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Scaling Support: How to Keep Agent Experience Center Stage

Team management8 MIN READDec 12, 2023

Behind any great CX is a happy and fulfilled support agent. Even as support automation continues to get a lot of hype, tech providers are taking note that agent experience remains pivotal to CX success.

As your business grows, you’ll need a plan in place that allows you to scale your CX, too. Over 50% of customers report they’ll switch brands after just one unsatisfactory interaction, so it’s essential you are prepared to maintain a consistent support experience no matter the volume of queries you receive. 

This isn’t only because it sounds nice in an increasingly AI-oriented world. Poor agent experience when growing your business can actually have a disastrous impact on your bottom line. 

According to a recent Gallup poll, a whopping $8.8 trillion is already lost annually by global businesses, due to lower productivity of disengaged employees. So the secret to success when scaling support actually lies in employee retention and engagement, particularly in an industry known for burnout and high turnover that incurs even more costs in hiring new employees. 

When you center agent experience by selecting your tools and scaling strategies with them in mind, you’ll not only save costs but also unlock the highest potential of your CX at any scale. And on the cusp of 2024, many service providers in the support industry are taking note and building agent experience (AX) into their product features — a key support trend worth watching out for according to our in-house survey research used to back our Ultimate Trends Survey 2024.

As Ultimate, an industry-leading CX automation provider, we firmly believe that no matter what kinds of cutting-edge new tech you might add to your support stack as you scale, your agents must remain at the heart of any effective support strategy. Read on for best practices and the latest tech for scaling your support by keeping your agents center stage.

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Use automation to improve agent experience

Especially in the age of generative AI, CX automation gets a lot of hype, and with it, there has been an uptick in fears that AI will replace humans. So this first tip may seem a bit counterintuitive. But that’s only if you see automated and human support as mutually exclusive.

As our co-founder, Sarah Al-Hussaini emphasizes:

It’s never AI or humans. In the almost seven years that I’ve been working with companies and helping them to implement automation, not a single one of our customers has gone full AI and abandoned their human agents. It has simply never happened.

Rather, automation can help lighten your team’s workload of the endless barrage of answering mundane FAQs that lead to disengagement and burnout. 

In fact, AI is perfect for all those no-touch tickets – i.e. those can be solved in just one automated interaction. These include things like checking order status, password resets, and address changes. In turn, it will give your human agents the space to focus on the more complex – and rewarding – tasks that require empathy and creative problem-solving. 

As a result, you will elevate your support personnel’s role. Continuing with Sarah,

Integrating automation into your support offering allows your human team to become what they should be: a white glove service that can offer a white glove experience.
Sarah Al-Hussaini
Sarah Al-Hussaini
Co-founder & COO, Ultimate

You can then use the time and money you save through automation to invest in training your existing employees and providing them with pathways for career development. Viewed in this light, CX automation is a key pillar to actually enhancing agent experience as you scale.

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AI-powered agent quality assurance

Oftentimes, when people think of CX automation, it’s customer experience during support interactions that comes to mind. But when we talk about how AI can be used in the support context, automation tools centered on backend processes are being developed with increasing sophistication. 

AI is also used to facilitate agent quality assurance – the practice of reviewing customer conversations to increase customer satisfaction and enhance your support team’s performance. Instead of manually going through every single FAQ, support ticket, and agent conversation log, AI-powered QA tools can instantly analyze these data sources to provide a comprehensive summary of tone, resolution states, and more. 

These insights are a game changer when it comes to ensuring that you’re providing consistent CX across all channels as you scale your support. This data can be used to train agents to give the best possible support and provide them with tried-and-tested template replies to fall back on when they encounter a particularly challenging customer or query. 

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Find tech providers who prioritize agent experience

Employee retention makes a big difference to your business outcomes, too. According to our Ultimate Trends Survey 2024, 45% of brands reported their biggest support challenges in 2023 were hiring and training new staff. Doing so is labor-intensive, and costly! Not to mention the productivity losses as new agents onboard and get the hang of their roles. 

One key antidote to high employee turnover is to give agents pathways to grow and develop their skill sets – even as you scale your support with the help of automation. And in light of this point, it comes as no surprise that giants in the CX space like Zendesk have found that 68% of business leaders see a direct correlation between employee enablement and business growth.

It also follows that Zendesk is leading the way when it comes to designing a new suite of agent-focused generative AI tools. For example, when agents get a ticket routed to them Zendesk will surface similar customer inquiries to help agents craft replies more efficiently. They can even use automation tone shift or elaborate on their responses for them. 

And this isn’t the only way that CX automation can support employee growth. We’re also seeing that it powers more rewarding careers as Automation Managers, Chatbot Architects, Self-Service Experience Specialists, and more. One such example is Iveta Liaudanskaite of TransferGo who volunteered to work on building their new bot when her team decided to automate:

I didn’t have any formal experience in tech – I was just curious about automation and chatbots, and how we could free up my colleagues by eliminating those mundane, repetitive tasks.
Iveta Liaudanskaite
Iveta Liaudanskaite
Conversation Designer, TransferGo

Now, she’s moved up the ranks from support agent to Conversation Designer who oversees their chatbot. Opting for AI providers that can offer a hands-on onboarding experience and automation tools that are accessible to people without technical backgrounds will play a key role in upskilling your agents into these roles.

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Measure agent satisfaction

Finally, it’s important to create a positive work environment and listen to your agents. There are many resources out there that take a top-down approach to advising businesses on employee engagement, retention, and job satisfaction, but ultimately your own support staff are the experts on what their enablement needs and other pain points are. 

Giving them the chance to share their feedback in the form of regular surveys and check-ins with people managers will give you extremely valuable data and insight into these arenas. You can then use it to pinpoint and improve within the context of your specific business. 

Of course, it’s of even greater importance that you take action based on this input, are transparent with your employees, and remain accountable as you implement their feedback.

Improve agent experience — customer satisfaction will follow

We hear a lot about customer-facing metrics like CSAT and NPS, but agent experience (AX) is a foundational pillar behind keeping customers happy. Therefore, it’s critical that you take a people-first approach to adopting tech that will help you scale your support. Remember that AI is a tool whose purpose is to make your agents’ – and customers’ – lives better. 

Our 2024 trends data indicates that tech providers are already taking note of this as they develop new tools and features centered on AX. The general takeaway from our trends report is on the synergy between AI and humans in the support context. 

If you want more exclusive insights and takeaways on what to expect in the CX space in 2024 and beyond, you can download our customer service trends guide below.

Customer Service Trends 2024 from Ultimate.

Written by

MaeveCondell - Headshot.
Maeve Condell
As the Head of Customer Success at Ultimate, Maeve works closely with customers, advising them how to optimize their support channels through automation. Her focus is on combining AI and conversation design with integrations to CRM & business systems to build smart, personalized experiences for the end-user, and enhance the agent experience.

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