New Contact Center Report: AI Underutilized, but It's Key to Improving Performance

min read
New Contact Center Report: AI Underutilized, but It's Key to Improving Performance

Contact center agents could be the key to your business’s success. They serve as the voice and face of your brand because they are often the only human interaction customers will have in today’s digital-first world. In fact, over 70% of all customer interactions with businesses use voice either initially or after a digital interaction, according to a recent study by Metrigy.

If they can provide an amazing experience for your customers, you’ll build unstoppable brand loyalty and customer lifetime value. If they can’t, you risk increased churn, lower conversion rates, and a declining online reputation. Our Buyer Experience Report shows that more than three-quarters of consumers will stop doing business with a brand after just one bad experience. First impressions matter more than ever, and contact center agents make it happen.

The key to happy customers is happy, well-equipped agents. But what makes agents happy and what do they need to succeed? Does coaching actually work? Do contact center managers and agents see things differently? And how does the technology you use to analyze customer-agent interactions fit into the equation? These are the questions we will answer in the State of the Contact Center Report.

For this report, we surveyed 500 contact center agents and managers in the U.S. and U.K. on how they work, how satisfied they are with their jobs, and what they need to be successful. Get the full report here and check out the highlights below to see what they have to say!

Are Contact Center Agents who Work Remotely Happier?

The happiness of your contact center agents—and your customers—depends on the flexibility of their work environment. Today’s remote-first work mentality makes it easy to assume that remote workers are the happiest, but the results of this survey show otherwise. Most agents report having a hybrid work arrangement (64%) and only 16% report working fully remote. Agents who have a hybrid remote/in-office work arrangement report being the most satisfied with their jobs (68%) vs agents who are fully remote (44%). 

What work arrangement makes for the happiest agents?

Agents with a hybrid work arrangement are the most likely to say that they are “very satisfied” with their jobs. Fully remote contact center agents actually report a slightly lower rate of being very satisfied with their jobs. 

What work arrangement makes for the happiest customers?

Contact center agents and managers disagree about what work environment enables them to provide the best customer service. Most agents said that a hybrid remote/on-site environment enables them to provide the best service (60%). Only about a third of managers agree. The difference between the way managers and agents feel about working exclusively on-site is even starker, with only 18% of agents saying that a fully on-site work arrangement enables them to provide the best service, whereas 35% of contact center managers think the office is the best place for them to be.

Contact Center Job Satisfaction is High, but so is Turnover

It’s no secret that contact center agent turnover is very high, and our survey showed that 60% of agents say they’ll leave their posts in the next six months, and managers report the exact same attrition rate. The surprising dichotomy is that most also report being quite satisfied with their jobs. Though it appears that contact center agents in the U.K. are more likely to stay put than those in the U.S.

Why do contact center agents quit?

Contact center workers are not leaving because of the work itself—only 13% said they would leave their job because of boring or repetitive work. Nearly 40% say they’ll leave because there are better opportunities elsewhere, while over a third say they’ll head for greener pastures because of a lack of advancement opportunities or poor work-life balance.

Improving Agent Satisfaction Boosts Customer Satisfaction

You’ve heard it before—happy agents equal happier customers. Over 60% of contact center managers think improving agent job satisfaction would have a considerable impact on customer satisfaction scores. But improving agent satisfaction doesn’t just impact CSAT scores—40% believe it also improves agent retention and nearly 60% believe satisfied agents improves operational efficiency. 

Contact Center Agents Like Coaching

Providing amazing customer experiences on the phone is a complex task. Agents require coaching from managers in order to properly handle the myriad situations that arise and the growing range of products and services that companies offer. 

A large majority of agents actually feel positively about the coaching they receive, with 86% of call center agents saying that feedback on their call performance has a positive impact on the level of customer service they provide. 

Contact center agent coaching is effective and appreciated

Contact center managers and agents agree—coaching agents is an effective way to provide better customer service. 

But don’t overdo it on coaching!

Coaching can easily turn into micromanaging if you do it too often. Over three-quarters of contact center employees who said they have coaching sessions more than once a week are more likely to quit in the next six months than those who get weekly coaching.

A Day in the Life of a Contact Center Agent

The customer is always right, right? Tell this to anyone who has worked in the service industry and watch their eyes roll out of the back of their heads. Working in customer service has its highs and lows, to say the least. Super-nice people can make your day with just a smile and a thank you. Rude jerks make you want to rush to your first strong drink of the night. And then there’s the beyond-the-pale, anxiety-inducing behavior like sexual harassment and personal attacks that drive many people out of the industry altogether. Contact center agents deal with it all, every day.

Customers are rude to agents more often than they’re thankful

People call often call businesses in varying states of distress, and contact center agents are the ones on the receiving end of their ire or gratitude—which customers dish out in nearly equal measures. Nearly 40% of agents report often dealing with rude or angry behavior, while 35% get frequent thanks and expressions of gratitude.

Agents often experience personal attacks and harassment

The phone creates a degree of separation between customers and the people who are there to help them, and unfortunately, this brings out the worst behavior in many people. Nearly a quarter of contact center agents report enduring personal attacks, discriminatory comments, and sexual harassment.

Female agents experience more rude behavior and more often catch the blame for things they can’t control, while male and female agents report experiencing the same rates of sexual harassment (18%). Male agents face more personal attacks (26%) than female agents (17%). 

One in five contact center agents regularly experience personal attacks, discriminatory comments, or sexual harassment.

The Impact of Conversation Intelligence and AI in the Contact Center

Conversation intelligence and AI are currently underutilized in the contact center. A little under a third reported using conversation intelligence to analyze calls—about the same that reporting using manual call listening for QA purposes. Even fewer reporting using AI in the contact center. 

Most call center managers will implement a conversation intelligence solution in the next year

Conversation intelligence may be underutilized in the contact center—but not for long as 85% of call center managers say they are likely to implement a conversation intelligence solution in the next year. 

Conversation intelligence is key to better agent performance evaluation

Most call center managers say they can’t analyze enough calls to accurately evaluate agent performance (62%). There is a clear opportunity here, however. While over half said they can’t score enough calls to accurately evaluate agent performance—about the same number said that having appropriate call analytics technology is the best way to make coaching more effective.

Conversation intelligence can provide the context that agents need to provide better experiences

Contact center agents are pros at handling the unexpected, but they want context to make their lives easier and their customers’ experiences better. Since most buying journeys begin online, providing agents with context from the digital journey can give them the details they need to provide better experiences. Over a third of contact center agents think that having some information about the customer available before the call begins can help them better understand customer needs.

Want to see more? Get the full State of the Contact Center Report here.

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