May 5, 2022
Addressing The Needs of Agents To Boost Morale
Customer service jobs are particularly challenging. Queries, problems, or complaints, they never know what’s in store for them next. As competition gets fiercer in the global marketplace, the importance of quality customer service increases. As this happens, the success of your business will depend on how skillfully your team handles the customer service problems.
However, listening to complaints from customers and having to politely deal with their challenges, while oftentimes getting verbally abused in the process can take a toll on even the most experienced support representatives. In fact, according to Sharpen, 58% of contact center workers were significantly more stressed, 63% more depressed, and 34% more anxious than people in other professions. Thus, it comes as no surprise to learn that only one in three customer service representatives feel they are actually engaged at work (Gartner). But, why is this the case? And, what’s causing low morale in contact centers specifically?
Addressing The Needs of Agents
First and foremost, employees need to be heard. As employee empowerment becomes more widespread, agents are demanding more from their employers. In fact, 90% of service agents report they need more from their company in order to stay in their current position (Salesforce). Perks like flexible hours, remote work, and better compensation are all great ideas and definitely should be considered by management, but let’s not forget the definition of employee experience and how it relates to morale. Simply put, employee experience is defined by work complexity. In other words, employee experience is how difficult it is for employees to do their job. And with 70% of employees stating that being empowered to succeed is a critical part of employee engagement, managers need to ask their customer support agents what they need in order to be successful.
Reasons for Low Morale
Fortunately, recent studies can give us insight into what customer support agents are saying and how managers can address their needs.
Not Providing Tools To Do The Job Well: Lack of Technology
Customer support agents are only as good as their technology. The fact is, you could have the best customer service team in the world but if that world-class team must rely on outdated or buggy technology, they won’t be able to consistently deliver good customer experiences. In other words, it doesn’t matter how amazing your agents are if their tech tools hold them back.
According to McKinsey, more than three quarters of service agents report a lack of technology in their current role. In addition, according to Taylor Reach Group, 44% of agents are lacking necessary tools 34% believe they don’t have the right customer data available at the time of request.
Even the most experienced service agents are dependent on their technology. So, when these tools are slow, restrictive, or outdated, agents are at a major disadvantage. In fact, technology is 88% more likely to influence agent experience than compensation. And last year, agents’ technology woes were the most cited barrier to great customer experiences. Indeed, when agent experience suffers, so too does the customer experience.
Outdated technology creates stress by making tasks harder to achieve and can also make agents feel undervalued by the company. In these situations, responsibility is often placed on the agent to increase efficiency when that may not be possible. Without the right technology to empower agents to perform their jobs to the best of their ability, mistakes and tensions are bound to arise.
Today, technology is a critical aspect of customer service. In fact, tools such as artificial intelligence and automation are revolutionizing customer support. With the help of such technologies, customer service agents can use their time more effectively, improving both the employee and customer experience.
Not Giving Agents Challenging Enough Work: Repetitive, Mundane Tasks
Let’s face it - the work itself may not always be incredibly fulfilling in contact centers. In fact, repetition has always been the enemy of support. Answering phones, emails, and chats can quickly become repetitive. Imagine having to pick up the phone or respond to an email 30 times a day giving the same answer to every single customer. This is not the best use of a customer support agent’s time. Moreover, standardized procedures and scripts can help scale but ultimately reduce mental stimulation, creativity, and autonomy in your agents leading to boredom and stress. In fact, according to a Korn Ferry survey, 33% of employees say boredom is the main reason they want to leave their jobs.
Micah Citti, customer service operations lead at sports broadcaster ESPN, says “agents want to help people and want to feel like what they are doing matters, and the best way to encourage this is to give them work that is meaningful. Helping troubleshoot issues with a live stream broadcast, for example, is much more meaningful to an agent’s life rather than answering how to reset a password for the 15th time in a day.”
Everyone enjoys having a sense of agency in their role, and when workplace tasks are too restrictive, there’s no room for creativity. However, when companies use AI and automation to solve mundane tasks, agents are free to focus on more complex cases. This will not only improve customer service, but agents will start to feel like they’re providing more value which will improve job satisfaction. Bottom line, managers need to utilize AI and automation to handle repetitive tasks and trust their support team to take control of more complex interactions, solving problems creatively.
Having Unrealistic Expectations Or Unreasonable Workloads: Volume of Work
Call centers are busy places that often experience huge volumes of customer queries. In fact, according to VentureBeat, overall conversation volume has increased in contact centers by around 20% since mid-February 2020, with verticals such as airlines and hotels experiencing call growth of 96% and 130% respectively. Such high volumes can lead to agents feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and mentally exhausted. In fact, according to Calabrio, 38% of agents report that dealing with the sheer volume of calls is the most challenging part of the role.
In addition, let’s not forget about the broader qualitative expectations placed on agents. Call center agents must be patient, positive, happy, and helpful. Qualities which are difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate when stressed and overwhelmed. With such high expectations and increasing volumes of work, it’s no surprise that 74% of call center agents are at risk of burnout, while every third is at risk of severe burnout (Toister Performance Solutions).
Unfortunately, customer support agent burnout is incredibly common. Customer service jobs require a lot of emotional labor, and it can be difficult to keep up with the fast-paced and results-driven work of call centers. That being said, it’s important to remember that your agents are only human. Therefore, it’s critical that they have access to technology and tools necessary to perform well. In other words, if you aren’t equipping agents for success, then you're spending a fortune on hiring and onboarding new agents.
AI Automation To The Rescue
So, now that we know what’s causing low morale, how can customer support managers address these issues to not only boost morale but improve customer service?
Today, the key to addressing support agents’ needs lies within artificial intelligence technologies and automation.
With the right training, assistive technology, and automation, companies can create a more meaningful work environment and engage their service team members. Clara Shih, CEO of Service Cloud at Salesforce, is a champion of customer service. To make for a successful encounter, Shih says that companies need to have all the best technology, artificial intelligence and resources at their disposal.
Debbie Neuberger, senior vice president of service operations at Realtor.com, says “You want to step back and look at your organization and say, ‘Where do we have high-volume, repetitive task work?”. To inspire agents to work with customers in a more thoughtful and engaged way, they must prioritize automation. When used effectively, robotic process automation can rid agents of the repetitive and unnecessary tasks that are keeping them distracted from customer interactions. For example, critical yet redundant activities like data lookup from different systems, data entry, note taking, and searches can all be automated so that the agent is no longer directing their energy on tasks that can be done faster and more precisely with AI.
Moreover, the Salesforce study on automation recently confirmed that 89% of users feel more satisfied with their jobs, as a result of using automation in the workplace. The technology is also reported to reduce errors in work (66%), lessen menial tasks in day-to-day work (47%) and help make faster decisions (86%). Ultimately, advanced AI technology is the key to achieving superior customer experiences while boosting agent morale. However, it's important to note that although AI is frequently thought of as making agents further removed from the customer, if used correctly AI will make the agent/customer relationship stronger and more valuable.
Solution: Y Meadows
Y Meadows’ AI plug-in for ticketing systems is the #1 solution for automating support messages. With the use of natural language processing and robotic process automation, Y Meadows AI solution is able to intelligently read and understand incoming messages and then perform automated actions to get them resolved. By integrating AI within your existing ticketing system, agents are able to focus on more valuable work while eliminating repetitive, mundane tasks that usually leave agents feeling drained. Sound helpful?
Visit ymeadows.com to learn more.
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