The 4 Steps to Building the Right Agent Desktop

Thirty-five percent of customers have become angry when talking to customer service.

Feeling unappreciated is the top reason customers switch products and services.

Sixty-two percent of customers would prefer to hand out parking tickets than wait in an automated phone tree for service or have to repeat themselves multiple times to different team members.

We've all been in situations where we can relate to these data points, where agents don't know who their customers are; don't know what their customers have purchased; don't know what their customers have done prior to contacting them; and don't have the tools or knowledge to help them.

Great customer service comes down to four focus areas:

  1. Strategy -- aligning your customer service strategy with your company strategy and mission. This means that you don't want to run your service operations as a cost center, if you are trying to differentiate on customer experience.
  2. Operations -- standardizing processes and success measures across channels and touchpoints to seamlessly support customers along their journey.
  3. People -- empowering agents with the right policies, processes, and incentives to do the right thing for customers.
  4. Technology -- equipping agents with modern technology to help them be productive and effective in their work.

Strategy and operations should be tackled first. Organizational issues should support your strategy, and so should technology. Technology modernization can be a straightforward endeavor; great solutions are available to help agents understand customers and the context of their inquiries and journeys. These solutions also give agents access to the right knowledge and data, embed automation to free agents from repetitive tasks; and use artificial intelligence to focus agents on work that matters.

Unfortunately, no single-vendor solution offers all of these capabilities today. This means that you have to assemble the right agent desktop yourself. To do this, follow these four steps:

  1. Start by building a solid customer service agent desktop foundation. Adopt a modern agent desktop solution from a customer service vendor. These solutions allow for customer identification, such as phone numbers; emails; social handles; transaction-system-based customer IDs; and customer understanding, such as tier, products owned, and customer sentiment. These solutions also allow inquiry capture, workflow, and resolution.
  2. Maximize agent productivity with efficiency. Layer on process guidance to standardize agent actions through disconnected applications. Options include scripts that guide agents through conversations and actions; tip balloons that break down processes into step-by-step instructions for agents to follow; unified agent desktops that present agents with a single pane of glass for all of their applications; and robotic process automation, where software robots mimic human actions. Companies can automate entire end-to-end processes, such as account onboarding or claims awards, and agents can manage exceptions.
  3. Improve agent effectiveness with better content and coaching. Curated content from within a knowledge base can only take you so far. Organizations should add cognitive search solutions to extract information from repositories or unstructured and structured data that resides in file systems, bug databases, streams, APIs, and other applications. Explore agent-facing chatbots to help understand agent intent and surface the right content or data in line with the process. Look for ways to make training more bite-sized and available within the agent desktop, with content directly tied to quality results.
  4. Leverage data insights to improve customer intimacy and predict next actions. Use customer success solutions to surface a health score to help agents better understand customers. Use customer analytics to extend profile data with demographic and relationship data for better matching. Use predictive analytics to provide next-best actions for agents to take. Use real-time speech and text analytics to surface customer emotions. Together these tools improve outcomes by helping agents understand the value of customers and their journeys—for example, is this the first time they've called in or the fifth time?

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.