Only 11% of surveyed contact centers have agents fully in-office
A study of close to 60 contact center leaders suggests trends around workplace flexibility have transformed the industry, with 62 per cent offering hybrid policies.
The report, CX Agents: A Survey of CX Leaders Regarding Their Most Valuable Asset, was published by AI simulation training provider Zenerate in partnership with Execs In The Know, a CX professional community.
Though the survey sample was small, the research suggested an increased use of outsourcing. Nearly half (47 per cent) of CX leaders said they were working with business process outsourcing firms (BPOs).
Soft skills such as problem-solving and showing empathy to customers was the top area of CX improvement, cited by 26 per cent. Nearly the same proportion said they were increasing resources for training and coaching.
The top goal for CX improvements, not surprisingly, was greater proficiency/speed to resolution, according to 33 per cent of those surveyed. This was followed by higher customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and lower absenteeism among agents (19 and 18 per cent, respectively).
CSAT was also the top key performance indicator (KPI) at 47 per cent. Handle time was nearly as high at 43 per cent.
Helpfully for Zenerate, AI/automation was the top area where 35 per cent of CX leaders felt they could pursue the greatest improvement in their operation.
“Most agents are no longer working in the office, giving up much of the immediate support provided by being co-located with peers, team leaders, and management,” the report’s authors said. “To compensate for this, organizations are forced to be far more selective in their hiring, while also dedicating more
resources to high-impact activities like enhanced training and coaching, closer monitoring of the metrics that matter most to the experience, and more powerful headlights into critical
concepts like agent wellness and engagement.”
360 Magazine Insight
The report acknowledged that most of those surveyed are operating contact centers with less than 100 agents. This provides some helpful context that explains why hybrid and even remotely-only models were gaining favor.
What’s strange is the areas these leaders aren’t focusing. Only two per cent for instance, said they were prioritizing “agent empowerment,” even though agents increasingly have to make difficult decisions on the fly across multiple channels.
As for soft skills, the report also makes clear that businesses are most concerned about whether agents are ready to troubleshoot effectively. Problem solving was the top attribute at 35 per cent, compared with developing friendliness/homour, which was cited by just two per cent.
More than anything else, the report shows that, despite many of the changes we’ve seen since the outbreak of COVID-19, contact centers are still stuck between trying to improve customer satisfaction while also reducing the time it takes to solve their problems. This is the balancing act where AI and automation will truly be put to the test.
Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.