How To Make Agents Happy And Productive. Our Four Suggestions.

What if automation would make the lives of your employees easier and better? Wouldn’t that be great? So, why is the opposite often the case? Automation makes employees unhappy, frustrated even. That is bad for them, bad for your customer, and bad for your business. Here are our four suggestions for a better approach. 

Morale in customer service is notoriously low. Automation often makes the situation worse. Agents have to do more: they have to learn yet another system, receive additional training, do more complex work. And they have to be more productive and customer-oriented at the same time. Agents refer to failing or hard-to-use systems as the main reason they can not do their work properly.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Just as the first machines saved people the heavy lifting, today, automation can make the work of contact center agents easier. Here are our four suggestions on how to get there. 

1. Ask: how can we help you?

Start with questions: what is your problem, and how can we help you? Some managers never ask their employees what their problem is and how they can help them. Do they expect demands for free beer and a pay raise? Though even that response would offer valuable information, contact center agents are serious and motivated people. They are more than happy to tell you what their problem is.

Asking questions is not just relevant from an information perspective. It may even be more critical for the relationship between you and the people that will be using your product—more on this below.

2. Sit at their desk

Asking questions is never enough. For a great solution, observe closely. What agents want may not be what they need. What they think the real problem is may just be a symptom. Working with systems creates blind spots. It's your job to offer a fresh perspective.

For our very first feature, we sat down with agents and looked closely at what they were doing. We observed that contact center agents were looking up URLs to copy those into their conversations. That took them a lot of time. We would have never known without seeing them doing it. We came up with a solution. Agents liked it. We have been doing this ever since. We ask customers to share screen recordings or join a video call with screen sharing to see both the agent and his screen. This is our way to keep improving.

Sit down. Observe. Improve. Repeat.

3. Make something agents want

The famous Paul Graham quote does apply on a micro-scale as well: make something people want. No, there is no need to give them faster horses instead of a car. But you have to make something they are willing to use. Many automation projects fail because the people that have to work with them don’t want to use them. The tools are not made for them because they have not been made with them. How do you expect your agents even to be even slightly motivated when you never even considered their opinion?

To many agents, we were the next expensive bunch of consultants coming in to force some new tools upon them. It was hard for them to believe we were there to make their lives easier, to make something they want. After a pilot, one of our clients admitted that the agents more or less forced him to continue working with us. Agents were so glad about our solution, no way they would ever work without it. Fortunately, management had all the reasons to be happy too ;-)

4. Give them a sense of personal control

What makes people happy? Having a sense of control turns out to be pretty important. Systems can deprive people of power and force them into a mold. Sound systems give people greater control over their work.

We found out recently how important this sense of personal control is. Our contact center AI is actually agents assist AI: we suggest the best possible answers the agent can give to any question by a customer, based on thousands of conversations. Our algorithm even considers the personal voice of agents, suggesting different answers for specific agents.
However, for many agents, this wasn’t enough. They wanted control over their answers, so they would still type something different or fall back on local notepads. When we observed that behavior (step 2), we decided to give them the option to store their own best answer in Deepdesk itself and have it suggested by our AI. Almost immediately, agents started using our solutions a lot more. All it took was giving agents a sense of control over their answers. Sometimes it is as simple as that. 

People first: human-centered AI

It is not just four simple steps. It is a different line of thought. Just as phytical changes the customer experience, it is time for a holistic and human-centered agent experience. And no, that is not another way of saying the same thing. It is a mindset. Ask yourself: do I want to improve the lives of my agents? Are they valuable to me? Employees are just like customers. You can’t buy their loyalty. If they do not feel appreciated, they will leave.

Read more on the importance of agent happiness.

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

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