Customer Experience Contact CenterContact center agents are often forgotten brand entities, yet their contributions on a daily basis drive the customer experience for companies. If things go wrong with contact center agents, that can have a major impact on customer engagement and brand loyalty.

According to a new report, “Agent Apathy: The Root Cause of Poor Customer Service,” 87% of contact center leaders acknowledged that agents experience a moderate to high level of stress during the workday.

The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) in partnership with Five9 released the report that reveals that contact centers tend to place the agent low on the scale of organizational importance, resulting in detached agents and, ultimately, poor customer service. To avoid the consequences of agent apathy, the report provides actionable insights that focus on how to raise the significance of valuable employees.

Report findings were taken from, “The Modern Agent: Understanding Performance, Productivity, and Positive Results," a survey issued to 404 contact center leaders by ICMI and Five9 in early 2015 to discover the state of today's contact center agent and how to ensure their success. 

“As the importance of the customer experience heightens, so does the role of the contact center,” said Justin Robbins, senior analyst for ICMI. “At the core of it all is the agent, individuals who, day in and day out, are the true frontline and the voice of our organizations. While our discovery that most of them are under-equipped and over-stressed is not a surprising one, it is unacceptable nonetheless. This report exposes the dirty little secrets that are holding a majority of organizations back and provides food for thought on how they can drive success moving forward.”

Contact center agents have seen their roles expanded in recent years as they juggle a higher workload volume. Today, according to the report, 48% of contact center agents support multiple channels, and 75% of contact center leaders plan on that number increasing. As a result of these increased responsibilities, contact centers’ current low prioritization of agents will not be sufficient in the coming years.

“Agents have a critical role in the success of any call center,” said Liz Osborn, vice president, product and solution marketing, Five9. “They must be provided with the best tools and solutions possible so that they can perform at their best. The results of this survey underscore the necessity for successful call centers to correctly prioritize what makes the biggest impact on their business.”

Agents’ basic needs are not being met, the report notes.

For example, 71% of respondents recognized difficulties with their systems and inefficiency of their tools as the top contributor to agents’ workday stress. Being equipped with the necessary tools to do their job effectively is thought to have the greatest positive impact on performance.

“It is time for contact centers to re-evaluate their priorities and put their most important asset—the agent—at the forefront,” the report says.

To start this transition, contact center leaders must ask themselves the following:

Do your agents have the authority to do what is necessary to resolve the customer's issue?

Are their tools and technologies as efficient and effective as possible?

Are you holding them accountable for things they can actually affect?

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