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Cogito EX: Revolutionizing Agent Experience Assessment in Contact Centers

Brian Eastley

This is the fourth and final blog post in a four-part series about employee experience. We encourage you to review the previous blog of this series entitled, Employee Harassment: And How to Support Your Agents Through It.

At its core, the contact center is a place where we connect, human-to-human. Therefore, investing in both the customer experience and the agent experience is essential. Over the last decade, significant emphasis has been placed on Customer Experience (CX), and while this remains a critical aspect of assessing interaction quality (e.g., via NPS), another measure has risen in priority: Employee Experience (EX). Combining these two metrics opens up a wealth of opportunities to explore approaches for improving CX, agent well-being, and retention, which then enhances business and customer value across service and sales operations.

Several notable trends point to a deterioration in employee experience. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic added stress to both callers and agents…the shift from working in contact centers–with team support close by–to a remote environment presented challenges to agent onboarding, training, and retention. One Fortune 100 contact center leader stated, “Care for your employees first and foremost, and ultimately they will in turn, care for your customers.” Similarly, Forbes and Forrester Research studies affirmed that investing a dollar toward improving the employee experience equates to the compounding benefit of investing a dollar in customer experience.

Other factors negatively impacting EX include increased call volume and complexity. Even with digital channels (e.g., chatbots), enterprise contact centers continue to handle millions of interactions via phone. Large healthcare, tech, and telco companies process a staggering 1M to 10M calls per month, requiring tens of thousands of agents. Somewhat ironically, and precisely due to chatbots, simpler transactional interactions are being resolved, but leaving complex calls for the live representative. Stated bluntly, there are very few “easy” calls anymore.

Constant call complexity results in increased agent burnout, reduced engagement, higher absenteeism, and eventually attrition, which negatively impacts overall operational performance and quality. A typical contact center experiences about 35-50% turnover annually, but for outsourced business partners, this can exceed 100%. McKinsey’s State of the Customer Care 2022 report states that “leaders cite attracting, training, and retaining talent as a top priority.” Competing for talent must also be considered in the context of the overall labor market, where the so-called “McDonald’s or Target effect” attracts potential employees who perceive a lower stress level vs. that of an agent, yet with similar wages.

With this context, contact centers are seeking ways to better assess the employee experience to improve well-being and retention. This is typically conducted through periodic employee experience surveys, monthly “pulse surveys”, and ongoing feedback from supervisors and quality managers. Ideally, the process would be timely and scalable; however, there’s usually a trade-off: employee surveys are scalable, but not timely. Conversely, feedback from supervisors is more timely, but not as structured or scalable.

Having observed these challenges, and with the objective of helping enterprise clients better assess the agent experience, Cogito has augmented its real-time call guidance and analytics solution with an AI model that derives an Employee Experience (EX) score, the first of its kind.
This Cogito EX model provides three key benefits:

  1. It provides a pulse on how agents are feeling.
  2. It monitors the impact of customer interactions on agents.
  3. It’s captured on every call.

With this unprecedented insight into the employee experience, managers are better able to identify who needs support, especially agents who experienced one or more calls with negative EX. They can then identify and take timely, appropriate action…

  • provide additional team training on how to handle difficult calls, etc.
  • offer specific coaching to individual agents
  • identify agents doing a great job and share best practices
  • suggest taking a break, going on a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • align agent skills by call type

With EX scores now captured on every call, we notice that calls with negative EX tend to have a disproportionate impact on the agent experience. Interactions between customers & agents not only affect CX, but also EX. While customers are free to hang up, agents are subject to the cumulative effect of negative calls, contributing to burnout and attrition. For context, the majority (70-80%) of calls tend to fall into a neutral EX category–this isn’t surprising since it’s reflective of general human conversations, and a small portion (<5%) may have positive EX scores, but counteracting this, analysis shows calls with negative EX outweigh positive EX calls by a factor of 2-3X, in the range of 5 to 15%. Therefore, it’s important to note that positive and negative EX calls do not balance each other out from the agent’s perspective.

When looking across industries, preliminary data shows that the distribution of positive and negative EX score sentiment varies:

  • In the Tech/Telco sector, calls with negative EX comprise about 15% of the interactions, whereas Healthcare and Insurance sectors are in the range of 10 to 15%, and Travel & Hospitality show just 5-7% negative EX.

Drilling down within a single client, we find that the EX score distribution varies by call type:

  • Calls with negative EX range from about 5% in Billing and Payments, to as high as 15-20% for topics like Disputes & Claims.

Again, armed with this insight, supervisors can better align agent skills with call types, and/or provide appropriate training based on CX and EX profiles.

Shifting to the combination of CX and EX, analysis confirms how intertwined these are. This connection has always been hypothesized, but Cogito now validates that calls with lower CX scores have lower EX scores, whereas calls with higher CX scores reflect a higher degree of positive EX scores. Yet to be explored, an apparent chicken-and-egg paradigm seems in-play between EX and CX: the degree of causality will be fascinating to assess. In one direction, calls with upset customers have a negative impact on agents; on the other hand, agents more skilled in handling challenging situations can better influence the conversation to effect a positive outcome. This is an area ripe for additional research, and we now have the foundation of an EX dataset to do so.

Continuing forward, Cogito is excited to further explore potential relationships between the EX score and client KPI metrics across categories like Agent Experience, Agent Performance, and Call Attributes.

  • Agent Experience metrics: Occupancy, Skills, Training, and Tenure
  • Agent Performance metrics: Schedule Adherence, Absenteeism, and AHT
  • Call Attributes: Call Type, Product or Service Type, Demographics, and/or Repeat Callers.

By incorporating Cogito’s EX score, enterprises can now leverage a powerful dataset consisting of CX, EX, and KPI data to enable contact center leaders to better assess where appropriate employee support is needed…before it’s too late. This newfound insight benefits both the employee and customer experience, working together to enhance this human-to-human interaction and drive greater business value as a natural outcome.

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