We know that requiring less of our customers results in happy and loyal customers (check out Matt Dixon’s The Effortless Experience). Customers do not want to have to interact with a service provider, but when they do, the experience should be easy and a delight. So how does an organization unlock ease for their customers? The key is making it easy for frontline agents to deliver empathetic and effective customer experiences.
The work of a frontline agent is hard. Juggling various tools that may not be intuitive, accessing and digesting methods and procedures, managing the call handling time, and engaging with each customer as if they are the agent’s sole care in the world is a great challenge. However, we can make this easier by creating tools that are intuitive to free up agents’ mental and emotional capacity so they can focus on the customer.
Ask the frontline what would make their jobs easier
No, I don’t mean the typical focus group. I am suggesting borrowing from anthropology and taking an ethnographic approach to observe and gain insights on what matters to agents. U.C. Berkley’s Exec Online Leading Innovative Change course teaches effective techniques in this important area. We should not expect agents to translate their emotional and functional needs into corporate-speak. The onus is on us to immerse ourselves in the agent experience and meet them where they are with empathy and concern. The human connection can help us tune in to emotional needs that impact how our agents work. Empathy interviews such as the ones recommended in the Human Centered Approach to Design can help us understand agents’ unsaid needs, prime opportunities for innovation.
Co-create – invite the frontline agent into the design process
Let’s trust that our frontline agents are creative and smart. The solution often does not require significant financial investment. Prior to throwing money at a problem to later discover the solution was over-engineered, we can do more with less by prototyping a solution and putting it in front of agents to get their feedback. Furthermore, I recommend quickly iterating on the prototype in real-time with the agents inviting their contributions to the design. Through Human Centered Design we may discover that the best solution might be as easy as the move of a button or link from one system flow to another where it makes more sense with the flow of the customer interaction or reduces unnecessary clicks here and there. The result is often a tweak that may be low cost, but may have significant impacts on the frontline agent’s stress level and ability to create the desired customer experience. A bonus to having engaged agents in co-creation means having the frontline’s buy-in.
Communicate with transparency
Once we have the insights and a plan of action, we should check in with agents and communicate with them on progress, setbacks, and successes. This type of transparency builds trust and helps agents know that the organization cares about their experience and values their input so much that we want them to be informed as stakeholders and share in the success. This lateral form of communication and efforts in transparency should result in mutual investment in the success of the organization and help agents deliver the effortless customer experience they desire
Making agents our top priority by fostering communication, listening to their needs, and equipping them with easy intuitive systems empowers, and allows them to focus on their top priority – the customer.
Flosshilda LaBrado, aka “Flo,” brings twenty-two years of experience in customer, enterprise and support leadership to complex enterprise and technology environments, helping to develop strategy and vision. As Senior Manager, Frontline Systems Experience at T-Mobile, she leads a national team of 10 direct reports who deliver operational excellence in customer care and sales.
Her previous positions within T-Mobile have included Systems Support Manager – Sales and Serivce CS Ops; Senior Systems Support Analyst; and Call Quality Specialist. Flo is a true business leader and frontline experience advocate who is passionate about people development and diversity, equity and inclusion, and is also a Harry Potter enthusiast!