The impact of complexity and effort on the customer experience (CX) has been well understood for some time. In fact, the Customer Effort Score (CES) was formally introduced in 2010 and has since become an important metric for many CX operations. CES has been incredibly useful in helping brands identify broken or inefficient processes, exposing cumbersome customer journeys, and surfacing the pain points of specific care channels and solutions. But now, more and more CX leaders are taking a closer look at the level of effort of the individual sitting on the other side of the engagement, the agent. Although the Agent Effort Score (AES) has not yet been formalized in quite the same way as the CES, many companies have found value in creating their own mechanisms for defining, measuring, and understanding the AES which explicitly provides greater insight into the overall agent experience.
At its core, AES is an expression of how much effort it takes for an agent to fulfill their role of helping a customer resolve their customer care issue. AES inputs vary by organization, ranging from the highly detailed, like measuring the number of agent clicks and cursor movements to resolve an issue, to broader evaluations like the total number of tools, dashboards, and logins required to help a customer. Regardless of how it is measured, AES is an important metric to track for a number of critical reasons, including:
AES’s Close Correlation to Employee Satisfaction (ESAT)
Like CES is to customer satisfaction (CSAT), AES is closely correlated with ESAT. Agents who have to slog through a lot of complexity and effort to complete an engagement are naturally going to have a less pleasant experience, hence less on the job satisfaction.
Less Agent Effort Means Less Customer Effort
For every minute it takes for an agent to navigate through a myriad of tools to resolve an issue, that’s a minute the customer sits on hold. Let’s not forget that when it comes to the customer and agent experience, time equals effort.
Unnecessary Effort Equates to Poor Efficiency
As indicated above, greater effort requires more time for the same result. When each engagement takes longer, that means each agent, on average, completes fewer engagements. Furthermore, increased effort can dramatically increase the level of difficulty for agents tasked with handling simultaneous engagements across different channels (i.e., working on both a chat and voice engagement at the same time).
Making the Most of Tracking AES
Undoubtedly, AES is a critical measurement that is only going to grow in importance as more and more automated, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered, and self-help solutions come online, leaving live agents with only the most complex types of transactions. Whether an organization has a well-established AES metric or is just now exploring the potential benefits of tracking AES, here are four best practices for organizations to consider as they seek to maximize the value of their agents by reducing unnecessary effort.
1. Survey agents like they are customers.
If an organization wants to reduce unnecessary agent effort, why not get some intel straight from the horse’s mouth? Agents are best positioned to speak to what’s working and what could work better. Be sure to include open-ended questions and create a culture that lets agents know they have a vital role to play in helping shape and improve the company’s CX operations.
2. Understand the impact of AES on other critical measurements.
When consistently and routinely measured, AES can provide a great deal of insight when correlated with things like CSAT, ESAT, CES, and even issue resolution rates. As an organization makes changes to reduce its AES, it’s worth assessing how these changes may or may not be influencing other key indicators of CX performance. For instance, some organizations may find that tackling their AES is a more direct route to improving something like ESAT when compared to other, perhaps more expensive, initiatives.
3. Don’t forget about agents when investing in new and better technology.
CX organizations spend a considerable amount of time, money, and focus on the usability of customer-facing technology and solutions. This same level of investment also needs to be paid to agent-facing solutions, especially when considering the impact of agent experience on customer experience. In much the same way a brand might scrutinize every touchpoint of a customer’s service journey, the same should be undertaken from the agent’s perspective, including each and every interface, tool, and process. Invest in replacing those pieces of the journey that create the biggest drag on agent effort.
4. Simplify beyond the agent space.
Added effort doesn’t only come from an agent’s toolbox, workflow, or operational processes. Things like company policies (be they unclear or unfair) or specific types of programs (think loyalty programs or product launches) can be unnecessarily complex, and can even generate handling variations by channel or region. Streamlining beyond the agent space can help reduce effort and complexity, having a major (and positive) impact on AES.
Like CES, AES will continue to grow in importance as a foundational CX measurement. By reducing agent effort, even if incrementally, organizations stand to reap substantial benefits across the organization. Like anything having to do with CX, start small, measure consistently, and do more of what moves the needle the most.