Where are those darn car keys? If you’ve ever spent several frantic minutes hunting them down before you can walk out the door, you know the frustration and anxiety caused by the wasted time and effort. And if you’ve kept others waiting, they’re not happy either.

This type of frustration is what millions of contact center agents experience every single day when they aren’t able to immediately find the information they need to help customers. According to a recent study by Aberdeen Research, on average, agents spend an astonishing 15% of their time looking for information. Using average loaded labor costs, this means a 200 seat contact center incurs $1.5 million in unnecessary costs each year.

Cost of Poor Agent Productivity

And that could just be the tip of the iceberg. When customers wait on hold while agents spend time looking for information or searching for a subject-matter expert (SME), it increases customer frustration. Or, rather than accumulating hold time, an agent may attempt to chat with the customer while seeking the information. Imagine making polite conversation with a stranger, trying to make it appear you’re interested in them while trying to make sure they don’t notice your frantic search for car keys! It adds to the stress and cognitive load on the agent -- and only serves to fuel customer annoyance if the agent’s dialogue is inane or rambling. Some of these customers will stop doing business with the company, exacerbating the impact of poor agent productivity.

You know agent enablement and training is important. Likely you’ve already done the heavy lifting to make sure your agents are equipped with the tools they need. You’ve given them a path to quickly access the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to check customer records. They can reference agent scripts, knowledge bases and FAQs, or try to connect with their supervisor to ask for help. But as you know, these paths can be time-consuming, and agents often still don’t get what they need to satisfy customer inquiries.

These challenges can cause agent attrition - and if they stay, it adds stress to their lives. It diminishes agent job satisfaction and dampens their willingness to dig for answers; when things are too hard sometimes people just stop trying. Not only do fruitless searches serve to demoralize agents, but it can also invade the very culture of your contact center. And this will thwart your efforts to deliver a differentiated customer experience.

Let’s look at a path forward--a path that is easier than the steps you’ve already taken.

According to the latest independent vendor-agnostic study by Aberdeen Research, the answer is to combine your unified communications and contact center systems to facilitate collaboration and drive a better customer experience.

What exactly does that mean? It entails giving your agents the technology they need to interact with other employees and SMEs outside the confines of the contact center - via phone, video, chat - using presence to instantly find an available expert elsewhere in the business. It means giving agents integrated access to directory services, desktop sharing, and collaboration tools. Sure, you’ll want to put a process in place so your subject matter experts aren’t swamped with ad hoc requests, but that effort is well worth the benefits reaped.

When contact center agents are empowered with the communication and collaboration tools they need, the results are startling. Aberdeen Research shows that companies who give their agents these tools, compared to those who don’t, show a 50% greater improvement in agent productivity. And furthermore, companies who provide these tools see a notable decrease in the number of customer complaints compared to businesses where the contact center operates in a silo.

Year-Over-Year Improvement

Another of the important points that come to light with Aberdeen’s research: companies who combine unified communications within their contact center show year-over-year benefits including a significantly higher customer lifetime value. It serves to reason that when the agent and SME can easily use the UC platform to share relevant information such as claims documents, images, and videos, the collaboration process is more effective. And, according to Aberdeen, these agents show almost three times higher improvement in average handle time compared to those who don’t combine unified communications with their contact center solution.

The positive financial impact cascades - you reduce handle times, retain customers, and grow their average lifetime value. And, your own job as a contact center supervisor or manager just got easier. Agents have higher job satisfaction, which lowers attrition and reduces the time and money you spend hiring and training new people. As you’ll hear in the webinar, Aberdeen finds that companies incorporating unified communications into the contact center do twice as well at agent retention.

Learn more about real-life proof points, case studies, and success metrics by joining the Aberdeen and 8x8 webinar on February 12, “How to Break Down Silos to Wow Customers, Improve Productivity, and Drive Revenue.”