SALESFORCE.COM, INC.

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Salesforce com : Invest in Customer Service Agents for Business Growth (and Beat The Great Resignation)

01/27/2022 | 02:48pm EDT
An increasing number of service organizations are elevating the customer service agent's role. Rather than denigrating agents as script-reading order takers, they're strategic customer advocates.
Jan 27, 20226 min read

The need to elevate the status of customer service agents has never been more crucial. While many basic service requests can be handled by bots, artificial intelligence tools, or automation technologies, human interaction between customers and agents is necessary for complex problems. If a customer needs resolution with a one-on-one conversation, they require an empathetic, informed agent trained on intelligent systems and contextual data to help them solve the problem fast.

The pandemic continues to stress employees and stretch them thin. And burned out staffers are more than willing to decamp for the next opportunity during The Great Resignation. But if we've learned anything, it's that you've got to keep employees - all employees - happy and engaged, or they'll leave.

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Customer service agents are critical to business growth

Behind every customer service process is an employee. In our State of Service report, multiple statistics remind us of the criticality of service on customer experience, and the impact of customer experience on business growth.

Eighty percent of customers surveyed said the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. And 91% of customers said good customer service makes them more likely to make another purchase.

Customers are looking at - and judging companies on - their overall buying experience. Eighty percent of customers surveyed said the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. And 91% of customers said good customer service makes them more likely to make another purchase.

Our research shows an increasing number of service organizations striving to elevate the customer service agent's role. Rather than relegating agents to reading scripts, they're seen as strategic customer advocates. We found that:

  • 77% of agents said their company views them as customer advocates.
  • 70% of agents said they've received training on how to be empathetic with customers.
  • 77% of agents said their role is more strategic - up from 71% in 2018.

Each of these changes presents an opportunity for service organizations to increase agent engagement and decrease the chance of turnover. But the status of agents in the enterprise remains unbalanced.

Customer service agent status in the enterprise remains poor

Agents often have little autonomy, a low standing in the workplace, and insufficient compensation. All of this results in high turnover, which costs your company a lot more than the recruitment ads needed to replace them.

People who answer the telephones, respond to emails, and manage the chat queues are generally poorly paid. The average U.S. customer service representative is an hourly worker or a full-time employee earning $30,000 or less. Salary is hardly ever listed as the top driver of employee satisfaction among service agents. With few exceptions, the compensation does not reflect the importance of the role.

The average annual turnover rate for U.S. contact center agents is 30-45%; more than double all other U.S. occupations.

According to The Quality Assurance and Training Connection, the average annual turnover rate for U.S. contact center agents is 30-45%; more than double all other U.S. occupations. The pandemic has probably hastened attrition as employees move on to their next opportunity.

When you lose an employee, institutional knowledge walks out the door with them, as do the many relationships they've built with their colleagues and your customers. An employee's departure can result in low morale and lower productivity as the team scrambles to pick up the slack.

Why don't executives see the value of customer service agents?

Customer service is vitally important, and organizations need to invest more in developing talent and world-class service. So why don't people in the C-suite see it that way? The answer is simple: Members of the C-suite rarely, if ever, come up through the ranks as customer service representatives.

According to a LinkedIn study of 12,000 CEOs, their backgrounds are in computer science, finance, economics, or marketing. Despite corporate statements on inclusion and diversity, and an increased focus on employee engagement, little evidence exists to show what CEOs think of front line call centers or their customer service agents.

When you lose an employee, institutional knowledge walks out the door with them, as do the many relationships they've built with their colleagues and your customers. An employee's departure can result in low morale and lower productivity as the team scrambles to pick up the slack.

In addition, CEOs have a misperception of the role that customer satisfaction plays in business success: For B2B execs, customer support ranks a distant fourth, according to the American Marketing Association's (AMA) Journal of Marketing. In B2C, there's an inability to directly tie great customer service to business growth despite overwhelming statistics that show this is the case, the AMA said.

Service leaders must educate other senior leaders on the necessity to invest in the customer service role. Heads of customer experience, customer support, talent management, and human capital management should coordinate a collective effort to focus on the selection, training, compensation, and ongoing wellness of the customer service representative.

Work-from-anywhere raises this level of urgency, as day-to-day contact with agents has dropped, and the feeling of isolation has risen. At the time of our State of Service survey, over half of customer service professionals worldwide were working from home. What's more, the majority either expect to work remotely or remain uncertain about their future work location.

  • 54% of service pros reported working from home in 2020.
  • 29% of service pros expected to work from home in 2021, with an additional 28% unsure if they will work from home.

Many of these workers may be struggling to carve out a suitable workspace away from their families or roommates also working from home. It's not the eight-hour shift in the office they're used to, and it's taking a toll.

Take an active approach to employee engagement

It's a service leader's job to demonstrate how improvements in training, management, and engagement with your customer service agents will help drive customer loyalty and business profitability. For example:

  • Do you have the right agents, with the right skills, helping customers at the right time?
  • Are cases being resolved the first time?
  • Do you see a decrease in your customer effort score and an increase in customer satisfaction?

You should identify the barriers that prevent teams from performing at their best, and be specific.

You must be highly prescriptive. Customer service organizations need greater resilience and better technology to succeed. Remote work has hard and soft challenges, including:

  • Security breaches, uptime, and bandwidth.
  • Greater agent flexibility in location and work hours.
  • Communication across teams and with customers over web chat and messaging app channels. Too often, these channels are unavailable as case management workflows update.
  • Access to data to understand the customer's context and preferences. Service agents need tools that include journey mapping and identification of the right knowledge base article. Agents can perform tasks better with integration into multiple systems such as order status, inventory, billing, and invoicing, among others.
  • Real-time analysis of customer service resource demands for managers by media channel, time of day, and product that factors in seasonal fluctuations.

Customer service leads can succeed in educating the C-suite by using data to show strengths and weaknesses in customer and employee experiences, and their consequences. This highly prescriptive approach - linking improvements, people, process, and technology - can help create a self-sustaining customer service center of excellence.

Employee engagement and employee experience are on the front pages of business journals and a key focus of executives. Plenty of evidence links employee happiness to business growth and profitability. And yet, too many organizations aren't tuned in to the unique needs of customer service representatives - the people who are the face of your organization shaping customer perceptions of your brand. Many in the industry report that the engagement, experience, and happiness of agents is being ignored for a number of reasons. But with the right tools and mindset in place, organizations can profit, retain talent, and build solid long-term customer relationships.

View a video demo of Service Cloud Workforce Engagement

Learn how a unified service experience keeps agents and customers happy.

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Disclaimer

salesforce.com Inc. published this content on 27 January 2022 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unaltered, on 27 January 2022 19:47:03 UTC.


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Financials (USD)
Sales 2023 32 063 M - -
Net income 2023 515 M - -
Net cash 2023 6 928 M - -
P/E ratio 2023 312x
Yield 2023 -
Capitalization 156 B 156 B -
EV / Sales 2023 4,66x
EV / Sales 2024 3,74x
Nbr of Employees 73 541
Free-Float 96,6%
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Number of Analysts 51
Last Close Price 157,33 $
Average target price 287,41 $
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Marc Russell Benioff Chairman & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Bret Steven Taylor Vice Chairman & Co-Chief Executive Officer
Alexandre Dayon Co-President & Chief Strategy Officer
Amy E. Weaver Co-President & Chief Financial Officer
Srinivas Tallapragada Co-President & Chief Engineering Officer
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