February 01, 2024

The Hero Experience Report — A Tactical Guide

Turn your customer service agents into heroes of your brand


Resource cover photo

As a CX Leader, What Are You Most Proud Of?

Maybe it’s the way you hit monthly call center goals, the rave reviews you receive from customers, or the positive workplace culture you’ve inspired. What if we told you that you didn’t have to pick just one, but rather, you could excel at all three?

In our Hero Experience Report for 2023, we explore the motivations, challenges, and opportunities that, when understood and leveraged, can turn customer service agents into customer service heroes. But achieving hero happiness isn’t so simple — and the occasional team-bonding exercise or company swag is not going to cut it.
What we learned from our report is clear — agents want to work with customers and provide them with outstanding service. But, they need the right tools and technology from management to reach their full potential and enhance the customer experience (CX).

In this tactical guide, we’ll share best practices and actionable tips to help you evolve your customer service center into one that lets agents take the lead. From insights gathered in our 2023 Hero Experience Report, you’ll learn how to actionably improve your customer service agent experience to bolster their confidence and deliver high-quality service that leads to loyal, long-lasting customers.

Step 1: Foster a Resilient Customer Service Agent Culture

Employee happiness is, at least in part, a symptom of your environment. And as a CX leader, it’s your duty to create a company culture that’s interactive, collaborative, and supportive. While finding that balance may sound challenging, it’s achievable once you take the time to understand your agents’ motivations and needs.

Understand Who Your Heroes Are

Too often, customer support agents are thought of as transient temp hires or nondescript individuals millions of miles away. However, as indicated in our 2023 Hero Experience Report, customer service professionals are a diverse group in age, family makeup, and education level.

  • 51% have a four-year degree or higher
  • 39% had children under the age of 18 living at home
  • 50% were between the ages of 25 and 40

Beyond that, many have built an impressive résumé in the service industry and plan to continue to for years to come:

  • 61% of agents and 58% of managers have been in the industry for over six years
  • 89% of all respondents plan to stay in their field

Their commitment to the work is impressive, and their career longevity should be a priority for you as a CX leader. By fostering a positive, people-centric workplace culture, you can help set the foundation for long and rewarding relationships with your agents.

Considering these factors, explore the following suggestions to confirm you’re creating a positive and supportive work environment that recognizes and responds to the backgrounds, experiences, and ambitions of your customer service agents.

Workplace Support Tips

  • Providing support for parents and caregivers: Considering the number of parents employed in customer service, CX leaders have a responsibility to cater to and support this group so they don’t feel the need to choose between their families or their careers.
    • Offer special accommodations for busy parents that foster a better work-life balance, such as:
      • Flexible work scheduling for parents who need to leave early or arrive later to pick up or drop off their kids
      • The ability to easily swap shifts with other agents
      • Extended sick days and/or parental leave for new parents who need extra time before returning to work
    • Offer hybrid work arrangements for parents who need more at-home time with their children.
  • Recognizing and uplifting mid-career talent: Many of your employees likely have long-term goals in customer service. By celebrating their career milestones and accomplishments, you’ll connect them more deeply to their work and motivate them to take those skills further.
    • Highlight high-performing agents as examples of success to inspire coworkers, and shine a spotlight on those who go out of their way to provide great customer experiences.
    • Use agent-customer stories in branding as examples of how your company goes above and beyond for each shopper, amplifying your agents’ success while boosting your brand perception among your customer base.
  • Giving back beyond a paycheck: Many agents are committed to staying in their roles for the long run; their loyalty deserves recognition beyond their salary. Here are just a few examples of what you can do to acknowledge their dedication and encourage other agents as well.
    • Offer tangible rewards — like cash, prizes, or days off — for meeting or exceeding certain performance milestones, such as high first call resolution rates or surpassing productivity targets.
    • Organize events that celebrate team accomplishments, emphasize bonding, and inspire more collaboration in the workplace. You can even explore fun, low-cost options, such as:
      • Office happy hours
      • Group volunteer trips at a local charity
      • Organized team sporting events (softball, kickball, etc.)
      • Movie night
      • Potluck lunches or dinners

Supporting Workers Wherever They Are

Working conditions in 2023 might be more amenable to the individual agent’s needs, but between in-office, remote, and hybrid workers, managers may experience gaps in communication with their teams. Agents are feeling the strain, too. In our Hero Experience Report:

  • Remote workers said that “work from home makes it difficult to build relationships with colleagues.”
  • Hybrid workers found that “the hybrid environment creates challenges when trying to work seamlessly between home and the office.”
  • More than half of in-office workers emphasized that “in-person interaction with managers” is a must for success at work.

Often, managers try to make up for disparate teams with overarching, one-size-fits-all solutions that don’t end up working for anybody. Instead, they should aim to maintain a sense of consistency in the most important aspects of an agent’s role — namely, a well-functioning environment that encourages proactive customer service and collaboration among teams.
Review the following recommendations to see how you can lay the foundation for an interactive, efficient, and united support center.

Work Experience Optimization Tips

  • Support a collaborative environment. The disconnected nature of a mixed work situation can make collaboration tricky, but a savvy CX leader can bridge the gaps and keep communication friction-free.
    • Consider the trappings and pitfalls of each working style highlighted in our Hero Experience Report, and streamline internal communication channels to reduce mistakes, inter-employee friction, and more.
    • Encourage communication across departments by hosting cross-functional team meetings — such as lunch and learns — that encourage peer-to-peer communication and open agents up to explore more opportunities.
  • Find a technology solution that emphasizes consistency. Provide one go-to place where agents can easily access and interact with customer information and equip them with the necessary tools to consistently deliver customer experiences aligned with your brand.
    • Audit your current support center technology, working with agents across locations (remote, in-person, or hybrid) to identify those areas where there are significant differences in key brand information or access to certain tools and channels.
    • Use those auditing insights to evaluate any shortcomings in your current tech stack and incorporate these findings into the criteria for assessing potential new tech vendors.
    • Consider investing in AI and automation tools to drive brand consistency and help your agents operate more efficiently. Leading organizations are using AI and automation to help agents deliver on-brand messaging across their communication channels. These smart tools — such as suggested responses and text editing capabilities — help agents save time too.

Step 2: Equipping the Team

Without the right tools and technology on hand, your agents can’t provide the level of service that drives lifelong loyalty among customers. It’s important to invest in resources that not only help them excel in their current roles, but amplify and develop the skills they already possess for future career opportunities. After all, an unfulfilled, underutilized agent quickly becomes unhappy, which can snowball into frustrated customers, lower performance, and even agent churn.

The right resources empower your agents to own their roles and help them become happier, more efficient, and better prepared for the future.

Give Heroes More Power to Handle Their Tasks

As a CX leader, you can build on the existing strengths of your employees and their channel mastery with transformative tools to make them even more efficient.

The following chart shows the level of activity the average agent spends with specific channels and technologies.

These are the channels and tools used by agents most frequently — email (82%), phone (75%), and chat (66%). According to our 2022 Customer Expectations Report, these channels also track alongside the ones favored most by customers, who ranked phone, email, and chat as their top three choices. Improving your agents’ ability to work on these preferred channels could substantially improve their workplace productivity, and it also has the power to increase customer satisfaction too, making them even happier that their favorite channels are well attended to.

So, Ask Yourself...
As a CX leader, what if you could take agent performance and customer happiness to the next level by providing your team with a more collaborative platform where they can access all top channels seamlessly and simultaneously?

Hero Empowerment Resources

  • Centralize access to all support channels: When the entirety of your support scope is accessible to customer service agents from one hub, agents will feel more in control of their communications with customers.
    • Audit your existing channel mix to ensure your brand is as reachable as possible and that the channels your customers are most likely to reach out on are present.
    • Work with your agents to identify what channels they’re most frequently using, the common channel mixes that individual customers use, and how they can streamline communications into a single viewpoint for easy access. You can use our out-of-the-box channel mix tool to identify your own agents’ and customers’ most frequent channels to derive these insights.
  • Consolidate information into a single source of truth: Customer service agents should be consistent in how they talk about a business and its products or services. By creating a single source of truth, you’ll help ensure agents stay on brand regarding your business and offerings.
    • Work with your brand team to build a brand cheat sheet on which you can train your agents, ensuring a clear and consistent voice and uniform knowledge about the business across your support center.
    • Identify the most commonly asked questions and customer brand or product information requests and maintain a robust, up-to-date knowledge base with the right responses for the right channels.
    • Consider using AI and automation to incorporate answers from your knowledge base into agent responses. This will drive consistency for customers and help ensure that the right answers are being surfaced, regardless of the customer’s channel.
  • Build up your self-service and automation infrastructure: The more repetitive tasks and “busy work” that can be taken off your agents’ plates, the more they can focus on making the important, in-depth customer connections that are central to their roles. Find the areas where agents excel and make them their priorities for work, rather than positioning them in areas where they’re underutilized or outmatched.
    • Conduct tests with agents around certain skills and channels to see which areas they excel in, and determine the best-suited agents to handle specific customer issues — similar to creating specialized “task forces” for each scenario:
      • Channel-specific task forces for those better suited for fast-paced responses like SMS or chat
      • Product-specific task forces for those who can answer more nuanced questions about certain SKUs
    • Research automation and routing tools that can be easily implemented into your existing infrastructure and provide the quick solutions you need to keep the flow of service moving efficiently. Automation and AI tools like self-service, chatbots, and quick responses allow customers to find the answers they need. Use a centralized knowledge base so that the provided information echoes what your agents say. That way, if a customer is transferred to a live agent, there’s no inconsistency in communication.

Find Solutions to Fix Internal Gaps

There’s no question your team is full of talented agents — but skill and technology gaps are unavoidable and can negatively affect your support center’s ability to deliver high-quality service. Here’s what our survey found:

  • Workers across locations (in-person, remote, hybrid) were most likely to list “equipment to do my job” as the most important factor in their satisfaction (81%, 88%, and 81% respectively).
  • Agents feel confident working in individual channels (91% email, 86% phone, 85% chat), but teams feel less confident working with tools like knowledge bases (79%) and multi-channel task management (78%).

Did You Know?
Not only will a support system that is easy to use make agents’ lives more efficient, but it will also trickle down to make customers happier.

Here are some ways to make your agents feel more confident in their skills and tools to better serve customers and drive loyalty.

Internal Improvement Resources

  • Improve the internal functionality and design of your customer service platform: A sleek UX design goes beyond aesthetics; it ensures effortless navigation and presents a clear interface that empowers your agents to deliver service in a natural and seamless manner. Moreover, an intuitive platform accelerates agents’ learning, leading to significant time and cost savings.
    • Conduct QA analyses of your existing support infrastructure, looking out for glitches, confusing pain points, or the potential for automation.
    • Discuss with your teams what support features and navigation elements would improve their day-to-day — like quicker access to channels or calling up important customer information mid-conversation without navigating to another page.
  • Explore opportunities for automation assistance: As discussed earlier, the opportunities for streamlining processes via automation in your support center are substantial. Take the time to understand your current platform and areas where it might be possible to invest in automation tools.
    • Audit your customer and agent journey across different service scenarios, and identify how far along automation and self-service tools can handle the tasks before a live agent must become involved.
  • Pinpoint and respond to agent frustrations: The daily issues and communication gaps that plague many support centers could decline if customer service agents feel empowered to speak up. As a CX leader, providing these critical opportunities to be heard falls on you.
    • Offer one-on-one meetings — or even counseling — to agents who need additional support.
    • If possible, provide the option for temporary personal leave for the agents who need a break.

Step 3: Unleashing the Hero

Your duty as a CX leader is to push your customer service agents beyond the industry status quo. By doing so, you can inspire the agents on your team to accomplish more for themselves and the company.

This is the most exciting — yet often the most difficult — step in your journey toward achieving hero happiness on your customer service team. But by helping to unleash the hero in your agents, you’ll retain quality customer service professionals and inspire team members to achieve more than they believe they’re capable of, and increase the revenue-earning potential of your team in the process.

Ask Yourself...
Am I providing opportunities for continued education to optimize my customer service agents’ career potential?

Put Heroes On a Path of Growth

If your customer service agents don’t see a path forward on your team, you risk losing them to companies that take their skills and growth potential seriously. Keep them satisfied and motivated by giving them a blueprint of their future in customer service and how to get there.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how agents feel about their career trajectories:

  • The number one agent motivator across the globe (53%) is “employment opportunities in the industry.”
  • 89% of surveyed agents plan on staying in the service industry, and of those, 66% aspire to move into management roles.
  • 62% of respondents want ongoing training throughout their careers.

Show your customer service agents how their skills can translate and grow into more senior-level roles and other areas of service-related work. The following soft and hard skills are important for agents to consider and incorporate into their resumes when promotions are around the corner:

Hero Training Resources

  • Provide more opportunities to build soft skills:
    • Practice active listening to encourage agents to ask deeper questions surrounding each customer issue.
    • Teach agents how to practice empathy to better understand how customers think and shop.
    • Make sure agents meet shoppers with patience by practicing the skill and providing them with the tools they need to find solutions with little friction.
  • Develop and enable hard skills:
    • Empower agents to drive further revenue by training them on how to upsell and cross-sell customers.
    • Work on developing natural conversation skills that create personalized connections and drive revenue.
      • Train agents on the importance of recognition and recall to enhance the personal touch of each customer conversation.
      • Emphasize the human aspect of these conversations — empathy, personalization, a baseline of trust — to avoid the kind of rote service that can make customers feel like they’re at the DMV.
    • Make language consistent with scripts across channels that reflect your brand no matter where the conversation takes place. Take a deeper dive with these script template resources:

Hero Happiness Tactical Audit

With the insights shared in our Hero Experience Report and the recommendations provided in this guide, you should hopefully be better prepared to take the necessary steps toward achieving hero happiness. Let’s take a final look at where your current efforts stand so you can begin to put words into practice.

Workplace Support Checklist

  • I foster a more engaging workplace that makes daily tasks and customer interactions more exciting through tactics like gamification, employee celebrations and acknowledgments, or direct rewards for performance.
  • I reward customer centricity, so agents don’t feel unrecognized for going above and beyond.
  • I identify and rectify support center frustrations — like poor communication, inadequate tooling, and unclear expectations — to avoid the negative build-up that leads to agent attrition.

Work Experience Checklist

  • Our customer service platform makes key customer communication channels accessible from a single hub.
  • Our customer service platform ensures product and service information is consistent across platforms, so there are no gaps in communication.
  • Our customer service platform encourages agents to manage tasks collaboratively, bringing others in when necessary for support.
  • Our customer service platform provides robust self-service options, so agents don’t get bogged down with repetitive customer questions or lose track of communications with the larger team.

Internal Improvement Checklist

Customer Connection Checklist

  • Our customer service platform makes personal customer information for each shopper easily and quickly accessible for every agent.
  • Our platform connects customers with the best-suited agent to help them with their unique needs using intelligent routing.
  • Our platform provides self-service options that seamlessly transfer to a live agent, keeping agents up-to-date on all customer details throughout the process.

Customer Service Agent Skills Checklist

The Impact of Hero Happiness

Every workplace leader should aspire to create a positive impact on their employees’ lives. But a deluge of uncontrollable external factors — the economy, new technology, life itself — can make the goal of hero happiness feel out of reach.

With the right technology, healthy and transparent communication, and effective training, you’ll have the perfect recipe for hero happiness that will serve as the basis for your brand’s long-term success.

Are you ready to invest in your agent experience and drive customer loyalty for your brand? Start with a Gladly demo and see how a radically personal customer service platform that puts people in the center can make all the difference in delivering on your brand’s biggest growth and success goals.

Try a demo