Blog / Employee Experience

Elevating Agent and Customer Experience in 2024

Happy contact center agents and customers showcasing elevated agent and customer experience in 2024.

As we step into 2024, contact center leaders must reflect on what needs to be left behind in 2023 and what strategies will drive success in the coming year.

It goes beyond mere promises—it's about delivering the tools that empower agents to excel. Agents want to be successful in their roles and deliver the best possible customer support. To realize this aspiration, contact centers need to embrace forward-thinking strategies such as bidding farewell to outdated practices like relying on archaic Excel spreadsheets for process documentation, using less manual technology and instead strategically integrating AI where appropriate, and actively listening to a multitude of customer calls to collect insightful data.

This article delves into the pivotal role of the agent experience, emphasizing the need to understand root problems and use cases to implement AI, exploring the significance of not just collecting data but unlocking its potential, and tapping into the knowledge of frontline employees to ensure the delivery of unparalleled customer experiences.

 

Generative AI and automation

As the leading trend in contact centers, generative AI and automation have taken center stage, with a staggering 62% implementing AI this year. While every company has released information about this transformative technology, there remains a collective effort to understand what it means for contact centers in 2024. 

Contrary to a common misconception, the integration of AI is not about replacing agents’ jobs; rather, it revolves around enhancing the human element of customer service. This shift challenges the notion that technology is a plug-and-play solution and underscores the importance of enabling human functions and empowering agents with technology that helps them be successful. 

Dismissing the myth of AI as a magic tool, it becomes evident that human intelligence remains an integral part of the equation. Generative AI, while capable of solving problems, requires a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. Humans must identify and articulate the problems to be solved, as machines inherently lack the ability to pinpoint these challenges and learn on their own.

 

Implementing generative AI and automation to improve agent and customer experience

For contact center leaders contemplating implementation, a strategic approach is essential.  

Step one: Begin by assessing needs and identifying a clear use case.  

Step two: Gain buy-in from end-users by actively seeking feedback from agents and other frontline employees, directly engaging with those who experience friction in their daily roles.  

Step three: Identify the necessary tools—such as AI bots, speech analytics, and knowledge management—to enhance the customer experience by helping agents do their jobs better. 

Step four: Plan an implementation strategy, focusing on solving for limited use cases initially and ensuring mastery and validation by getting buy-in from other stakeholders before expanding to broader applications.  

With 80% of individuals willing to pay for a better customer experience, the imperative is clear—strategic implementation of generative AI and automation holds the key to revolutionizing both agent and customer experiences in 2024.

 

Building a data-driven culture

The transition to a data-driven culture is not an overnight transformation but a deliberate, incremental process that requires buy-in from every member of your organization. Rather than overwhelming teams with millions of data points, it's crucial to start small, allowing the integration of data-driven practices to evolve organically over time. Patience is key, as change takes time, and the journey toward a data-driven culture requires a commitment to continuous improvement. 

Data isn't merely a collection of numbers; it tells a story, providing a complete understanding of your operations. The accuracy of data is paramount, and the principle of statistical significance reinforces the idea that the more data you have, the better-informed decisions you can make. In the context of customer service, this translates into tangible benefits, such as converting an additional 2% of customers every month—an outcome that can translate into millions of dollars in revenue per year. 

An effective data-driven culture is built on the foundation of focusing on specific behaviors derived from meticulous data analysis. Identifying and honing in on key behaviors, informed by comprehensive data examination, can be instrumental in steering your organization toward success.  

The true power of a data-driven culture lies in its ability to harness and use customer data. By actively listening to customer interactions, your workforce gains invaluable insights into customer frustrations and pain points. Armed with this knowledge, you can implement strategic changes that not only address current challenges but also contribute to an ongoing cycle of improvement.

 

Quality as a behavior

Quality is not merely a metric to be measured; it is a behavior that sets businesses apart. The real differentiator lies in prioritizing people—whether they be your valued customers or your dedicated agents. Focusing on quality as a behavior, rather than a rigid metric, establishes a correlation with the outcomes of each interaction, thereby directly influencing the bottom line of your business. 

Traditional metric-based evaluations often inadvertently encourage agents to adopt suboptimal behaviors in the pursuit of meeting numerical targets. The shift toward quality as a behavior involves comprehensive training for agents. This training encompasses effective navigation of information, guiding them through correct troubleshooting steps, and enabling them to escalate issues to the right specialists in any location. 

 

The three pillars of quality as a behavior

  1. Asking for a sale 
    This involves making customers aware of the products or services that they should purchase. 
  2. Creating a sense of urgency
    There is a 36% chance of closing the sale if you offer a customer the best deal right away. 
  3. Handling objections
    Leverage data to understand and address top objections. By correlating customer objections with successful agent rebuttals, businesses can optimize their strategies to ensure success.
 

Process documentation

Agent empowerment and exceptional customer service start with properly documented processes. Ensuring that processes are easy to consume, simple to navigate, and accessible to frontline employees is essential. This creates a consistent experience across the board, whether for a new hire just starting the job or a tenured agent refining their skills. 

Moving away from the impracticality of memorization in classroom training, the emphasis shifts to the need for documented, step-by-step processes. This approach enables agents to explore data in real-time, empowering them to make informed decisions during customer interactions. The result is reduced customer effort, decreased Average Handle Time (AHT), streamlined post-call work, and improved agent retention as the stress of convoluted processes is alleviated.  

By establishing a knowledge base that provides the right answers, even for processes not explicitly covered in training, organizations can ensure that their agents are well-equipped to deliver a seamless and stress-free customer service experience.

 

Adapting to evolving customer expectations

This year, one of the top feedback given by contact center leaders has emphasized that customers perceive the knowledge of the agent as a priority. Notably, this knowledge is tied to the overall organizational knowledge—an indicator of how well-equipped the business is to meet customer needs. Leadership must be attuned to the advances that are occurring and ensure that agents have immediate access to the knowledge they require for prompt issue resolution. 

The key is to identify customer needs early, analyze data promptly, and transform this information into actionable insights—proactively addressing what can be done to satisfy customer needs. Leveraging data is not merely about having it; it's about making it actionable and improving how agents respond to various customer contact scenarios.  

The integration of a unified agent desktop with seamless connectivity of all platforms becomes essential to improve the customer experience. This unified interface allows agents to access a customer's history and journey effortlessly, ensuring that information is easily consumable and consolidated for quick decision-making. The goal is to break down organizational silos, eliminating barriers that hinder the flow of critical information where pivotal decisions are made.

 

The main takeaway

As we reflect on what distinguishes a business in the grand scheme, it inevitably boils down to one truth – how you treat your customers. Recognizing that agents, the frontline communicators, are the backbone of customer interactions underscores the need to invest in them.  

Meeting customer expectations in today’s evolving contact center landscape is not just a goal; it's a fundamental business imperative. And in today’s data-driven culture, businesses must not only meet but exceed customer expectations, thereby securing a thriving future in 2024 and beyond.

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