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Taking a Human-Centered Approach to Supporting Agents and Customers this Holiday Season

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Joel Makhluf

A recent survey found that 22% of consumers would rather spend a night in jail than call a customer service line – a revealing stat about the state of the customer service industry and how frustrated consumers are with the overall experience.

At the same time, the busiest time of year for retailers is around the corner and the stakes are high. Consumers are especially willing to open up their wallets to spend money on loved ones, creating increased revenue opportunities. Inevitably though, customer service requests as consumers navigate potential disruptions and questions about orders, exchanges, returns and shipping updates will inundate the workforce.

During what is already a stressful time of the year for most consumers, it’s critical they have excellent, seamless experiences when they need to contact customer service, or else retailers and brands risk losing their business to the competition. Contact center leaders must also protect their agents during these times of high call volumes as they’re inundated with consumer frustrations and complex issues that are often outside of their ability to control.

As the season of giving (and shopping) kicks off, how can contact center leaders navigate that delicate balance of employee well-being and customer satisfaction? Start by understanding employee experiences and customer experiences will go hand-in-hand.

The Complexity of Agent-Customer Relationships

The most important thing to understand when it comes to both customers and agents is that we’re all people. Putting people at the center of your contact center strategy, powered and improved upon with machine learning and AI technologies, will help any organization elevate its overall performance and operations.

When it comes to agents and customers, their interactions with each other directly impact their experience and satisfaction. According to our recent survey, 74% of consumers agree the employee experience (EX) impacts the customer experience (CX), meaning unhappy or unsatisfied employees had a negative impact on respondents’ experiences as customers. Happy employees are more productive and can effectively serve customers, helping them quickly resolve issues. Conversely, a frustrated customer adds additional challenges and stress to an agent’s workday, directly and negatively impacting their work experience and deflating their motivation to perform optimally. Stressed-out employees also end up burned out, driving employee turnover and costing organizations more time and money on hiring and training.

Prioritizing employee well-being and customer satisfaction is not an either/or situation – both experiences need to be invested in and optimized to drive increased revenue, sales and retention.

How To Best Support Employees

While most contact center leaders are aware they need to help reduce employee stress and burnout, they can’t be everywhere at once to solve issues as they arise. Fortunately, technology can help support them in improving agent experiences. A recent Forrester report details how technology can help frontline workers complete tasks better and free them up from mundane tasks so they can focus on delivering the uniquely human value that only they can. Automation and machine learning technologies can help provide valuable customer insights to agents, and automate simpler customer requests so agents can focus on more complex customer challenges that require human empathy and critical thinking. Technology can also help supervisors better manage their employees’ workloads and improve their overall experience in real-time through AI-powered coaching and guidance.

At Cogito, our Real-Time Coaching & Guidance solution offers live, in-call voice analysis to augment agent behavior in real-time – backed by data-driven insights – to create better human connections between agents and customers. The technology combines Emotion and Conversation AI for live monitoring to help detect and address both employee and customer challenges. With a real-time approach to coaching, issues are resolved faster and more efficiently, driving positive outcomes and higher employee and customer satisfaction. This will be especially critical for retailers during the holiday season, when agents will likely become inundated with complex customer service inquiries.

Delivering Excellence in CX

For retailers, there is no more important time of year than the end-of-year holidays. Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the busy shopping days following it, competition for consumer spending is fierce. Customer issues will inevitably come up during the season, but that doesn’t have to mean lost revenue. In fact, it can be an opportunity to establish a lasting and loyal customer connection.

By arming agents with the tools and skills they need, they can resolve customer issues quickly and with empathy. More so than ever, creating an ideal customer experience is a significant factor in beating out competitors – and human connections are at the heart of creating excellent customer experiences. With a balanced approach of prioritizing both EX and CX this season, any brand or retailer can end 2022 on a high note, with strong revenues and increased customer retention.

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