Understanding Why Contact Center Agent Empowerment is Critical to a Great Customer Experience

Contact center leaders from 8x8, Awaken Intelligence, and 360insight discuss the importance of agent experience.

Understanding Why Contact Center Agent Empowerment is Critical to a Great Customer Experience
(Credit: Quality Stock / Alamy Stock Photo)

Agent churn is something that has plagued the contact center industry for decades. Average churn is reportedly in the 45% range, creating havoc inside business call centers. Every time an agent leaves, there are training and other issues that cost businesses millions of dollars.

One of the reasons contact centers struggle with high agent turnover is ineffective tools, leading to frustrating experiences for agents and customers. Contact centers must assess current tools by talking to agents, defining future needs, and figuring out how cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) can support them.

Contact center platform provider 8x8 and leaders from Awaken Intelligence and 360insights explored this topic further in a recent webinar, “AI is here, but hiring, empowering, and keeping great agents is the only way to great customer experience (CX).” They discussed current challenges and how AI is implemented in real-world situations, highlighting benefits such as improved productivity, time-saving, and reduced effort for contact center agents.

British software company Awaken Intelligence is an 8x8 technology partner providing advanced contact center technologies. Its offerings include a speech, voice, and digital analytics tool that identifies bottlenecks and challenges in the workflow, helping to improve how agents use tools and manage their time, especially while placing customers on hold. Another tool in Awaken’s arsenal is guidance software, which assists agents step-by-step during customer interactions. Awaken just launched a new real-time voice analysis tool called CoPilot, which listens to and understands the intent behind conversations.

“If you’re on a sales call and the customer is putting up objections, the system automatically listens to those objections and prompts the agent. Why is this important? The technology can simplify onboarding, making the agent’s job easier. This means they will stay longer, but more importantly, they will deliver better CX,” said Simon Black, Awaken’s chief executive officer.

360insights, as a user of these technologies, implements them in its day-to-day operations. Essentially, 360insights manages customer support and the administration of incentives from start to finish. A key aspect of its service is analyzing and sharing data regarding the effectiveness of various programs. This information helps partners make informed decisions about which programs are most beneficial regarding customer satisfaction and loyalty.

360insights faces several challenges in its contact center operations, including the fluctuating volume of support claims during major sales events. This puts pressure on the contact center to manage these changes effectively. Staff retention is another challenge for the company. The contact center serves as a career springboard within the organization so that employees can advance to higher positions. Consequently, high turnover due to internal promotions requires continuous training and onboarding for new staff.

Lending contact center agents a hand

To address these challenges, 360insights implemented technologies from 8x8 and Awaken. Initially, the training for new staff was heavily focused on detailed client information, utilizing a traditional knowledge base. This method proved time-consuming and inefficient, as agents had to sift through extensive information, negatively impacting the CX. With Awaken, 360insights was able to speed up the process of accessing information. Awaken streamlines the call flow, allowing agents to reach the knowledge base quickly. Instead of browsing extensive data to find answers, the agent is presented with one or two key options, significantly reducing the time it takes to retrieve information and resolve issues.

“Now it’s much quicker for the person to be able to get to that knowledge, do solid structural troubleshooting, and finish the call faster without having to change anything about the delivery of the call itself,” said John Davies, director of contact center systems at 360insights.

To provide a better experience to customers, 360insights is using 8x8’s Co-browsing tool, which allows agents to view and interact with customers’ screens. Additionally, 360insights introduced a post-call survey tool, increasing the survey response rate from three percent to 37 percent. This has given the company greater confidence in delivering consistently high net promoter score (NPS) rather than relying on “a small sampling of calls,” said Davies.

360insights also utilizes 8x8’s agent prioritization and skilling, enabling new agents to handle fewer brands and gradually increase as they gain experience. Using this approach, agents are assigned to calls they’re best suited for, which helps them develop a comfort level with the platform and supports their growth.

AI is important, but other things can also help

While AI can be a powerful tool for companies looking to improve their CX, the experts agreed that actively listening to contact center agents and understanding their needs is just as crucial. Companies should cultivate a trusting environment where team members feel comfortable making and learning from mistakes.

Lastly, Black stressed the importance of not relying on AI as a “blanket solution that goes across everything” but using a targeted approach where the technology aligns with specific needs. As mentioned earlier, AI is effective in scenarios where it can provide agents with responses to customer issues. Therefore, to successfully implement AI in contact centers, it’s essential to assess the needs of agents, supervisors, and customers. This will ensure that the technology is strategically used to improve operations.

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research.

Read his other Network Computing articles here.

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About the Author(s)

Zeus Kerravala, Founder and Principal Analyst with ZK Research

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions. Kerravala is considered one of the top 10 IT analysts in the world by Apollo Research, which evaluated 3,960 technology analysts and their individual press coverage metrics.

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