Why Agent Empowerment Is Key to Customer Service Excellence

Empowerment concept with person stood by dramatic skyline


Helen Billingham at Enghouse Interactive explains why agent empowerment is key to achieving customer service excellence.

Agent empowerment is vital to contact centre success. Empowered agents deliver better service, stay longer, and improve the customer experience.

That’s why nearly half of contact centre leaders rank empowerment as one of their top three factors for improving agent performance. 18% rank it as their first choice – ahead of improved training, unified desktops and higher pay.

These eye-catching statistics are from ContactBabel’s Inner Circle Guide to Agent Engagement & Empowerment, sponsored by Enghouse Interactive.

Given its importance, how can you empower your agents successfully? Organizational culture has to become more trust-based, with processes in place to empower agents in seven ways:

1. Providing Variety Through Call and Digital Blending

One of the most common complaints from agents is that there is little variety in their jobs. Therefore, companies should look for ways to make their roles more interesting.

For example, allow agents to handle a mix of voice and digital interactions to reduce repetition. Alternatively, introduce gamification to make work more fun for agents, while ensuring their behaviors align with your goals.

2. Listening Through Voice of the Employee Programs

The first step to empowering agents is to listen and understand their needs. Use Voice of the Employee (VoE) programs to collect feedback, through both formal surveys and informal feedback techniques such as suggestion boxes.

It is vital that VoE programs deliver actionable insight. Therefore, don’t just focus on questions such as ‘How engaged with the business are you?’ Go beyond this to find out why they feel the way they do so that you can fix the problem.

3. Aligning Agent Behavior and Business Strategy

Ensure that how your agents act aligns with business objectives, such as increasing customer-centricity, for example.

That means going beyond metrics such as call length to focus more on areas such as First Contact Resolution (FCR) and CSAT scores.

You want to encourage agents to own the customer’s issue and follow it through to resolution, rather than focusing solely on closing tickets as quickly as possible.

4. Supporting Agent Empowerment and Control

Giving employees greater control is at the heart of increasing agent empowerment. This requires managers to trust agents, rather than micromanage them.

Enforced remote working during the pandemic showed what was possible. Agents were trusted to work from home, without being overseen by supervisors in the same room – and the vast majority continued to deliver great service.

Contact centres must continue to look for ways to extend this trust. For example, give agents greater freedom to choose the best way to handle more complex queries, within specific guidelines.

Additionally, increase agent control over their schedules by letting them select their shift patterns and holidays through workforce management solutions.

5. Using Agent Rewards and Recognition to Drive Improvement

Make sure you are incentivizing agents for the right behaviors and reflecting this in rewards and recognition programs.

Be clear on the criteria for programs such as “Agent of the Month” and focus them on key, customer-related metrics such as FCR.

However, ContactBabel’s report found that just 13% of contact centre respondents compensate agents based on their FCR rates. This shows the need to align rewards to the agent improvements you’re seeking.

6. Supporting Remote Working

If you’re giving agents the freedom and flexibility to work remotely, it’s essential that you empower them to do so effectively and easily.

Along with robust IT systems, you need technology to support effective team communications and collaboration across all locations.

As well as cloud-based contact centre platforms, use video-based coaching and training to ensure all agents continue to learn and grow.

7. Delivering Coaching and Training to Develop Empathy

56% of ContactBabel’s survey respondents say that the most valued agent characteristic is being able to listen to, and empathize with, callers.

This is up from 40% in 2012. Empathy is becoming more important as calls have become more complex with routine queries deflected to self-service.

While not everyone is naturally empathetic, it is a trait that can be learnt and improved upon. Give agents training to develop their emotional intelligence.

For example, train them to use a positive tone of voice on the phone. Create lists of empathetic phrases they should use – and less empathetic ones to avoid.

To deliver superior customer service today, companies need to empower agents, not just with technology but with the right culture and processes.

There are many aspects to this, including giving agents greater variety and trusting them to make decisions.

Measure and reward the behaviors you want to increase and provide coaching and tools to help agents work effectively and grow in their roles.

Underpin your empowerment strategy by listening to help you understand and deliver on agents’ changing needs.

These steps all drive agent satisfaction, which directly impacts performance, retention, and the customer experience.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Enghouse Interactive – View the Original Article

For more information about Enghouse Interactive - visit the Enghouse Interactive Website

About Enghouse Interactive

Enghouse Interactive Enghouse Interactive delivers technology and expertise to help bring your customers closer to your business through its wide range of customer contact solutions.

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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Author: Enghouse Interactive

Published On: 5th Feb 2024
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