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CX Automation Through The Eyes Of Customers & Agents

Brian Cantor

artificial intelligence in the contact center

Conversations about automation – like those for any technology investment – should begin with two simple questions.

Why is this worthwhile?  How will it impact the various stakeholders?

The first question asks organizations to prioritize function over flash.  CX automation technology may be impressive on paper, but it is only valuable if it meaningfully elevates the customer contact operation.

The second question asks organizations to remember that many different stakeholders have "skin in the game" -- and their own perspectives about the right way to play.  What a customer contact leader finds impressive may not wow the agents and customers who will actually interact with the tool on a daily basis.

It is therefore important to consider the voice of the customer and agent when sourcing and implementing automation technology.  In our recent Special Report on CX Automation, we detailed how to unlock those voices.

Understanding the Value for Customers

Some forms of automation benefit customers.  Other forms of automation hurt customers.  The point is that all frontend automation initiatives have an impact on the customer experience.

"You don't want people to hate interacting with [the bot]," stresses Sean Rivers of Republic Wireless.  "You don't want them to feel ambivalent about it.  You really want them to love it.

"Getting them to love it depends on [your] customers.”

In order to understand the value of a particular project, it is therefore imperative to consider your customers’ profiles, needs, wants and expectations.

“You have to understand your customer base, what they’re willing to go through and how long they’re willing to sit there,” advises Gene Howell of CURO Financial.

Howell is urging businesses to make automation decisions from an outside-in perspective.  What is the customer trying to achieve?  What must the customer endure in pursuit of that outcome?  How can we make the journey better?  How can automation specifically contribute?

This customer-centric approach to automation yields three noteworthy benefits.

It reveals needs.  By evaluating the experience through the eyes of customers, organizations can most accurately identify the “pain points” associated with the engagement experience.  With knowledge of what is broken, the business can correctly identify the tasks for which solutions (such as automation) are most urgent and vital.

It uncovers opportunities. Improving the customer experience goes beyond remedying pain points.  It also involves creating additional value for customers.  By understanding customers’ true intentions and desires, organizations can identify opportunities to actually elevate the experience.  In many cases, automation empowers an organization to seize these invaluable opportunities.

It establishes the correct vision of success.  By understanding what truly matters to customers, organizations can evaluate performance through the correct lens.  Instead of celebrating automation initiatives that seem pro-customer or seem to boost efficiency, they will know whether their efforts are truly creating more satisfying, more valuable experiences for customers.

Understanding the Value for Agents

Troublesome processes and systems do not simply hurt performance.  They can also adversely impact agent satisfaction.

Insofar as it can remedy those operational issues, automation can also be a pathway to a better agent experience.

To realize this potential, the organization needs to fully determine what really matters to agents.  What, on a day-to-day basis, determines whether agents are content or displeased with the work environment?  What controllable factors determine whether agents perceive the environment as a “temporary job” or a haven in which to build a career?

An agent-centric  approach to automation essentially works in the same manner – and yields the same type of benefits – as the customer-centric approach.

It reveals needs. In a testament to the disconnect between leaders and frontline employees, only 24% of customer contact leaders believe their internal systems are “difficult” to use.  Eighty percent, however, say their agents frequently complain about disintegrated, slow or burdensome systems.  Leaders clearly require the “voice of the agent” to understand points of frustration within the contact center.  Upon gaining that perspective, they can identify the factors most likely to cause disengagement or attrition – and most ripe for solutions like automation.

It reveals opportunities.  Good agent experience endeavors minimize sources of agent frustration.  Great agent experience endeavors maximize sources of agent delight.  By viewing the contact center environment through the eyes of its agents, an organization can identify ways to make work life a legitimate source of happiness.  That happiness, in turn, translates into successful interactions with customers.

It establishes the correct vision of success: Just as an organization should not use insular metrics to assess customer happiness, it should not use a boardroom perspective to evaluate the agent experience.  Agents are the best judges of the agent experience; an inquiry into agent demands and preferences will help the business succeed on that barometer.

“On one end, companies need to deliver a completely seamless, engaging, and automated experience for their customers,” explains Bobby Amezaga of Salesforce. “On the other end, companies need to deliver a best-in-class agent experience that ultimately helps them deliver a killer customer experience and provides a path for career and professional growth.”

By adopting customer-centric and agent-centric approaches to automation, organizations will be able to achieve both objectives.