Every organization should strive to keep front-line employees happy and productive. But in the customer support space, it can be a challenge to make sure that customer support agents in call centers feel cheerful and empowered when they’re often dealing with difficult customer feedback.
At our recent LangOps Universe event, our Chief Revenue Officer, Jennifer Bers, hosted a discussion on “agent happiness” with customer experience leaders, including:
Tue Søttrup, VP of CX Excellence, Dixa
Suri Ratnatunga, Global Director of Customer Satisfaction, AB InBev (Bees)
Here’s some helpful information and insights from the conversation.
Three pillars of customer support agent happiness
If you want your agents to be happy (and who doesn’t?) then Søttrup believes three pillars must be in place:
Understand why the customer is contacting you: Has the customer contacted you before on the same or other channels? What was the customer’s problem and how was it resolved?
Know who the customer is: This is about pulling up information from the back-end system about the customer journey. What segment is the customer from? What was their last order? How much money did they spend? This allows agents to offer personalized customer touchpoints at scale.
Know how to solve the customer’s issue: This is about giving customers the right articles and information needed to help them based on the content of the requests.
“When agents have ‘the why’ for a customer contacting you, as well as the who and the how, then they can just focus on delivering good experiences,” Søttrup said.
Ensuring agents have a holistic understanding of a customer’s problem and how to address it means agents can resolve an issue to the customer’s satisfaction. And happy customers lead to happy agents.
Measuring customer support agent happiness
It’s often a burden on customer service agents to constantly fill out internal surveys. So to gauge agent satisfaction, Bees — the B2B sales platform for brewing giant AB InBev — conducts one employee engagement survey per year combined with observed behavior.
The annual engagement survey is done across AB InBev’s entire workforce to compare the customer support team’s likes and dislikes with the rest of AB InBev’s employees.
“We stick to the annual engagement survey for listening to agents, but for observed behavior, we look at retention rates and what tools agents are using,” says Ratnatunga. “Those are things you can see without having to ask people.”
Keeping agents motivated in challenging times
According to both Søttrup and Ratnatunga, agents need two things to stay motivated: the right tools and good communication.
“It’s important for agents to have tools that make it easy to find the information to help the customer base in the best possible way,” Søttrup said.
“If you have a million conversations, AI can detect patterns that agents wouldn't be able to see,” Søttrup said. “Then we need to learn from this data and tell you what to do tomorrow compared to what happened yesterday.”
Søttrup and Ratnatunga are both advocates for also doing follow-ups with agents to see how they’re feeling about workloads.
“It's incredible what people will tell you when you just ask them an open and honest question,” Ratnatunga said. He added it’s also important to recognize agents as individuals with specific strengths.
“Some agents are speed demons and some can soothe the most frustrated customer,” she said. “It's our job to pair the right talent with the right role.”
Using language and culture in customer engagement
When serving customer needs in international markets, if customer support agents don’t pay attention to cultural nuances it could hurt customer retention and customer loyalty. Jokes and idioms in one culture and language will be confusing or even offensive to another culture.
“If a company is supporting multiple markets from one location using a translation service, you can have one agent supporting 19 different languages,” Søttrup said. “Quick responses or macros in one market might not work in another, so agents need to be empowered to know how to tailor responses.”
Ratnatunga and the customer service team members at Bees have had to make cultural shifts from email to video communication to develop customer relationships in Latin America, where people prefer to consume support information via video.
“We spend a lot of time creating videos and translating them into different languages,” Ratnatunga said. “Often we will use influencers because Latin American customers are more engaged if they recognize the person in the video.”
To tie CX to revenue, look at the data
Ultimately, customer support needs to drive revenue and it’s up to support leaders to highlight the business impact of stellar customer service and satisfied customers. This validation is good for business but also lets support teams know they’re appreciated.
For Søttrup, the proof of business impact is in the data and he recommends looking at data metrics from different sources with the help of skilled data analysts. Such an approach helps understand how, say, a payment issue affected the number of customer interactions and how that affected CSAT and NPS (Net Promoter Scores).
Søttrup emphasizes you need skilled analysts to find meaning in the massive amounts of data a business collects.
“At Dixa, we are actually able to put all our data from multiple sources into one warehouse,” Søttrup said. “We then do modeling that shows if we invest X amount of dollars in the customer experience, this is what we'll get back on the other end.”
Click to watch the full video on “The Three Pillars of Agent Happiness: Unlocking Stellar Service in Every Customer Interaction” or other sessions from LangOps Universe On-Demand: