We probably agree that agents need to know why, but the bigger question is “Do your agents really know why”? I am going to guess at least half of you might think, “Of course my agents know why customer experience matters! They're customer service professionals!”
But do they know the relationship between CX, revenue, customer retention, and overall business success? Maybe. What most agents do not understand is the impact they can have on your business success, and it isn’t often shared with them regularly. And certainly, it isn’t a common contact center measure.
All too often, we ask employees to perform tasks a certain way without fully explaining the "why." Explanations take time out of already busy schedules, and do agents really care about business strategy?
Explaining the reason for requests has been shown to improve compliance, so explaining why customer experience matters is well worth your time.
It’s been proven in even the smallest ways that if people understand the REASON they are asked to do (or not to do) something they are more willing to comply. I know I have proven this to myself time and time again. Think of it like speaking to a 7-year-old (as I do daily). Just saying no doesn’t cut it – it doesn’t make sense to them – there is no “why” so how can they understand “why not”? Fair enough, right? I mean how do they learn from it? “No, don’t touch” goes across much differently than “No, don’t touch that burner, it’s very hot and you will hurt your hand, try to be careful!” Two things happened there, I made a human connection, and I gave a reason why I was requesting action or inaction.
In a classic study, nicknamed the "Copy Machine Experiment," conducted by Harvard professor Dr. Ellen Langer, psychologists were able to demonstrate the power of the word "because."
In the study, grad students tried to cut to the front of the line for the copy machine by saying one of three statements:
- “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine?”
- “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”
- “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”
When subjects used the first statement (the one with no explanation), those in line let them through 60% of the time. Using the second statement produced 93% compliance (even though it was a really weak explanation) and 94% of the people in line complied with the third statement.
By nature, people want to know the "why" behind requests or changes, even if the "why" is something as simple as "I'm in a rush" or as meaningful as "our business results depend on it."
You may be asking your agents to use customers' first names, recommend products, and perform other small (or big) CX enhancing tasks, but do they know “why”? As the experiment demonstrated, not knowing the background of a request can lead to lower compliance, and that's too much to risk when business success is on the line.
Customer service or customer experience?
The first thing we need to note is that customer experience is different than customer service. Customer service is only one aspect of the entire customer experience. If you get a friendly agent and you leave happy – that’s good customer service. BUT… if… as a follow on your product arrives early, and you get a guarantee or an upgrade, that’s a great experience.
As products become more commoditized, customers choose based on experience. They want to feel respected, known among those they do business with. And it is the cumulation of interactions that affects the overall perception customers have of your brand. This in itself makes the customer experience critical to your success.
Now, how do we make this matter to your agents? How do we show them the importance they have to your business? You must give them a reason to care about their job, the time they spend with your customers, and the contribution they’re making to the organization. You can make it more than a paycheck by doing this.
So why DOES customer experience matter?
Customer experience focuses on the perception a customer feels about their engagements with you. Again, it’s the accumulation of every communication, big or small, and that individual's opinion of your company based on those interactions. In fact, that experience could even be influenced by factors outside of your business. These days, brands have more opportunities than ever to make a bad or good impression. Every email, tweet, Instagram post, retail experience, billboard, TV commercial, press release, viral video, and customer service interaction shapes people's opinions of a company. Even the results a customer receives from a search before they engage your company could influence that experience.
This presents a great opportunity for businesses that can manage all the different touchpoints and deliver consistently exceptional experiences. But it's not easy to coordinate all those experiences, and when brands get it wrong it can drive customers away.
Today's consumers are demanding and can be transitory. They know they have options and will use them if a business fails to meet their expectations. A consumer survey conducted by PWC revealed that one out of three consumers would leave a brand they loved after just one bad experience. That information should definitely be included in your "why" discussion with your agents, it’s a great opportunity to frame it in a way that shows the positive impact they could have on customer retention.
Customer service interactions can make or break customer relationships. When customers reach out to your contact center for help, they may be in an emotionally vulnerable state. An empathetic and competent interaction with a customer in need can build loyalty and make customers more likely to purchase additional products and services from you.
Just how much do people value great experiences? Our own consumer research revealed that 87% of consumers are willing to buy more products if they have an exceptional customer service experience. And, after that great experience, 81% of consumers are willing to recommend a business to others, which is an effective and free way to acquire new business. (Include this in your explanation of "why" too.)
These factors have led most businesses to begin competing based on CX rather than product and price. In fact, Gartner found that over two-thirds of brands compete mostly on CX, and that number is expected to continue increasing. You are competing with those brands.
Because CX is the new battle plan, it's important to get your agents on board by explaining to them why customer experience matters.
4 additional benefits when employees know the "why"
Compliance is certainly a significant benefit of explaining the "why" to employees, but it's not the only reason managers should explain things. According to an article on the Forbes website called "4 Benefits You Gain When You Explain the 'Why'," businesses and employees have a lot to gain when reasons are transparent and well-communicated.
Keep these four additional benefits in mind as you’re telling your agents why customer experience matters
1. Increase employee confidence
Having deeper discussions with employees about business strategy can make them feel more valued and more included in the overall business. Take it even further and explain to agents how their performance impacts CX and related business goals. When an agent understands what is expected of them and can map their individual performance to business performance, that can boost their confidence and motivate them.
2. Cast shared vision
Explaining to employees the importance of their jobs and how their performance supports the company's objectives can help ensure your agents are aligned on a shared vision. For example, communicating to agents that they're more than just problem-solvers can help them rethink their roles. When agents realize they’re actually relationship-builders, they'll be in a better position to help the organization fulfill its customer experience goals.
3. Increase productivity
Helping agents understand why customer experience matters and gaining their commitment to the organizational vision can increase employee engagement. It can be exciting to realize the "why" behind your assigned tasks, especially when your responsibilities are so vital to the business's success. When was the last time you told your agents how vital they are to your success? Engaged employees put in extra effort to help the organization meet its business goals, which can produce higher productivity, and therefore increase revenue and .
4. Drive critical thinking and innovation
Consistently explaining the "why" to employees opens communication channels. When agents are no longer reluctant or apathetic about asking "why," it can foster a culture of critical thinking and innovation. After all, many major inventions and scientific discoveries have resulted from people persistently asking "why." Wouldn't it be powerful to tap into the brainpower and creativity of your agent team?
When agents know why they're performing certain activities, they're more likely to do them consistently and with confidence and enthusiasm. This improves the chances that your business will meet its CX goals. Certainly seems worth the time and effort!
In a recent personal experience, I had been doing business with a brand for a couple of years. It was a monthly household product subscription. In a recent purchase, I was supposed to receive a free gift based on the amount of purchase. I got the package, not the gift. Turns out that because I agreed to have them ship “now” – earlier than the scheduled date – the free product offer goes away. This was not clearly stated anywhere on the site. Let's go back… I was a VIP customer for over a year… maybe 2 years. I used the chat to address the issue with them. I was given a scripted response of “so sorry, here's a $5 credit on your next purchase”. This was not satisfactory. Then… the agent left the chat abruptly. I re-engaged, was given the same scripted offer I now have a $10 credit on my account – but my point is to send me the product you offered previously. I had already been considering leaving, and mentioned, that I was not pleased with the service recently – the agent then abruptly cancels my service and wishes me well. WOW!!! Lose a customer without even really trying? What if that agent could see my lifetime value? My purchase history? Would the company have made a different decision?
So who is responsible for the customer experience? And what really should have happened in this scenario? Every employee is responsible for customer experience. Everyone has a critical role to play. Had they looked at my history they would have seen a purchase history of $35 per month over approximately a 2-year span. Seems a little costly to me.
3 contact center tools to help your agents be successful
Gaining agent buy-in to your CX strategy is critical for successful execution. And to deliver satisfying CX, agents need the right technical tools. Industry-leading contact center platforms are built to deliver loyalty-building experiences. The following are a few examples of tools that will help your agents be successful.
Figure 1 NICE CXone MAX Agent Desktop
Unified agent desktop
Imagine a single interface that includes everything your agents need to serve your customers. This interface can include everything to deliver seamless omnichannel experiences from contact management to CRM data and functionality to agent dashboards, embedded real-time coaching, and work schedules. This is all possible with a flexible unified desktop.
But what's the impact on CX? Let me count the ways! First, information is power and speed! Having access to CRM information provides the history and context agents need to personalize interactions based on understanding the customer. Additionally, consumers expect companies to make it easy! Let them start on the web or mobile, then get to a bot, then to an agent… and have that agent know what the customer has done, who they are, what they want, and get it done with a smile! This is difficult to deliver without the right agent tools. With the right unified desktop, agents aren't distracted toggling through multiple systems or digging for information, allowing them to focus more on the customer.
Real-time interaction guidance
Delivering exceptional experiences requires agents to have a good mix of technical and soft skills. An interaction without empathy and rapport can leave customers dissatisfied, even when their issues are competently resolved.
Real-time interaction guidance analyzes every conversation while they're taking place. This tool leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to determine customer sentiment and then coaches agents on soft skills at the moment—right when they need to adapt in order to deliver a satisfying experience for the customer. That happy customer will give you higher satisfaction scores and of course will stay your customer.
Robotic process automation (RPA)
Competing based on CX means that your agents' roles need to change from fixers to relationship builders. But they still need to do all that mundane administrative work to resolve customers' issues, right? Not if you implement RPA.
Robotic process automation can work side-by-side with agents to relieve agents of administrative burden. RPA robots can perform tasks such as changing addresses in multiple systems, activating new mobile phones, and opening new insurance claims. Eliminating these tasks from agent responsibilities will help them successfully transition to their new, elevated role.
Are you ready to explain to your agents why customer experience matters?
In today's experience economy, businesses can't leave CX to chance. Companies need to align every aspect of the business on the customer experience. For contact centers, this includes getting agents on board by explaining why customer experience matters and providing the technology agents need to be successful.
But you can do even more to meet your CX goals by focusing on every aspect of the agent employment life cycle, beginning with the hiring process. To learn more, download our complimentary white paper, The Ultimate CX Agent Guide: Hiring, training, onboarding, and measuring agents in a digital-first world.