How agent experience and values-based quality assurance drives the art of conversation


Scaling exceptionally human interactions

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Solution 1:

Empower agents to be themselves, and support customers in the best ways they see fit

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Solution 2:

Create a strong culture that is centered around being human and tackling problems as a team

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Solution 3:

Create a quality process that focuses on value and impact rather than compliance

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One great challenge of customer support is having really excellent, human conversations with customers (and teammates) at scale.

In order for agents to have authentic and human interactions with customers, they need to be empowered to think outside the box, make decisions based on real-time situations, and work within a framework of excellence rather than a rigid set of rules. These are the conversations that help agents feel empowered in their careers, and that then drive customer love.

MOO’s values include “Keep it human,” and “Tackle it together,” and the CX team infuses these into all of their interactions – with both customers and each other.

At MOO, agents have free rein to give the same solutions to customers as supervisors and managers, and their support team is built around the idea that happy agents make happy customers.

We recently had the good fortune of speaking with Annelisa Brown and Livia Rayeck (Customer Service Manager/Supervisor) about how they tackle this challenge onstage at Zendesk Showcase London. The following is a video of the interaction, as well as an overview of the conversation:

The focus of this panel is to learn how our friends at Moo invest in the agent experience to scale awesome, authentic, human conversations.

So to level set for the group, I think it would be really helpful for them to understand what an on-brand customer experience looks like from your perspectives.

For us, the human element is key – so we really want the human personality of our agents to come across in all customer interactions across all channels. We don’t like robots. It’s important that our agents are not robots.

We make sure the tone of each conversation is aligned with our core values. Two of our core values are “keep it human” and “tackle it together.” It’s something that we live by as a company and as a CX team we relate all of our customer interactions back to that.

Can you share an example that you have seen from your time at MOO where the agent themselves had a huge impact on the customer experience, that's unique to them being a person?

So most contacts begin with someone having a problem, and the customers’ natural instincts are to start off a little bit negative. They might say, “you messed up my order,” and be a bit frustrated, but then the agent is very normal.  They might say, “I’m really sorry to hear that, let me see what I can do for you. I’m sorry it hasn’t arrived, when do you need it, what event is it for? Wow that sounds like an interesting event, let me make sure you get your cards in time for that.” And I think the customer is a bit taken aback like, “Oh okay wow, you’re going to help me without any pushback.”

And then the customer leaves happy because the agent understands the issue, finds out what the resolution needs to be, is very nice about it, and sends the customer on their way in as human a way as they can.  

And I think another key point for us is that we empower our agents to give customers what they think is the right solution without needing to get any manager approval. We do operate within Standard Operating Procedures but the agents have exactly the same permissions that we do, access to the same resources, and the freedom to decide what’s the best solution for the customer.

Nothing's off limits. They have the autonomy to make those decisions, and to make the right call.

This idea of agent empowerment is incredibly fulfilling and purposeful as an individual employee. But it's hard for most companies to scale human interactions – what processes do you have in place to scale agent empowerment?

We have regular check ins with agents where we don’t talk about only metrics – we start by seeing how they’re doing, what they’re struggling with, etc. And then we move onto quality. A big part of the way that we ensure agents are well trained is through our quality management program.

Why no metrics? So many companies talk about metrics as such a big part of how they manage performance.

We feel that the more metrics you share, the more agents focus on that. The more you talk about productivity, and the more you share that with your agents, that’s going to be their focus, and that can deter from other things that you might care about as company. And for us as a company we care way more about quality than quantity of interactions.

Of course we do keep track of metrics, but unless there’s a major outlier, we don’t address it with  the agent.

Many of our customers say that if you’re constantly focusing on getting numbers up (or down) it kind of dehumanizes the job and makes someone feel like a robot or a machine or a cog in a wheel, and that takes away from the purpose of serving customers to a degree. There needs to be more purpose to these 1:1s.

Can you speak to how quality conversations work, and how you empower agents differently than other companies do?

So for us it was really important that we have engaged in conversations with agents.

We used to have a very long rubric with a lot of checkboxes, and it didn’t really have an impact on agents – scores would lean toward the higher end of the scale, like on a hundred point scale, it would lean towards the 90 to 95 range, which doesn't really seem like there’s a lot of room for improvement, and we weren’t really getting insights for coaching from this rubric or these QA scores.

So we changed our rubrics to be oriented strictly around the impact that agents have. Many rubrics are oriented to the impact that an interaction has on only the customer, but our rubric is focused on the impact on the customer, the agent themselves and their teammates, and the business.

Impact on customer:

  • Did the customer feel heard, did the solution build confidence or trust with the customer?
  • Was the query efficiently resolved, with empathy?
  • Does the customer have to contact us again for exactly the same reason? And did we make the customer do any extra work?

Impact on agent:

  • Has the agent made themselves work harder, or their teammates work harder?
  • Was the solution overly complicated for the agent or the team?

We’re part of a team at the end of the day, so if you’ve filled in the Zendesk ticket with absolutely no information, that will be more work for your teammates if someone ever has to look back at your ticket to get context on the customers’ interactions with the company.

Impact on the business:  

  • How did we represent the brand?
  • Did we represent our core values, did you sound like we want MOO to sound?
  • And were we reasonable in the solution that we provided in terms of time and resources?

Framing our rubric and agent conversations around impact and values makes for agent reviews to be much more of a discussion rather than a reiteration of a prescription – and we can ask agents about their thought process around what they did relative to these three pillars of impact, and our core values, and have a very engaged conversation around every customer interaction.

The other thing that is one of the more radical concepts that we see companies do, but obviously love hearing that companies are doing, is that you stay away from macros – can you speak to how you scale this?

So, “keep it human” is one of our core values, and giving agents scripts would really contradict that.

We do have snippets and macros that people like to refer to, because it’s hard to remember everything. But these act strictly as a guide, not as something that can be used alone without agents adding their personal voices.

And you’ve also told me in the past that there's no fear of failure.

Learning through failing sometimes is the best way – I can speak from the millions of mistakes that I’ve made, and it’s the same for the agents.

And agents do make mistakes, but we really believe (and we’ve seen) that when an agent makes a mistake, it’s usually the last time they’ll make that mistake – by empowering agents to make their own choices, and eliminating fear of failure, you create a culture where people can learn through doing, and these learnings are more impactful.

So a quick summary: the authenticity of the human connection is incredibly powerful for connecting with customers. A huge part of this is empowering agents to make decisions on their own. And you have quality reviews that are primarily focused on the three pillars of impact of the customer, the agents, and the business.

Customer Success Stories