The success of a company’s contact center rests on whether the business invests to empower its agents with the tools and support they need.
However, many large brands struggle to retain agents, which negatively impacts the company’s overarching customer and revenue strategy and adds costs. According to research by Cresta, contact centers traditionally experience an average of 30%-45% agent churn annually, a number that reached as high as 80% in some sectors since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Agents may leave for any number of reasons, and it is critical for businesses to care for, develop, and engage their employees to retain them. A Ferry Hay Group study cited by Oak Engage found that companies with engaged employees have 98% greater customer satisfaction and 50% higher customer loyalty than those with disengaged employees.
How can you set your customers up for success if you don’t do the same for your agents? The customer and employee experiences are closely intertwined, and customer success stems from hiring the right people and giving them the training, tools, and processes they need to do their jobs well.
Understand and Improve the Customer/Employee Experience
What steps do you need to take to begin providing the cascading benefits of contact center agent success to your customers?
First, rethink your view of customer satisfaction and how you’re determining success. Measuring short-term financial wins doesn’t always have the same foundational considerations as customer loyalty and brand awareness.
How can you set your customers up for success if you don’t do the same for your agents?
Second, with this in mind, reevaluate how you analyze employee performance and customer satisfaction beyond narrow outcomes like Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), cost per call (CPC), and average handle time (AHT).
Statistics can be helpful but only tell part of the story. Aligning your teams with clear expectations ensures everyone drives toward agreed-upon goals rather than simply checking boxes. Bringing a human-centric, collaborative focus to your organization can make your company more personal and profitable.
In 2022, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) measured the success of companies via financial and employee data using metrics such as employee longevity, full-time/part-time status, internal rotations, and skill level. The HBR determined that if an average store moved from the bottom 25% to the top 25% in every metric, each employee would generate more sales per hour, up to $87 from $57.
Getting a granular understanding of the employee/agent and customer experience provides a guide to what is happening in a company and how to improve those experiences.
I like to call this getting to “Inner Earth.” That means joining a support call and seeing what happens if someone has an issue can reveal more context behind the metrics. It also helps you identify efficiencies and areas for improvement.
Rather than dictating to agents that they need to increase their numbers, you can provide anecdotal recommendations on serving customers better. Then, you can pair people with tasks that align with their strengths, enhancing employees’ satisfaction and performance within their roles, and ultimately creating a more positive customer experience (CX).
Despite the proliferation of contact center automation and artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, no technology will completely replace a human’s passion and empathy. Agents are the heart of customer service. Therefore, prioritizing your employees’ success and well-being will directly translate into how they handle customer issues.
Beyond upskilling agents to help them feel more confident in their careers, consider offering mental health resources and encouraging breaks to walk or meditate to improve overall wellness, as personal health is one of the key reasons for agent churn.
Migrate Conversations Away From the Phone
The crux of the agent experience resides in their customer interactions. Phone calls also still comprise the bulk of their daily work.
These calls are inherently stressful. No one contacts an organization when everything is going well. But there are opportunities to improve the experience for both the employee and the customer by moving away from the phone to utilizing digital channels.
Phone calls are an essential and sometimes necessary part of contact centers, but these conversations can take place using other means, saving agent time and energy for more complicated situations. So, make it clear on your various platforms what support options are available.
…social media…has some of the greatest potential to improve the customer and employee experience.
Statista shows 58% of customers prefer resolving customer service issues through digital channels like social media and email (more about social later on). According to Gartner, service leaders report that as much as 40% of today’s live call volume could be resolved in self-service channels.
Brands should aim to offer multiple avenues for contact, including self-service options, to deliver better results for customers, agents, and the company’s bottom line. The key to successful digital customer engagement is meeting your customers where they are, without making them repeat too much information.
Branded communities are a great way to divert significant call volume to an easily navigable and controlled platform, and to create user-generated answers and reviews that help your customers self-serve for issues and concerns.
These platforms enable customers to fulfill all of their needs in one place. They can:
- Find multiple answers within a community and connect with others in similar situations.
- Easily offer feedback and chat directly with the brand, revealing recurring issues that can be solved at their source.
Because of the user experience and transparency, a strong community delivers an authentic bond between brand and customer, bolstering “social proof” and trust. Social proof purports that people’s actions and decisions are influenced by those around them.
Other self-service tools like chatbots can lighten the workload for agents. Rather than having an agent answer multiple easy questions — like what time a flight leaves or how long a deal runs for — a chatbot can handle those queries with quick answers and share resources for additional information.
This helps triage issues, allowing agents to dedicate live chats or phone calls to more complex solutions that often require two-way dialogs with customers.
Despite recent controversies surrounding API access of platforms, social media still has some of the greatest potential to improve the customer and employee experience.
Across the world, 54% of people use social media for an average of two and a half hours every day, according to Statista. A portion of that time is used to communicate with brands, whether offering a shoutout to a favorite company, asking a question about a new product or service, or firing off a complaint.
Other channels like phone calls also don’t offer as many chances for social proof, which drives customer acquisition. Even if you must migrate a conversation to a separate forum, responding to a customer on social media channels can illustrate your commitment to addressing their issues.
With its immense popularity and usage, social media is a critical communication channel for customers. Brands need to offer quick and seamless interactions to deliver fulfilling digital engagement experiences.
Key Challenges for Agents in Using Social Channels
Consumers have lofty expectations for quick responses on social media. Agents must effectively handle and prioritize the high volume of customer inquiries, comments, and complaints in real-time to produce high-quality customer service.
Additionally, with the numerous social channels available, customers can start conversations with a company on one platform and then continue them on another. They expect the brand to be aware of their previous interactions; agents must be able to pick up the conversations where they left off. Brands that are siloed and lack internal continuity will struggle to satisfy this desire.
…social media is a critical communication channel…[and] brands need to offer quick and seamless interactions to deliver fulfilling digital engagement experiences.
This expectation of a unified, consistent experience also includes the brand’s voice and personality. All agents need to be trained on brand guidelines and values to maintain a cohesive brand image across channels and platforms.
This challenge becomes even more complex as different platforms may call for unique tones and styles. For example, brands often use more professional language on LinkedIn versus being more casual and friendly on X (Twitter). It’s important to accommodate these nuances while adhering to the overarching brand values.
While many customers prefer communication on social media over phone calls, this medium diminishes important qualities like tone of voice. Agents must be deliberate and impactful with their written language to meaningfully convey the compassion and empathy that are integral to customer service.
It’s essential to properly equip your agents with the resources they need to meet customer expectations with personalized and streamlined results.
Tips for Better Social Channel Communication
Offer supportive tools for your agents. Predictive text responses, basic automation rules, and AI-powered tagging help measure social conversation volume, quality, and resolution rates based on the customer’s intent, even if they’re not using specific keywords. This also promotes better internal alignment across multiple teams and channels.
Employ social listening, which enables proactive customer service by identifying where your brand appears across all channels and communities. Manage your brand reputation and engage with users outside of their explicitly flagged issues to boost brand love, deliver support, and mitigate risk.
In addition to responding in a personable and timely fashion across channels, don’t forget about your super-users. These brand advocates are already singing your praises and dishing out social proof, so ensure you acknowledge and amplify their voices.
Prepare your agents by fostering collaboration within and between business units (BUs). If Marketing releases a new product or service, ensure customer care teams can anticipate customer needs and are staffed appropriately. If they know what other BUs are doing, they can communicate permitted and relevant points on social channels.
It’s critical to have an omnichannel contact center solution and view, such as from a unified dashboard, or to have a robust CRM tool with thorough notes so agents can quickly scan previous conversations and be more efficient in future interactions.
Adding multiple, separated communication channels and applications – including social – can dilute customer service if they are disjointed or poorly monitored. Customers shouldn’t have to repeat themselves, and brands that demonstrate they understand them, and their issues, will earn long-term loyalty.
This omnichannel view is critical when migrating conversations to customers’ preferred channels so the discussion can continue seamlessly to benefit both the agent and the customer.
Conclusion: Why Social Is Essential for Omnichannel Support
Empowering contact centers to provide customer service through social media is essential for meeting customers where they are. No channel is a one-size-fits-all solution, but training agents on how to enrich and prioritize different touchpoints like social, chatbots, live chat, and brand-owned communities is critical for long-term customer loyalty and satisfaction.
According to Khoros research, 83% of consumers are more loyal to brands that resolve and respond to their complaints. Contact centers that effectively care for customers, thoughtfully balance multiple support avenues, and promote a personalized, unified brand experience will succeed in the tumultuous digital engagement landscape.