Business Case for Agent Assist
Transform your customer experience from the inside out by tackling complexity head on. You’d be surprised to see what you can achieve by taking an assistance-first approach.
The business case for agent assist is typically very compelling – quantitative metrics that will please the CFO in terms of actual dollars saved and qualitative metrics that will elevate employee engagement and customer loyalty.
What Are the Benefits of Agent Assist?
Check out how AT&T and Priceline.com are using Agent Assist. Cut 75% of agent onboarding time and eliminate 90% of errors to deliver WOW moments that boost NPS and agent satisfaction.
Agent Assist creates value by helping contact center leaders optimize various KPIs that cut across operational excellence and customer experience. Take our ROI calculator for a spin and calculate your savings from assisting for your customers and agents in real-time.
Show Me the Money in Contact Center Automation
According to Forrester, 8 out of 10 tasks in the contact center can be automated.
Find out how much you can save by assisting your customers and agents in real-time.
Build a Business Case for Agent Assist Using KPIs That Matter
Boost Effectiveness & Efficiency with Agent Assist
Effectiveness and Efficiency can be differentiated by thinking of it like this: Effectiveness deals with the outcome and will have a direct impact on your customer’s perception, whereas Efficiency does not care about the outcome, and for the most part, the customer is somewhat shielded from these metrics.
First Contact Resolution
First Contact Resolution (FCR), as the name implies, is measuring the percentage of customer interactions that are resolved correctly in a first and only interaction with the contact center. Why is this important? Well, for a number of reasons. First, as customers, we typically don’t like having to contact a company in the first place, and then to not have our issue resolved properly the first time, and requiring a repeat inquiry, is a sure fire way of losing brand loyalty. Second, there is an internal direct cost associated with managing repeat inquiries. So it’s just poor business practice not keeping this metric in check and striving for perfection. In fact, there is a demonstrable direct correlation between FCR and customer satisfaction.
FCR is typically measured in a number of ways. In some organizations, the agent is responsible for dispositioning the call and indicating whether it was resolved. Other organizations utilize customer surveys. And yet others infer based on identified callback rates.
Two of the primary levers affecting FCR are agent training and proper applications, systems and tools available for the agent. As customers contact the call center with increasingly diverse and complex requests, it has become exponentially more challenging for contact center leaders to train agents effectively and prepare them to deliver on first contact resolution. Agent Assist offers the required assistance to boost FCR in real-time by harmonizing the knowledge, process and data silos and simplifying the agent and customer experience.
Many contact centers are in the journey of making the contact center as a profit center. Contact center agents play a key role in generating revenue as well as in protecting revenue.
As simpler low-value interactions are dealt with through digital channels, the contact center channels can be leveraged to deliver on high-value and more complex interactions. Inbound sales and outbound sales interactions top the list of usual suspects. Contact center leaders can use Agent Assist to equip even new agents with timely customer discovery and objection handling tools to increase sales conversion rates and the order value per conversion. Agent Assist also simplifies the order entry process and makes it easier to train new agents, seasonal hires and customer service representatives to sell like pros.
There are also other types of customer interactions such as refunds, returns, cancellation requests, dispute resolution and debt management which tend to affect both customer loyalty and the profitability of the overall business operation. Contact center agents are typically empowered to exercise discretion while addressing such sensitive customer requests. Quite often, there is just a rule of thumb, but there isn’t a scalable way to fulfill both customer empathy and revenue protection goals. Agent Assist solutions bring the right combination of consistency and flexibility so that you can scale your best practices across the board without turning a deaf ear to how a customer feels in a given situation.
Process compliance is arguably the metric with the most potential damaging impact to an organization. In today’s increasingly regulatory compliant environment, failure to stay compliant can result in steep fines, and even posing an existential threat to the organization.
Additionally, failure to comply with internal processes can also cause significant costs, while hurting other metrics such as First Contact Resolution.
Agent training and post interaction analytics in the form of quality management and performance management have for long been considered primary vehicles to boost process compliance. The challenge with this approach is that none of these tools or practices aim to help agents on the job, in real-time, while they are engaged in live customer interactions. When a process is left to agent heuristics there is too much room for error. Instead, utilize real-time agent assist to enforce compliance, because too much is at stake.
Errors, short of process compliance errors, are maybe not of and in themselves costly, but have negative run-on effects throughout the entire process. These can manifest later in the interaction, such as increased product returns, higher callback rates and lower customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, many underlying applications on the agent desktop are operating in a siloed manner, where each on its own is unable to adequately catch errors in the context of an end-to-end flow. For example, if the customer’s credit rating, as provided by system 1 is below a certain score, the approval field in system 2 should not be allowed to be set. Because these systems operate in silos, the agent potentially can approve customers despite an organizational rule that says otherwise.
The primary way of driving down errors is to enforce new rules on existing systems, leveraging solutions such as real-time agent assist powered by robotic desktop automation.
Efficiency is, generally speaking, not concerned with the outcome, and is instead typically a cost metric. Ultimately it can have an impact on outcomes and the customer experience, but is of and by itself generally used to measure costs and improve performance.
Average Handling Time
Average Handling Time, or AHT, has been the legacy metric that seemingly controlled all contact center decisions. AHT refers to the average length that it takes to complete a call. This is important as it directly references internal operating costs – in large call centers processing hundreds of thousands of calls, shaving 10 or 20 seconds from a call can add up to significant savings. And by improving the underlying systems, such as implementing unified agent desktops or automation, contact centers were able to see significant reductions in AHT, generating significant savings for the company.
Of course, as could be expected, placing too much emphasis on reducing AHT at all costs can have negative consequences – specifically, it can be detrimental to the overall customer experience, and to some extent disincentivizes agents to spend time with the customer to properly resolve their issue with empathy.
Many contact centers therefore have opted to favor outcome metrics such as First Contact Resolution, with secondary emphasis on AHT.
While AHT in this discussion has been referring specifically to calls, other assisted service channels are often measured by this metric as well. However, many other methods are asynchronous in nature and the agent can handle multiple inquiries at the same time (eg. Chat), making AHT less relevant for these channels as they are for the voice channel.
After Call Work Time
After Call Work (ACW) refers to the amount of time it takes for an agent to complete necessary steps and functions related to the call they just finished. That is, once the call is complete, the agent typically needs to perform some wrap-up functions before they are able to take the next call, commonly referred to as call dispositioning. While ACW may seem innocuous, it happens with every call, and small amounts of time add up to a large amount of time for large contact centers. It also means that while an agent is busy doing after call work, they are unable to take the next call which has a knock-on effect on other metrics such as Hold Time.
Agent Assist solutions that are powered by robotic desktop automation track agent actions on the desktop during the call and created automated call summaries which are then pushed into relevant back-end systems. In several scenarios, the agent is required to create follow-up tasks for themselves at the end of a live interaction. Agent Assist can help with automating the creation of such follow-up tasks, initiating timely reminders that allow agents to focus on the next customer without having to worry about keeping up with service level agreements.
Agent Training Time
Agents typically have complicated jobs – from adhering to internal processes, to learning multiple software systems and to learning the call flows across multiple call types. This complexity inherently can mean significant time spent training agents. Classroom training coupled with on-the-floor training can mean that it can take months before an agent is ready to handle calls on their own.
Unfortunately, attrition in the contact center is typically high, and when you couple long training times with high attrition, it all adds up to a costly equation.
Leveraging systems such as agent guidance, scripting and unified agent desktops can greatly reduce the complexity and resultant agent training time.
Agent Onboarding Time
Training is one thing. Being a productive agent is another. The onboarding experience for an agent following classroom training typically involves shadowing calls for a period of time, followed by a slow roll out of call types the agent should handle.
All of which means that the time to get a new agent ready to take calls is the combination of training time + onboarding time. This is a significant cost driver for the organization, but one that is imperative they get right.
Onboarding (and even training) time can be greatly reduced by providing progressive guidance – this is guidance that adapts to the level of guidance provided based on the agents skill level. For example, a junior agent taking his or her first call may receive extensive guidance through scripting and on-screen prompts, and as they progress in their ability to handle those call types, the guidance is gradually minimized to only that amount which is necessary for efficient and effective call handling.
Employee Experience KPIs
There was a time when the contact center largely only cared about Average Handle Time, at both the expense of the customer AND the employee. And while it was somewhat common sense that the interaction should be geared to deliver great customer experience, the employee experience remained largely neglected by many contact centers for years.
Agents have extremely demanding and stressful jobs – so much so that attrition of 100% isn’t uncommon. Fortunately, over time, additional focus was given to the agent experience. For one, reducing churn (and AHT) clearly reduces cost, but more importantly, progressive contact centers realized that a positive employee experience translated into a positive customer experience. Happier agents delivered great customer service.
Gartner have a very pragmatic paper titled “Boost the Service Rep Experience” that expands significantly on this concept and is a worthwhile read. They emphasize the “rep experience above all else”. This guide provides very actionable advice and emphasizes the need to find those quick wins.
Attrition in contact centers is a particularly insidious driver of cost. When attrition can reach 40%, 50%…100%, coupled with extensive agent training and onboarding times, it is readily apparent that contact centers are engaged in this constant and costly loop of hiring, training, replacing.
Besides the direct cost this entails, it has run-on effects such as making workforce management particularly challenging and being able to adequately adapt capacity to volume.
Agents Lack Customer Context: Agents often don’t have a contextual understanding of the customer’s journey and request. They see siloed information from one or two systems and don’t have a clear picture of the customer. This makes it difficult to provide stellar service and address a customer’s issue in-context to the customer as a whole, versus micro focusing on the specific issue.
Agents Serve as Human Middleware: Agents have to perform a lot of tedious and manual work, rekeying data between systems, retrieving data from multiple systems…all of which increases AHT and ultimately increases both agent and customer frustration.
Agents Stress Out About Customer Interactions: Agents receive high-level training in the classroom and coaching on a small percentage of their customer interactions, often several days later. Agents don’t have clear guidance or assistance on how to handle each specific call type, yet are expected to handle a range of call types of varying complexity. Needless to add, the lack of real-time assistance makes agents stress about their work eventually leading to high attrition rates which have become the unfortunate norm in the contact center space.
There is a direct correlation between agent satisfaction and customer satisfaction. And any holistic CX investment strategy needs to take the employee experience into account. Miserable agents will never deliver the CX you were hoping for.
And it’s not just an impact to your customer experience. Unhappy agents lead to higher attrition which adversely affects the bottom line.
Any CX strategy should assess both the customer and agent side of the equation. Fortunately, by improving the operating environment – specifically, the underlying desktop applications – the overall agent experience can be dramatically boosted. Introducing automation, guidance and unified desktops are all ways of letting the agent work with the customer, instead of fighting the systems.
Customer Experience KPIs
Customer Experience (CX) is arguably the ultimate outcome based metric, and as of late, most customer support organizations and contact centers have rightfully placed their focus in this area. Study after study has shown direct correlation between CX and a companies performance, share price, competitive advantage and customer loyalty.
Despite being the ultimate outcome metric, having a quantifiable measure of CX has proved difficult. Two emerging models that are predominately being used are Customer Effort and NPS.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is one of the first approaches to providing quantifiable readings of the customer experience and the impact to the business. Specifically, it’s aim was to measure customer loyalty as a proxy for customer experience.
The beauty of NPS is both its simplicity and objectivity. The score is derived from asking a single question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”. The answer is typically set on a 0 to 10 scale. Those that respond positively, in this model a 9 or 10, are considered Promoters. 0-6 is considered negative and are call Detractors.
Promoters are important because they result in business or revenue growth…they have lower churn, they buy more and make more referrals. The overall Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. As with all survey based metrics, there is inherent bias to the downside and can fluctuate dramatically based on when the question is asked. A recent study by Forrester suggests that customers are 10 times more likely to recommend a brand when an employee at a physical location or channel is able to answer all customer questions. Agent Assist makes knowledge actionable and helps even new agents navigate new and complex requests effectively, increasing the odds of answering all customer questions to your customers’ satisfaction.
The overall Net Promoter Score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters. As with all survey based metrics, there is inherent bias to the downside and can fluctuate dramatically based on when the question is asked.
A recent study by Forrester suggests that customers are 10 times more likely to recommend a brand when an employee at a physical location or channel is able to answer all customer questions. Agent Assist makes knowledge actionable and helps even new agents navigate new and complex requests effectively, increasing the odds of answering all customer questions to your customers’ satisfaction.
Unlike NPS, Customer Effort Score (CES) instead looks to gauge the customer experience by understanding how easy it was to do business with the organization. Low effort interactions lead to increased loyalty (higher retention) and an increased propensity to spend more. In an HBR article entitled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers”, it was summed up well with the quote “When it comes to service, companies create loyal customers primarily by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.”
CES is typically asked as a 0 to 10 scale and is phrased as “To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement: On a scale of 0-10, ACME made it easy to handle my issue”, with 0 being strongly disagree to 10 being strongly agree. The phrasing of the question and utilizing the word “easy” is intentional as this metric is centered around measuring effort.
Given the nature of CES measuring effort dealing with an interaction with an organization, the ideal time to ask this question is immediately as an interaction is concluded.