Not too long ago, Dan Regenold, CEO of Frame USA, decided to spend a workday with one of his customer service representatives. Dan’s agents have a healthy daily task list. They answer and respond to live chats. They fill orders. They handle shipping and facilitate the billing process.

At the end of the day that Dan spent with his agent, he had found that “the job of a customer service rep requires a patient, self-motivated, hardworking individual. Not everyone on this planet has what it takes to hold this position”.

The Price of Happiness

Customer service agents often feel overworked and under appreciated.  While this can have a negative impact on workplace morale, the real question to ask is: how valuable is a CSR’s happiness in relation to a company’s bottom line?

As Blake Morgan explains in an article for Forbes, “Whether answering the phone, a customer tweet on Twitter or even an email from a customer, you want the people representing your brand to feel their best.” In a study conducted by the University of Warwick in New Zealand, it was discovered that employees that were “made happier” (using a variety of experiments) were 12% more productive.

More importantly (and more difficult to measure) is how a CSR’s happiness can affect the overall customer experience. Engaged representatives lead to engaged customers and engaged customers lead to interactions that are shared via word of mouth and social media.

CRM Magazine did some research on this recently and here is what they found:

  • 90% of consumers confirmed that an agent’s perceived happiness directly affects their overall customer experience.
  • 66% said that their experience with an agent significantly affects their impression of the overall brand.
  • Agents believe they can be up to 50% more productive if they have an integrated, multichannel, customer engagement desktop.

What do those numbers mean for contact center managers who strive for a seamless and enjoyable customer experience? According to the aforementioned piece from CRM Magazine, “gone are the days when an agent, according to Aberdeen, used five screens to access separate systems to obtain needed information, or spent 26% of her time looking for relevant data across different systems during a customer interaction.”

Today’s technology offers solutions that can empower CSRs to communicate with customers across a suite of integrated channels. These solutions mitigate agent frustration while creating more engaged and positive agent/customer interactions.

The Value of Retention

Remember the statement that Dan Regenold made after spending the day with one of his customer service agents? “Not everyone on this planet has what it takes to hold this position.”

It takes a special skill set and personality type to address customer complaints, solve technical problems, and recite the same approved and scripted answers to the same customer questions day in and day out. So when a company does find an agent that can handle the job and perform well on a consistent basis, that company should do all that it can to keep that agent happy in their role.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Customer service agents consistently rank as having one of the highest turnover rates in the world. Call centers typically have an attrition rate of 30-45%; that’s compared to 15.1% across other industries. Just as companies should know their cost of customer acquisition, they should be aware of their cost of agent turnover.

While every company is different when it comes to turnover costs, Entrepreneur magazine estimates that the typical customer service team will spend $4,000 on a new-hire, and more than $4,800 for training. Also, 70% of customer service workers will quit their jobs within one year. Depending on a company’s  level of training and recruiting, these numbers can have a devastating effect on net profits. With such high stakes at play, there is an inherent value in providing solutions that can make customer service agents happy in their workspaces.

What Do Customer Service Agents Need?

If a CSR’s happiness and retention have a measurable impact on customer experience and net profits then it is important to look at what it is that they need.

Recognition

Psychology Today has reported on an interesting study that was conducted with 1,200 employees across different industries. The study found that “83% of respondents said recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than any rewards or gifts.” Additionally, “70% of survey respondents reported their most meaningful recognition had no dollar value.”

Based on those numbers, companies should look for unique ways to recognize the hard work that a CSR does. More and more companies are finding that by integrating gamification, they can drive employee engagement.

Aesthetic

Employees spend as much if not more time at the office as they do at home awake with their families. It makes sense to have a workstation and environment that is relaxing, especially with the level of stress that is sometimes involved with the job of a CSR.

Lighting can play a big part of the agent experience. While many contact centers use low cost fluorescent lights, a more subtle and calming light can ease nerves and provide warmth to the office.

There have been many studies regarding the best color to paint office walls. For efficiency and focus, Entrepreneur suggests looking at low-wavelength colors like restful green and calming blue.

Tools

Customer service representatives often feel that they do not have the right tools to do their job effectively. Here are some key focus points that companies should look at to aptly equip their CS team.

  • Hardware – CSRs are far more efficient when they are not burdened by outdated equipment.
  • Software – Agents need to have faith in the channels they have access to for customer interactions. A seamless, integrated, multi-channel solution should be available to enable them to create a quality customer experience.
  • Training – Sometimes, an agent may feel as though they don’t have the tools they need to do their job when in actuality, they do. They just don’t have the training to use the tools that are available to them. Any time new software or policies and procedures are implemented, the CSR should be kept in the loop.

In Conclusion

The happiness of a customer service representative can have a positive effect on the best interests of any company. Creating a happy CSR can be challenging, but not impossible. Providing a workspace with up to date tools and a calming environment, along with a culture of recognition, can keep agents engaged and on point.

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