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Why agile workforces are key for good CX – and how to build them

In contact centers, agility is a critical quality. A truly agile workforce can flex around changing contexts and customer demand. But how do contact center leaders build empowered, agile teams? The right tools and coaching techniques can help optimize processes, improve agent effectiveness and preserve customer value.

2020 was a stark reminder that you can’t predict what’s around the corner – so you need to be prepared for anything. A lot of businesses aren’t, and it’s been a steep learning curve. Now, leaders recognize that agility is vital if they’re to adapt and succeed moving forward.

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What does an agile workforce look like?

Agility – in its true sense – is the ability to flex around and respond to changing events. It’s an attractive quality, and one that visionary contact center leaders are prioritizing. An agile workforce is one that’s competent, confident and communicative: able to surface the right information quickly, apply it intelligently and share it effectively. But those skills don’t arise by accident. Building agile workforces relies on the strategic combination of the right training and the right tools.

Why do contact centers need agile workforces?

It’s a significant divergence from how contact center teams have typically been built and managed to-date. Contact centers tend to work by rote: there are set answers to set problems, and very little room for flexibility. When success is so heavily weighted towards operational metrics like average handling time, the quickest solution tends to win – which isn't always the best solution for the customer or the business. The pandemic exposed quite how inadequate that approach is. During lockdown, agents dealt with changed customer demands and almost constant uncertainty. And, away from the office, they were cut off from the management and guidance they were used to. In that context, efficiency is only one piece of the puzzle. Agents also need to be emotionally resilient and empowered to work independently to perform well.

What are the benefits of building agile workforces?

78% of customers say a single contact center interaction can permanently change how they feel about a company – so it’s critical to ensure frontline teams are properly equipped and empowered. Meeting the raised expectations of customers means less reliance on systematic, routinized, metric-driven ways of working, and taking a more human-led approach.

It’s worth doing. An effective, agile front line can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Positive experiences with agents are a potent driver of customer loyalty. CSAT (customer satisfaction) is a proven outcome of investment in tools and training for agents, and that in turn pushes up overall CLV (customer lifetime value). As well as increasing revenues, agile ways of working can also reduce overheads. Well-trained agents with the right tools can accurately handle more interactions in less time, reducing the cost of customer service.

How do you build agile workforces?

There are three critical areas where contact center leaders need to focus their time.

1. Tools

Agile teams need an arsenal of tools. The right technology can help optimize both customer-facing interactions, and internal team coaching and culture.

On the customer-facing side, dashboard and ticketing systems help agents work smarter. They surface information when and where it’s needed, so agents can see, understand – and crucially, improve – their performance in real-time.

Internally, agent performance scorecards can help team leads deliver more impactful, personalized coaching. By combining a number of qualitative and quantitative metrics, they offer a holistic overview of performance. They enable leaders to give agents relevant development goals that they feel supported to action.

2. Coaching

But even the best tools won’t help if they’re not in the hands of a happy and confident workforce. Sensitive coaching is important to ensure that agents understand where, how and why they can uplevel their performance, and feel empowered and motivated to do so.

In a contact center, coaching should focus on two very different, but complementary components:  human relationships and performance data.

Data’s vital. It helps leaders understand agent performance and engagement, so they can act quickly and provide the right training. But only collecting customer feedback gives a one-sided view. Coupling it with agents’ own feedback on their interactions exposes perception gaps and puts data into context, so leaders can make more informed coaching decisions.

Quantitative data like average handle time or resolution rate should always be balanced with more ‘human’ metrics, like the agent’s personal strengths and weaknesses. These can be mapped on agent performance scorecards to create a detailed basis for coaching, and tailored performance goals.

3. Process optimization

Leaders can look for ways to uplevel existing processes, too. In many cases, great foundations are already in place: they just need to be optimized.

Agent workflows are a good place to start. Streamlining them to ensure that agents are able to find the right information quickly and easily is an important step towards more autonomy. Likewise, being transparent about where agents can improve means they’re more able to course-correct independently. Ensuring agents can self-serve not only improves their experience, but that of the customer, too.

Contact center agents are the front line of customer experience. That means they’re uniquely positioned to gather insights and feedback that can be deployed across the whole business. Making sure that’s captured is key. Connecting the agent’s workspace with a wider feedback loop, where they can flag ideas and relay suggestions, means customers are kept at the very center of your strategy.

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Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software platform that empowers organizations to deliver exceptional experiences and build deep relationships with their customers and employees.

With insights from Qualtrics, organizations can identify and resolve the greatest friction points in their business, retain and engage top talent, and bring the right products and services to market. Nearly 20,000 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’ advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle.

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