customer experience agentsRetail, nursing, and contact centers. What could these diverse occupations possibly have in common? Answer: they all rank among the highest in employee turnover rate. Unfortunately many of us know firsthand that when our contact center agents leave, their knowledge, experience, and time spent training them walks out the door. An inevitable consequence is that customer experience suffers.

How do you stem the tide?

Agent empowerment is an important key to reduce turnover and improve customer experience. When agents are allowed to make decisions themselves, their job frustrations diminish, and that boosts agent retention. Happier, more experienced agents means the customer experience skyrockets.

According to a recent ICMI article on culture, service leaders today “have a single common element of culture—empowerment. Empowerment means authorizing agents to resolve a customer’s issue, by whatever means necessary. Ritz-Carlton, Nordstrom’s, Zappos, USAA— all these leaders have built their highly successful culture based on empowerment.”

As online retailer Zappos is often lauded for providing exemplary customer experience, I picked up the phone and called them to see what I could learn about agent empowerment. The agent I spoke with was Erica, who has been with Zappos for several years. She told me agents are encouraged to foster customer relationships, they are taught that every interaction is an opportunity to create a more loyal customer, and ultimately their goal is to create “wow” moments with customers.

And it works! At Zappos, agents are empowered to make decisions they think are best for customers rather than saying “let me put you on hold” while they track down a supervisor to seek approval. Agents are authorized to resolve problems – to send coupons, replacement products and, in one heart-warming instance Erica mentioned, sent flowers to a customer who was battling cancer. That example literally made me say “Wow!”

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh believes so strongly in agent empowerment and employee engagement that he is experimenting with a radical approach to management called “holacracy” that replaces traditional management levels with a series of self-governed teams.

In a recent DestinationCRM article, customer experience leader Bruce Temkin writes that, “employees are the secret sauce to success.” Temkin also writes how companies are beginning to turn their customer experience attention inward, realizing that, “unengaged employees can’t create engaged customers.”

How do we foster agent empowerment?

Agents know customers want an effortless customer experience and a prompt resolution. But often they are hampered in delivering it.  They may lack insight into what happened previously in the customer’s journey, be it months ago, or even in this single interaction. When agents work from an omnichannel desktop, they use the same interface to handle every type of interaction regardless of their nature or sources (direct calls, website, IVR, mobile application. etc.). This means they do not have to go into different applications to respond to emails, handle web chat, co-browse with the customer, and handle phone or video calls. When an agent uses the same desktop for every customer interaction, it will be easier for him or her to be more productive and deliver a great customer experience.

In addition, an omnichannel desktop can:

  • Provide agents with a knowledge base at their fingertips, a common response library with FAQ answers, all within the same interface, enabling them to immediately respond to customer inquiries.
  • Speed agents’ responsiveness by giving them a single platform to handle all interactions, one that can include an embedded CRM system.
  • Give agents access to the customer journey history, not just single interactions, so responses can be tailored according to the full context of previous interactions.
  • Enable agents to collaborate with experts throughout the enterprise, minimizing hold times and transfers and driving first contact resolution.

To learn more, read “Empower Your Contact Center Agents to Deliver a Great Customer Experience”, or request a live demo.