. You can’t over emphasise the importance of creating a trusting open culture in which agents feel comfortable coming to their managers if they are having problems, for example. But there is definitely a role that technology can play. So here are eight important ways technology can deliver value when supporting agents:
1. Quality management
Being able to access agent performance data across interactions can help you spot potential issues that are impacting agent wellbeing. Quick action by managers can then stop them developing into larger problems for the agent.
2. Real-time speech analytics
Real-time speech analytics can automatically monitor customer calls for triggers, such as raised voices or long silences that indicate an agent is facing difficulties, allowing a supervisor to step in and help to ensure the agent is supported.
3. Call recording
Recording calls and other interactions creates an independent record which can be used to support agents in case of customer complaints and disputes. Knowing that they have this backup helps reduce agent stress and strengthens morale.
4. Knowledge management
Providing a centralised, intelligent knowledge base that enables agents to quickly retrieve relevant, consistent information is empowering. It helps make the agent’s job easier and less stressful and avoids them having to manually search through files or folders to find information.
Especially in today’s hybrid contact centre environment, video delivers the equivalent of face-to-face interactions for team and one-to-one meetings. This reduces feelings of isolation that can damage agent wellbeing and ensures remote employees feel part of the wider team.
6. Collaboration and communication
Within a hybrid working environment a unified communications solution such as Microsoft Teams can bring everyone together, enabling easier collaboration. Real-time functions such as chat mean agents can request help, reassurance and instant support from colleagues, wherever they are based – even while dealing with a customer on a call.
7. Automation and easier integration
Not being able to access information on specific business systems slows down customer interactions and annoys both callers and agents. By linking your contact centre solutions to systems such as CRM and fulfilment, you can give agents access to all the information they need for a complete, 360-degree view of the customer. And building in functionality to automate wrap-up activities frees up agent time to focus on customer enquiries, rather than spending it on administration.
8. Workforce management
Good self-service workforce management (WFM) solutions help agents feel in control and reduce stress by allowing them to have direct input into their work schedules. They can easily trade shifts with colleagues, flag when they are available for overtime, and request holidays and receive instant, rules-based decisions.
As we enter a world of hybrid working, supporting your agents must remain high on the business agenda. Keep them happy, motivated and productive through a combination of the right culture, processes and technology that looks after their mental and physical health. Learn more about how to deliver wellbeing – and the benefits it brings – with our new guide Agent wellbeing in the hybrid working world.