Agents Find Technology Unhelpful, Gartner Finds

Roughly a quarter (24 percent) of contact center agents find their interactions with company systems and tools to be the biggest factor impacting their productivity, Gartner found in a study of 2,024 front-line representatives across 351 teams and 29 companies (both B2B and B2C). Only 16 percent of representatives find that systems and tools actually help them handle customer issues and even fewer—just 12 percent—say tools simplify their day-to-day work.

"Leaders have heavily invested in technology to boost the service experience, but have unwittingly hampered the rep experience by doing so; reps find that the technology they’re using to provide top-notch customer service is actually inhibiting their ability to deliver that outcome,” says Pete Slease, principal executive advisor at Gartner.

In the span of just one day, the report states, reps use an average of 8.2 different systems and tools in customer interactions, have 23 colleague interactions while resolving customer issues, and encounter an average of 130.5 different tech support interactions.

Other factors hurt rep experience as well, including product complexity, resolution complexity, customer pressure, and others, the report revealed. But what can companies do to alleviate these pressures and help cut down some of these challenges?

“Leaders should shift their attention from a laser-focus on improving the customer service experience to improving the rep experience, especially as it relates to the systems and tools that they use. Many of the solutions to the challenges that have been created by technology are simple fixes that can be unearthed with smart observation and questioning of reps’ activity,” Slease says.

Gartner narrows these “fixes” down to four key changes: eliminate unnecessary contacts, keep customers on the web, promote a controller posture, and avoid the next issue.

Eliminating unnecessary contacts and keeping customers on the web are two system-focused solutions that businesses can make. “In addition to spending resources reacting to customer issues, service leaders should invest in proactively identifying potential issues and communication them back to the rest of the business,” according to the report. And it’s crucial to strive for web stickiness, which means trying to keep customers in the realm of web support. Every channel switch results in a 10 percent reduction in loyalty, according to the report, and almost half of customers visit the company-owned website first, before calling a rep. It’s important to avoid this escalation, according to Gartner.

Meanwhile, promoting a controller posture and avoiding the next issue are more rep-focused changes. Though it’s important for reps to focus on delivering good conversation and experience—Gartner calls this an “empathizer” approach—it’s critical to make conflict resolution a priority. This is called the “controller” posture, and it is one that reps should strive to adopt. They should also make an effort to avoid future issues by identifying drivers of repeat calls and working to prevent them proactively.

Reduce downstream callbacks not just by resolving what customers call in about, but also proactively resolving related implicit issues customers may not be aware of, the report recommends. 

“Together, these changes can help improve the rep experiences, which will eventually improve customer experience as well. Flip your focus from improving the customer service experience to improving the rep experience in order to create an outstanding customer service experience,” Slease says.

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