Is Agent Empowerment the Missing Piece in Your CX Equation?

empowered customer service agent

Empowered Agents + Technology = Exceptional Customer Care

Compiling, tracking, and analyzing customer contacts, whether complaints, feedback, or praise, is easier than ever before with all of the smart technology tools currently available.  Topics, sentiment, and satisfaction are recorded and delivered to the C-Suite and other leadership in eye-catching dashboards.

If done well, and frequently evaluated, your rates of customer satisfaction will remain steady or improve. Advanced processes, scripting, and brand protocols ensure that each interaction is carried out as prescribed. Your costs will remain steady or improve, and your KPIs will be met.

But, in seeking traditional satisfaction scores, are you missing the opportunity to reach for the exceptional?  

In seeking traditional satisfaction scores, are you missing the opportunity to reach for the exceptional?

The Tech Supported + Empowered Front Line

Best practices in customer service dictate the use of robust knowledge bases, scripting tools, AI-assisted customer-facing and representative support tools, easy-to-access troubleshooting, and clear escalation protocols. 

All are critical to ensure your front-line representatives follow the guidelines developed to help them achieve KPIs and reflect your brand voice and corporate policies.

Even when you are laser-focused on the customer experience, it’s easy to forget that staying within these guardrails can sometimes limit creativity.  Most would agree that’s exactly why the guidelines exist – to avoid going outside of protocols, to keep a consistent voice and quality of interaction with the consumer.

Brand leaders are constantly developing creative strategies to delight the customer throughout their journey, from attention-grabbing advertising campaigns to unmatched return policies or quality guarantees. Many of these ideas are incubated after combing through customer verbatims and reviewing dashboards to uncover insights and identify issues.

This process allows you to understand how it went in any customer interaction, find actionable trends, and develop programs or campaigns to address them.

But what can help you change how it goes in real-time?

How do you create space for real-time creativity?

Incorporate “Humology” into Your Service Protocols

Humology describes the intersection of humanity (relationships) and technology. The term was coined by Scott Kosloski, founder of Future Point of View.

In each customer interaction, your front-line customer service agents must make multiple decisions, utilize a variety of technology tools, and follow guidelines, all within allowable service levels. 

It can feel and seem a bit robotic and scripted – to the agent and to the customer.

As consumers become more aware of when they are communicating with a bot, they understand the tradeoff for frictionless experiences when a live conversation is not necessary. In these instances, robotic and scripted is OK – if it gets the job done and meets the customers’ priority needs.

But, how do we ensure the human relationship, the empathy, the creativity – the Humology – is reflected throughout this first line of contact?

A Culture Of Empowerment

Whether your customer service contact center is internal or outsourced, your service representatives are the first line of defense for, or connection with, your brand. 

Yet, too often, corporate engagement with this team remains instructional and functional. Sometimes, they are the last to learn about potential high-volume events, marketing campaigns, or product changes.

A day in the life of a customer service representative often includes some of the most frustrating interactions your brand can ever have with consumers. This team culture is driven by achievement (tied to service levels), time clocks, and personal CSAT ratings.

Infusing trust and connectivity to brand leadership can create a culture of empowerment and add a deeper sense of purpose, achievement, and work satisfaction for your front-line team.  This can lead to increased productivity and enhanced customer engagement.

Marketing and brand teams should engage in customer service training, incentives and rewards, and open dialogue with service teams and leadership. 

Even if your customer contact center is outsourced, your vendor should welcome an increased level of engagement.

  • Jump into a training session via Zoom.
  • Host a “town hall” for your front-line agents to hear directly from you about the brand’s broader goals and the bigger picture.
  • Welcome creative solutions.
  • Thank them for dealing with the most challenging of customer contacts with a smile.

Three Ways to Empower Your Customer Service Team


1) Ask yourself, why are you measuring that?

Keeping costs under control requires attention to talk or other contact times, but if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know what we don’t know.

To allow a spirit of empowerment, consider alternative metrics within your contact center operations.

Ask what is most important when measuring time to resolution:

  • Is it the number of minutes the agent speaks to or engages with the customer, not to exceed target service levels?
  • Or, is it the quality and context of the customer’s resolution? 
  • Is it providing an unexpectedly delightful result? 

How do you measure moving a crisis or issue complaint from anger or concern or even harm caused back to reassured, heard, and made whole?  Is it a change in sentiment within existing service levels or is it a seismic shift in sentiment that comes from creativity, empathy, and caring in the moment?

2) Create a Leadership Lane for Customer Service and Break Down Corporate Silos

When your front-line reps are empowered to go the extra mile within a customer interaction, you will reap immediate results and create opportunities to break down silos.

When your representatives take the steps to escalate a unique and valuable opportunity, the service team can work cross-functionally to create an immediate impact on your customer experience strategy. 

These moments can bring your brand a feel-good PR moment and better yet, help you avoid a big “oops” moment in the news that your processes, scripts, and protocols are not yet ready for.

3) Customer First Means Treating Every Interaction as Answerable, Solvable, and Important

Isn’t this obvious? 

If the culture of customer first isn’t continually fed and reinforced, it can become easy for the team to let a subtle shift happen in their responses or assumptions about the customers’ reason for contacting the brand over time.

Several recent high-profile service failures have turned into larger public issues for brands due to missteps in the initial interactions. Most of these missteps are driven by an interest in avoiding a negative association, but some seem driven by an implied suspicion about what the customer is trying to gain from the interaction.

Corporate guidance that is too limited can eventually teach your service team to become complacent in their responses to customer concerns.

Obviously, we need to optimize time, resources, and costs toward the highest priorities and critically trending issues. None of us would characterize risk management and strict guidance from legal as unnecessary.

But, we must also find ways to empower our agents to avoid complacency, even in crisis and issues management situations.

Download two case studies featuring an empowered agent. 

We can look to technology to care for less complicated interactions, but it takes human empathy and real-time decisions to identify opportunities to go above and beyond.

We can look to technology to care for less complicated interactions and still give the customer a sense that their contact has been heard, solved, or will be solved, and is important. But, it takes human empathy and carefully considered, real-time decisions to identify opportunities and go above and beyond when more than scripting is necessary.

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