Service organizations that make their frontline reps a top priority can improve both productivity and customer loyalty, according to new research from Gartner, Inc. The study of more than 2,000 customer service reps from nearly 30 companies worldwide shows that by making reps a priority, service organizations can increase their productivity by 19 percent and their intent to leave decreases by 25 percent.
However, the average service organization operates under a model that puts the customer as the top priority. And, for good reason. An above-average customer experience correlates with increased customer loyalty.
"We've been living in an age of quality — organizations are focused on improving the quality of customer interactions, in order to increase customer loyalty," said Rick DeLisi, principal executive advisor at Gartner. "We see this in online services through more options, more control and more functionality, as well as in live service interactions by creating a more 'effortless experience' for the customer."
This translates into more systems and tools for the service rep to utilize to not only be more productive, but also to provide a more seamless and effortless customer experience. By default, this is creating a much larger problem: More complexity and hurdles for the rep to overcome in order to solve a customer's problem.
Despite the investment in adding more systems and tools to improve the frontline, service leaders see little return. While these tools and systems should support and enable success, a majority (76 percent) of service leaders report they struggle with the planning and execution of these projects. Research shows that the average live service interaction is taking longer than it did in the past, and most service organizations report either flat or increased call volumes year over year. It has become clear that these projects do not return the expected productivity gains.
"The element that most service leaders overlook is what we call the 'rep experience' — we're so focused on the customer experience and how it translates into increased loyalty. Or, why it's important to feel empathy for the customer," said DeLisi. "However, our research shows that the rep experience is just as crucial to ensuring a high-quality customer experience."
Gartner defines the rep experience as: The interactions of frontline reps with systems and tools required to resolve customer issues. To shift focus from the customer experience to the rep experience, service leaders must understand that by improving the rep experience, the organization will see improvement in operational efficiency and the customer experience. In fact, improved rep experience can help to increase customer satisfaction by 11 percent and reduce customer effort by 9 percent.
"It's only through the performance of your reps that you create a superior live customer experience for your company and increased operational efficiency," DeLisi said.
To better support reps, service leaders must lighten the load during live interactions. Specifically, Gartner research shows three key ways service leaders can tame the complexity for reps and allow them to focus on helping customers:
- Identify and remove barriers to rep productivity: Service organizations devote a large amount of effort to understanding their customers' pain points through customer experience measures, such as voice of the customer (VoC). These same activities can be adapted to assess rep experience improvement opportunities as well.
- Uncover creative, quick-hit wins: Uncover the nonobvious, quick-hit solutions to help reps focus their time and attention on the customer. By studying reps as they work and enabling rep-led solutions, service leaders can take near-term actions to improve the rep experience.
- Balance productivity and quality: Research reveals four key strategies and tactics for quick wins in balancing productivity and quality. These include eliminating unnecessary customer contacts, keeping customers on the website, training reps to focus on the best customer outcome and helping to avoid a follow-up issue.
More information on what service organizations can do to improve the rep experience is available to Gartner clients in the report "Unleashing Rep Productivity in the New Work Environment." Visit us online for details on Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders.
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