Examples of powerful experiences that move us, delight us, and even transform us are all around. Consumer-focused experience design is everywhere. And increasingly we are hearing amazing tales of enterprise-focused transformations that are revolutionizing everything from manufacturing to transportation.
We spend an extraordinary amount of time thinking through where and how our customers expect to transact, interact, and even explore. Engagements are carefully crafted, technologies secured, and workflows established to ensure that customers traverse their “choose your own adventure” style of connected, repeatable experiences. Every effort is made to serve customers rightsized engagements—not just for a moment but for their moment. The “work” of being a customer has never been so easy.
So why is the frontline work of delivering experiences the last to get a redesign?
This isn’t to say that the solutions and systems that craft, organize, and operationalize experiences haven’t undergone a radical upgrade. A wealth of technologies and solutions exists today—from the tools we use to reimagine websites to the solutions we leverage to deliver self-determined, self-service engagements via chatbots, virtual agents, and highly contextual content our brave buyers may choose to experience for themselves at any hour of the day, anywhere in the world, and on any and every device imaginable.
But the actual task of delivering on customer experience (CX) strategies in a contact center is hard work that requires an agent to relearn fundamental human actions and reactions. Some of the tools we put in front of agents can be counterintuitive, unnatural, and just plain hard. In our quest to automate processes and digitally transform our enterprisewide communications, we have (rightfully) spent time focused on how our communications systems service our customers. Then we’ve asked our agents to spend hours (and yes, I know that is an understatement) to relearn systems, devise shortcuts (aka workarounds) for disconnected systems, and essentially retrain their brain to get their job done.
The Importance of Agent Experience
Ordinary is over. That ordinary experience of expecting our contact center agents to conform to the tools and processes built in a one-size-fits-all model of work is over. Thinking that “it isn’t over until we say it is over” or “we have plenty of agents, and there are plenty of people who would love to work here” is no longer defensible. Why? Well, unfortunately for contact centers, what has been dubbed “the Great Resignation” is real. Across all industries and job functions, employees aren’t just resigning; they are also reevaluating and redefining their work lives. Although pay and benefits will always be important for employees, this “Great Refactoring” has empowered people to actively walk away from the ordinary and wait for roles that better align with their life goals, outlooks, and even culture.
Think of this: In the U.S., a record-breaking 4.5 million people quit their jobs in November 2021. This means that about 3% of the U.S. workforce walked out on their job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Also consider that at the end of December 2021, the DOL reported nearly 11 million job openings—an increase of nearly 2% from the month before. By the end of the year, the DOL concluded, there were 4.6 million more jobs than unemployed workers in the U.S.
Translation: Nobody is rushing back for any ordinary job.
Workforce experts all agree: This isn’t about higher wages alone. The current job market is ripe for job jumping, and with that jump often comes a higher wage. But this is about why employees think about jumping in the first place. This is about workers needing to feel successful, knowing that the infrastructure, processes, and operations of the company they choose to join are set up for them to succeed.
Designing Beyond the Ordinary
So, what does moving beyond ordinary look like? It starts where it stops—with the agent. Agent-led design should go hand in hand with customer-led design. One begets the other, in the same way a positive agent experience empowers the agent to deliver an exceptional customer experience.
The time of ordinary experience is over. The questions we need to ask in order to move beyond the ordinary won’t be comfortable or easy. What is your agent experience, and who is at the center of that design exercise? What does personalization mean for your agent? Is that capacity for personalization mirrored in the personalization your customers expect? If your bottom line is directly impacted by your front line, can you really afford to ignore the frontline users and their work experiences?
It’s time to empower agents with contextualized workspaces that adapt to every interaction and provide customer data and information to support their interaction workflow. It’s time to put agents back into the design picture so that they can be the CX front line our customers demand and expect. Need some extra inspiration? Check out this recent conversation between Constellation Research’s own R “Ray” Wang and Dhwani Sonhi, vice president of product management and user experience design at 8x8. From the discussion of the new experiences powered by analytics, automation, and artificial intelligence to information about bringing what matters to an agent into a flexible workspace, this is a dynamic conversation about getting the wheels of new agent-led design moving.