October 5, 2022 – Duration 00:29:59

S3 Ep. 5 Using tech to retain, support and train agents

For many contact centers, high turnover among agents is business as usual. But customer experience (CX) work is changing fast. And this approach won’t be sustainable for much longer. Customer expectations are rising, and that's redefining frontline CX work. Agents need more robust problem-solving and analytics skills to handle complex interactions with empathy. The challenge of developing those skills grows as turnover increases. It’s time to rethink strategies for retaining, supporting and training agents. David Wasserman, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Genesys Workforce Engagement Management, breaks down the trends driving turnover today — and explains how new strategies and technology can reverse them.


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David Wasserman

David Wasserman

Senior Director, Product Marketing at Genesys

David joined Genesys in early 2022 as part of the Product Marketing organization, focused on Workforce Engagement and Employee Experience. His primary responsibilities are creating and delivering marketing programs on how the companies solutions enable organizations to transform their employee engagement strategies to attain market leadership. 

Prior to Genesys, he held leadership roles at NICE, an AI HR-technology startup, as well as telecommunication industry leader Verizon. His responsibilities included Product Marketing, Product Management and Sales. He is passionate about the role Marketing plays in articulating a firm’s value proposition in meeting customer and market needs. 

David holds an undergraduate degree in Business and an MBA in Marketing.  

S3 EP. 5 Conversation Highlights

Here are conversation highlights from this episode, slightly edited and condensed. Go to the timestamps in the recording for the full comments.

The report “Customer experience and the future of work” found that 96% of respondents said recruiting new CX employees is challenging, but only 32% said high turnover is challenging. What’s your take?

David Wasserman (03:45): 

It’s interesting to hear that people are now more concerned about recruiting than retention, which has been an ongoing problem. But I think CX leaders still need to focus on how to retain these employees. I would say more generally, it’s about being empathetic to employees, to their needs, and designing the work, the environment, and the technology around them, their role and, what you need them to do — which is providing great CX to customers.  

What are some of things we’re doing to keep those that are already on the payroll, if you will?

David Wasserman (05:18): 

Remote work and hybrid work are certainly very important. But, also, how the technology’s interacting with these people as they’re doing the job, whether it’s scheduling and forecasting systems that provide new ways of working, like a split shift. Maybe it’s ways to interact with the scheduling system while on the go in real time. And around performance management — looking at people as people and understanding what’s important to them. Those are ways that technology can play a role in retaining people.  

Talk a bit more about some of the WEM (workforce engagement management) tools that are available to help support all of this.

David Wasserman (08:06): 

Before I jump into the solutions…. From a technology perspective, we need to understand who the right people are. Not everyone’s fit for these types of roles.  

But once you understand who those people are through things like performance management, you’ll get a better sense who you can put in that lane. You’re always going to need people in a contact center to do certain types of work, including the mundane work. We talk about robots and front ends that’ll allow self-service, but sometimes people need to talk to people. That’s a fact.  

So, I think there are things that can be transitioned to a bot, but sometimes people will still need to be there to send you your new membership card because the bot couldn’t figure it out.  

What are some ways that AI is making it easier for agents?

David Wasserman (10:08): 

There are many tasks that can be automated. There are many tasks where an agent can be prompted with an answer that can help them through complex questions, guiding them with knowledge management that’s intuitive, that’s AI driven, that’s giving them the possible best three answers, not necessarily the exact answer. Because even with smart technology, humans need to make the connection. Humans understand the relationships between a question and an answer. What is that customer really looking for? Some questions are more than just words. They’re emotions that AI will not understand.  

Going back to the study, some concerns around the hybrid and remote work are that there might be lower productivity, poor customer experiences, negative impact on culture and reduce collaboration. What tools can help with this?

David Wasserman (12:25): 

The way we interact with each other through social media and text messaging and gaming, all those things can be transferred into the business world, and in this case, the contact center. One of them is gamification: How do we create an experience for the agent that’s not only engaging to them and engaging with the customer too, but also engaging with their peers? And how do we create an experience where it’s one team and it feels like that in a virtual world. We need to take these things from the physical world and very effectively put them into the virtual world.  

In the study, 73% of CX leaders plan to implement a single screen for their agent desktop. Why is that important to the hybrid model?

David Wasserman (14:34): 

One thing we all like to avoid is call friction. When you think about an agent’s job in interacting with customers, there’s multitasking, and then there’s multitasking that’s over the top. In the contact center, our ability to provide an environment that’s no different than you operate in the real world — with two eyes looking forward — is what’s required to make successful agent.  

Is there anything managers can do differently in terms of how they use performance management tools to help with engagement and retention as employee expectations continue to increase?

David Wasserman (16:06): 

As it relates to contact center agents, it’s using performance management tools as they’ve been designed. I think what’s happened over the years is, despite improvements in technology and ways that managers can interact with their employees, people just don’t like to [follow the processes in those tools]. What I would suggest is people just go with it. These tools are designed by people that are studying this. They understand what actually works, what’s effective. So, allow yourself to let go. Immerse yourself in the technology, follow the process, that will have big results for contact center agents in managing their performance.  

Going back to AI: The report shows that AI is going to play a critical role in augmenting the skills and capabilities of CX employees in ways that allow them to give a better customer experience. So, then customers benefit. Some tools support managers too, like AI-based coaching and training. It’s wins all around.

David Wasserman (19:23): 

I agree. In general, I would say that computing is helping employees do a better job of being contact center agents, which is serving customers; it’s helping them focus on the human element of the job. These technologies eliminate a lot of those rote tasks and allow people to focus on complex tasks, those things that only a human can serve.  

What steps should organizations take now to build on that technology being there for employee engagement and retention, and then what do you expect over the next few years?

David Wasserman (21:45): 

There are three things that people should be thinking about. One, is the way we operate in our personal lives is well beyond where we currently are in our business lives. And I think grabbing on to those methods, those things that we’re doing every day as individuals.  

The second thing is really understanding people’s innate skills and core values. Not everyone’s the right person for every job. It’s really looking at your employee set and figuring out where they best fit — and being empathetic and understanding employees and their needs. 

The last thing is leveraging data. When we talk about AI, we talk about computing, that’s data. So, how do we automate the things we can automate? How do we help people do their job by leveraging data to make them more informed and make smarter decisions in the process of providing customer service?  

And the great thing about agents is they love learning new skills, they love learning new technologies. So, they’re excited to, to take on these challenges.

David Wasserman (24:53): 

When you understand exactly what agents should be doing in your contact center, it’ll be obvious. And the result is they’ll be happy in their role, and they won’t be turning over. That’s for sure.