A Guide to Improving the Agent Experience in the Contact Centre


Do you want to know how to attract – and keep – the absolute best agents possible?

If your answer to this question is yes, your next question has to be: are you willing to put in measures to ensure those agents receive the very best experience they deserve from working for your company?

Not such an easy one to answer, is it?

Everybody’s getting on the customer experience (CX) bandwagon, and for good reason – it’s a nice bandwagon, full of useful insight into the people we want to be close to. But have you ever considered the insight this could bring to your organisation internally?

The agent experience is incredibly important. Considering how much time agents spend with customers, it’s the hidden flipside to the coin that is CX. Remember, your agents are the touchpoint your customers interact with most. Failing to take care of these frontline employees will directly influence the tone of your company’s conversations with your customers.

In other words, the agent experience is directly linked to the customer experience. And if you want your agents to put effort into you, you’ve got to put effort into them.

Don’t worry, here’s a secret weapon: a brief step-by-step guide to hacking the agent experience (AX).

Let’s go. (A word of advice before we start: don’t try to tackle these all at once. Set aside part of a day for each point.)

Part 1: Create an Agent Persona

Personas are like fictional ambassadors – spokespeople for customers, if you will. Why is this important? Personas are incredibly valuable for both recruiting and preventing attrition. Just think of your star performer. Wouldn’t you like to attract more people like that? Wouldn’t you want to make sure that those people never want to leave you?

Perhaps best of all, the persona helps you quickly filter out CVs and get straight to the beating heart of any interview to ensure you recruit the very best people for the job.

Personas tell us not just who we’re looking at, but what they’re like. What gets them going? What do they hate? What are their habits? What drives their decisions?

Ready?

Step 1: Keep it straightforward and brief – like, don’t top a page of content – but meaningful. An agent persona should ideally contain the following:

  • The agent’s name
  • A profile photo
  • A short bio (think about summing somebody up in a single tweet)
  • Some demographics info: age, marital status, education level, etc.
  • A quote that characterises the agent
  • Motivations (think incentive, fear, achievement, growth, power, social)
  • Frustrations and goals

Step 2: Make sure you create a persona for each of your major job roles. This process will ensure you know exactly what you’re looking for in your staff.

On top of this, doing this will ensure that everybody in management is on the same page in this regard – and the importance of this really cannot be overstated.

Part 2: Catalogue Your Agent Touchpoints

This touchpoint catalogue will give you a high-level (and relatively unstructured) overview of how your agents come into contact with your organisation. This exercise will help you identify points of friction to ensure you are able to close in on unhappy agents and resolve issues quickly.

Basically, and literally, a touchpoint (in this context at least) is to be found any time your agents interact with your organisation – however tenuous, and whether well or badly. This could be anything from your website to your logo on a water bottle, your office chairs to your operations director, your software to your parking spaces.

In concert, touchpoints create the mechanism that defines – in a concrete sense – your agent experience.

Note: It’s important that you get (at least representatives of) your team together for this exercise; its success is a function of collaboration, and its power will be greatly diminished if you solo it.

Step 1: Identify the main phases of the working experience (hiring, onboarding, daily work, discipline, etc) and brainstorm your way through all of them.

Below is an example of potential touchpoints for an agent’s daily work:

  • Transport
  • Office space
  • Kitchen
  • Desks
  • Chairs
  • Computers
  • Software
  • Headsets
  • Colleagues
  • Team leaders
  • Managers
  • Break areas
  • Toilets
  • Meetings

Step 2: Once you’ve got your touchpoints done, you want to grade them so as to identify areas that need attention. Get your team to mark the points (with, say, stickers of different colours) that satisfy the following criteria:

  • Entries and exits (places where things start and end, basically)
  • Peaks (the most intense points)
  • Pain points (areas of frustration)
  • High frequency (anything encountered often)
  • Resonance (points that relate to your core principles)

Congratulations – you have yourself a touchpoint catalogue, and the launching point for an experience map.

Part 3: Craft an Agent Experience Map

Let’s (briefly) set things straight: an experience map is a broad overview of what it’s like to interact with your business for a certain group of people. This differs from a journey map, which only focuses on one part of your experience map. This will help you achieve your goals set out in Part 2.

Think of the experience map as the difference between a map of a country and a map of a city.

Like the touchpoint catalogue, this is a collaborative exercise that should involve people from every layer of the organisation.

Remember how you defined the broad phases of an agent’s working life at your centre? This will form the spine of your experience map.

Step 1: Take your touchpoint catalogue and arrange the touchpoints in something like chronological order. Under onboarding, for example, you could arrange touchpoints like this:

  • Contract
  • HR manager
  • Operations manager
  • Welcome pack
  • Team integration

And daily work might look like this (simplified):

  • Taxi
  • Operations manager
  • Team leader
  • Computer
  • Software
  • Headset
  • Customer
  • Break area
  • Toilets

Step 2: Now get your team to assign a score, from 1 (worst) to 5 (best), to each phase. By aggregating these scores, you’ll now have a good idea of where to zoom in for the next part of this guide.

Part 4: Drill Down to an Agent Journey Map

Now the contact centre can really start to uncover what makes your agent experience tick.

Think of each phase of your experience map as a potential site of incredible resources, but to get to those resources you’ll have to do some digging.

Step 1: Refer back to your experience map and pick the phase with the worst overall score. For this example, here is a typical day’s schedule, with touchpoints that can be grouped into sub-phases:

Morning preparation

  • Alarm
  • Taxi
  • Punch-clock
  • Colleagues
  • Team leader
  • Kitchen

Work time

  • Chair
  • Desk
  • Computer
  • Headset
  • Software
  • Phone line
  • Customer
  • Team leader
  • Colleagues

Break time

  • Punch clock
  • Toilets
  • Kitchen
  • Food
  • Break area

Home time

  • Team leader
  • Punch clock
  • Colleagues
  • Taxi

Step 2: Ask your workshop focus group to list the activities that surround the above touchpoints and indicate the emotional impact of each.

For example, during work time, it could look something like this:

  • Readjust squeaky chair (irritation)
  • Wait for ancient computer to boot (frustration)
  • Wait for five THOUSAND different programs to load (frustration)
  • Chat to the cute new guy next to you about the horrific computers (excitement)
  • Fiddle with the headset jack to get the sound working (irritation)
  • Deal with grumpy callers (stress)
  • Curse the terrible phone line (frustration)
  • Receive a sneaky transfer of a horrible customer from a colleague (anger)
  • Be reprimanded by your team leader for the bad net promoter score (anger)
  • Stretch to try ease the ache in your back – ugh those chairs! (stress)
  • Receive a call that one of the kids is sick and needs to be picked up from school (stress)
  • Be reprimanded by your team leader for having to attend to this (worry)

Step 3: Create a graph using the data you’ve collated. From the top to the bottom of one side of the graph, put the numbers +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3. These numbers represent emotion – a plus means it’s positive; a minus means it’s negative, and zero means it’s neutral.

Step 4: Now under each step of your story, make a dot. Place this dot at the emotional score you agree on. Once you’ve done each step, draw a line from dot to dot. This represents your emotional graph.

Nice. You have a step-by-step of your agent’s journey through a critical phase – plus a graph that’ll let you see at a glance where the high and low points are. This is a very important piece of insight you’ve just gained.

Let’s use it to drive change.

Part 5: Propose Some Solutions

Taking everything that you’ve learned and using it to effect positive change in your organisation will not only benefit the overall agent experience and illustrate your commitment to your staff, but will also show tangible results in your customer satisfaction scores.

Step 1: Create your proposal framework

Collate all the information you have created in your agent experience workshops. This will include:

  • A set of agent personas
  • A touchpoint catalogue
  • An experience map
  • A collection of journey maps

Your proposal should have a section-by-section breakdown similar to the following:

  • Executive summary
  • Workshop results
  • Interpretation
  • Proposal

Step 2: Structure your argument

In your executive summary, break down your overview as follows:

  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Recommendations

Under each section write a brief paragraph capturing what you will be expanding on in other sections. Talk about how you workshopped your way to your conclusions. Summarise the conclusions themselves. Finally, give an elevator pitch on your proposed solutions.

Step 3: Describe your methodology

In the next section, present your findings from your workshops on agent personas, experience map and critical journeys.

Under each heading write a motivation for the workshop you held detailing the methodology and expand on crucial points.

Step 4: Present your findings

In the next chapter, you need to provide an interpretation of your workshop findings and find data and research to substantiate your findings. Look for research-based drivers of attrition, for example, and flag the factors that gel with your own situation. Look for analyses of problematic practices that match your own.

For each problem area you bring up, write down its effects. Get some figures down – talk about the bottom-line costs these problems are generating. Show your attrition rate and contrast it with the cost of that attrition if you don’t deal with it. Show how poor agent satisfaction is correlated with poor customer satisfaction.

Step 5: Motivate for change

Finally, outline your recommendations for resolving the issues you raised and draw on industry best practice to outline, in very practical terms, the simplest, most effective way of dealing with the problem you’ve outlined. Detail the impact the solution will have on both agents and customers. Mention the hidden effects it will bring to bear on the bottom line.

Conclude with a summary.

Conclusion

Remember that agents are the core of your contact centre. By completing the above steps, you are ensuring that the executives at the top have a full, realistic view of every layer of the business and its representatives. You will know which agents are the best suited to work within your organisation; you will know what drives them and frustrates them; you will know the factors that determine whether they leave or stay.

Do this and you’ll most likely have a sizeable advantage over any contact centre that doesn’t.

With thanks to ZaiLab. 

To find out more about ZaiLab, visit: www.zailab.com

Published On: 15th Jan 2018 - Last modified: 17th Jan 2018
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