The X Factor for CX Starts with AX: Why Ambassadors Not Agents Are Changing the Game
It’s a fact – one of the highest employee turnover rates across all industries is associated with contact center jobs, and specifically contact center agents. Over the years, as traditional, operational decision makers have been under pressure to get more productivity with less resources, agents – who are often the frontline voice for brands at times when customers can be the most distressed – have been forced to sit for hours, days, weeks and years in small cubicles in crowded physical facilities.
- They have been measured on how quickly they can get customers off calls or the amount of billable time they achieve in a pay period.
- They have been monitored on a random basis, often receiving vague feedback on how to improve.
- They have been placed in their jobs without adequate training, then punished when customers demand escalation to a manager when the agent is unable to make decisions, while conversations turn heated.
- They are exposed to angry callers, to emotional outbursts, to rude comments from total strangers, and while they may take some comfort in making some number of people happy during each day, very often by the time they leave the contact center, they may have a long commute back home, meals to prepare for their families, emotionally drained on the easiest days, and mentally tortured on the hardest days.
This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of agents around the world, who are also worried that “bots” will take their place, and worried that given changes to technology and economies, their employers may be facing existential threats (for example, the return of contact center jobs to the countries where brands are doing the most business, given the growing enlightenment around the value of investing in competitive CX, and new technologies that make new business models possible).
Unhappy, paranoid, exhausted and vulnerable agents in traditional environments do nobody any sustainable good. When agents are distracted, customer outcomes degenerate.
When customers are dissatisfied, brands lose business and reputations.
It’s time for a new “X Factor” and that is a brilliant combination of Customer Experience and Agent Experience: CX & AX harmonized and made possible with a fresh point of view, new growth opportunities for all who believe that happiness really matters, and advanced technologies, including AI, that help the next generation of service providers turn agents into true brand Ambassadors.
When we started Activus Connect, we established our offering based on this important principle: create a company where human beings who genuinely love working with the public and who are naturally inclined to be cheerful, motivated to learn and grow, and grateful for opportunities, can build and expand a professional career and earn a living wage all while working from home.
Our entire team is comprised of industry experts who have experienced the commoditized version of the contact center outsourcing industry and share a simple vision of Customer Experience enabled by Ambassador Experience. A vision that evolves and elevates our outsourcing industry into one in which the value of the outcomes we produce for our customers is equally important as the quality of the work experience we provide to our Ambassadors – experiences that are tangible and important such as proper compensation, preparation, opportunities and working conditions.
The combination of our professional backgrounds in the CX world, our personal journeys and our desire to build a new generation of Customer Experience Provider (CXP), supported by new technologies and value-based people practices will continue to make Activus Connect a special company.
“It’s not an accident that the best places to work are also the places that make the most money.”
Gordon Bethune, former CEO of Continental Airlines, gave this iconic quote to The New York Times in 2001 completely transforming the business. Continental had just emerged from bankruptcy when he took the helm in 1994, and profit forecast was bleak with another bankruptcy on the horizon.
Instead of slashing costs and cutting jobs, Bethune doubled down on employees, investing in benefits, celebrations, and profit sharing. In just a few years, Continental transformed from one of the worst-rated airlines to a national powerhouse with more J.D. Power Awards than any other airline in the world. Stock prices rose from $2 to over $50 a share as Continental was named one of America’s best places to work.
Examples like these are not lost on corporate leaders.
According to Gartner, 89% of businesses expect to compete primarily on CX in 2019, and decision makers in the C-Suites across industries cite it as one of their top priorities for the coming years.
Employee experiences directly impact customer experiences, so investing in people is a direct investment in the level of a company’s CX and, ultimately their business results and bottom lines.
From Agent to Ambassador: The Key Is Authenticity and Agility
We’ve seen a huge transformation of the CX world, and it is exciting to now see the evolution of some of the least satisfying jobs in the world to some of the most satisfying. We only hire the best, and we dedicate our resources to ensure the naturally kind, energetic and positive people we bring in as Ambassadors – not just agents – have a safe, supportive and inspiring work environment.
We understand that life happens to everyone and in addition to providing above average compensation, we also provide access to earned compensation, daily – helping our Ambassadors be more successful in their personal lives means they are more focused when they are supporting our customers, clients.
We provide them fulfilling, meaningful jobs, keeping them connected to our entire “family” of Ambassadors and the coaches responsible for ensuring education, training, and ongoing encouragement and support.
We keep them connected to the bigger picture, both for our business but also for our clients’ businesses, tapping their creativity and enthusiasm for the products and services they represent, taking their ideas seriously and rewarding them for going above and beyond traditionally defined roles.
We allow our community of contributors – from Ambassadors who always come first because they are on the front lines – to the coaches – human resources team – technology team – finance and accounting team – to get to know and appreciate each other and to back each other up.
We strive every day to reduce stress in what can be an unavoidably stressful environment at times, especially at peak times, or during unusual situations, by providing the information, technology platform and “empathy tools” they need to respond with grace and kindness no matter how hard things may seem.
When the Ambassador Experience is well designed, what are the results? Caring, helpful, personalized service, and representation of brands, competitive experiences that are more generous, more understanding, and full of gratitude for their customers’ loyalty.
Happy Ambassadors, happy customers, stronger brands, greater insights and the software and communications systems to make it all work and scale.
Investing in and caring for people feels good, is the right thing to do, and speaking of scale when this all happens on a state-of-the-art, intelligent platform with analytics, reporting and a “closed loop” which continuously improves quality, it pays dividends at unprecedented scale.
We look forward to sharing with you in more detail how we are investing in this optimistic vision with our idealistic principles, and a rich “operating system” that turns the idea of happiness into behaviors that tangibly impact outcomes – measurable and meaningful. Stay tuned and stay happy!