In an industry plagued by agent burnout and high attrition rates, contact centers need to use a multi-pronged approach to improving the agent experience (AX) to keep agents engaged and satisfied. One of those "prongs" should be integrating customer relationship management systems with contact center solutions to remove friction for agents and help them be more successful at their jobs.

The Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC) found that contact centers battle with 30-45% annual employee attrition rates.[i] These high rates are driven by factors such as stress, weak leadership, poor work environment, insufficient training, antiquated technical tools, and a changing labor pool.

The condition of the current labor market can be particularly troubling for contact centers. The Great Resignation significantly depleted the overall labor force, and current low unemployment rates put workers firmly in the driver's seat when it comes to the employer / employee relationship.

To top it all off, Gallup recently reported on a workplace trend called "quiet quitting." Gallup describes quiet quitters as "people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job," and calculates that half of the US workforce falls into this category.[ii]

While dealing with checked-out employees is nothing new, seeing this group described and quantified is eye opening. Organizations that want to provide consistently superior customer service experiences can't do that with an agent team that only does "the minimum required." Businesses need to engage and motivate their frontline employees by making the agent experience a priority.

How can integrating customer relationship management solutions with contact center technology improve AX? In today's digital-first contact centers, giving agents the right technology is essential for performance success. Technology factors into employee satisfaction and retention across all industries. For example, Adobe found that 49% of workers say they’re likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with workplace tech.[iii] 

Workplace tech is certainly also a factor in contact center agent satisfaction and success. When research firm ContactBabel surveyed customer service leaders, 56% agreed or strongly agreed that technology that does not possess the right functionality or information prevents agents from handling customer requests more effectively.[iv] Notice that inadequate technology was the top vote getter.

Let's take a closer look at what it means to integrate CRM software with call center systems, and how that integration improves an agent's job experience.

What does it mean to integrate customer relationship management software with contact center solutions?

Customer relationship management software and contact center applications are the two top solutions organizations use to provide customer service.

CRM applications are primarily used to manage relationships between businesses and their customers and are also used heavily during the sales process. They act as a central repository of customer information - such as contact information, purchase history, and customer service interaction details - and automate key processes, including:

  • Contact management
  • Lead management
  • Sales analytics
  • Sales forecasting
  • Sales performance management

As you can see, customer relationship management systems are very sales-focused.

Contact center solutions, on the other hand, are focused on enabling customers to receive fast, accurate, convenient, tailored assistance. Primary capabilities include:

  • Routing
  • Workforce management, planning, and scheduling
  • Interaction channels (voice and digital)
  • Self-service
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Quality and performance management

Although call centers can play a role in the sales process, contact center technology mainly supports building loyal relationships by helping organizations deliver satisfying customer service experiences.

When integrated with each other, call center systems can make customer information stored in CRM applications more robust. On the flip side, the rich CRM data enables some additional functionality in the contact center software and also empowers agents to make more satisfying connections with customers.

The CRM / contact center integration ultimately streamlines processes and makes agents more effective and efficient, all of which improve the agent experience. Let's delve a little deeper.

4 ways CRM integrations can improve the contact center agent experience

When customer relationship management systems are integrated with contact center technology, it's like a match made in heaven. Both are good by themselves, but even better when they're together. Here are some of the AX-enhancing capabilities this union makes possible.

1. Unified agent desktop

Agents typically use multiple applications during customer interactions. In fact, ContactBabel found that 96% of businesses require their agents to use more than one system.[v] Drilling down into the numbers reveals that, on average, agents who work at 40% of survey respondents have to use four or more applications.[vi] But agents who work at large contact centers (200+ seats) have it the worst - 35% of those employers require their agents to use more than five applications while they're helping customers.[vii] 

Using numerous, disparate systems introduces multiple risks and issues:

  • Increases the learning curve for new agents
  • Increases the likelihood that agents will forget a step or make errors
  • Increases handle times
  • Distracts agents from fully focusing on customers
  • Adds friction and frustration to the agent experience

A unified agent desktop can help mitigate these risks and issues by putting all the applications an agent uses into a single user interface. This can include interaction channels, CRM applications, e-learning systems, knowledge bases, performance dashboards, and backend operational systems.

This improves AX in several ways. For example, the unified agent desktop enables a single sign on and eliminates toggling through multiple windows to access the different applications. This also helps agents meet their accuracy and average handle time goals.

2. AI routing

Making a personal connection with brands is becoming increasingly important to consumers. For example, Salesforce reports that "84% of customers say that they want to be treated like a person instead of a number when a brand is trying to win their business."[viii]

One of the best ways to make these loyalty-building connections in the contact center is to match customers to agents who have similar or compatible personalities. This, too, is made possible when customer relationship management systems are integrated with contact center solutions.

AI routing is smart routing that leverages artificial intelligence and CRM data to match customers to agents they're likely to "click" with. AI routing tools can query CRM systems to collect information about customers such as past interaction results, communication preferences, satisfaction scores, and customer lifetime value (CLV). Based on a customer profile the AI system creates, the system will route the customer to an agent they are likely to connect with.

Not only does smarter routing improve the customer experience, but agents will find it more satisfying when they "click" with the people they're helping. Plus, better routing means agents won’t waste too much of their day transferring customers to other teams.

3. Ability to personalize interactions

Data housed in customer relationship management applications also allow agents to meet customer expectations by personalizing customer service interactions. Today's consumers expect businesses to know them. In fact, Salesforce discovered that two out of three customers expect companies to understand their unique needs.[ix]

CRM systems are packed with information that enables agents to understand individual customer needs, preferences, and history with the brand. This allows agents to demonstrate that they recognize and know each customer. For example, when agents have access to purchase history, they can make statements such as, "I see you bought an air fryer from us last month. How's that working out for you?"

It's clear how personalization improves CX, but how does it improve the agent experience? First off, it helps agents create those satisfying personal connections with customers we discussed in the previous section. Additionally, it helps agents achieve higher customer satisfaction scores, which boosts their overall performance results. Most workers, even the quiet quitters, can take some satisfaction in a job well done.

4. More efficient start and end to support interactions

Too many agents' days are filled morale-busting mundane duties. Tools that simplify processes and eliminate tedious tasks will enhance the agent experience by allowing them to focus on more rewarding responsibilities such as building relationships with customers and solving more complex problems. This is another area in which a CRM / contact center integration can streamline workflows and enhance AX.

On the front end of a voice interaction, the integration of the two systems allows agents to greet customers immediately, before the customer says a word. This is made possible when the contact center systems use the incoming phone number to query the customer relationship management application. If there's a match on a customer record, the system will automatically "pop" the customer screen for the agent. This satisfies the customer's need to be recognized and automates the beginning of the interaction.

Similarly, the backend of the conversation can also be automated. Agents are often asked to summarize interactions in CRM systems. This creates a valuable record, but is one of those tedious tasks agents must perform. Time spent documenting interactions prevents agents from helping more customers, and the manual nature of the task makes it prone to errors. When the systems are integrated, the contact center solution can automatically send a transcript of the voice or digital interaction to the CRM application, again saving time and eliminating tedious tasks for agents.

When customer relationship management applications and contact center systems work hand in hand, they make agents' jobs less frustrating and more rewarding, and can ultimately lead to higher employee retention rates. The best contact center platforms come with out-of-the-box integrations with leading CRM applications that make integrations a snap.

To find out how NICE CXone can seamlessly integrate with your current CRM software and enhance the agent experience, visit our integrations page.

[i] QATC: Exploring Call Center Turnover Numbers (2015)

[ii] Gallup: Is Quiet Quitting Real? (2022)

[iii] Adobe: The 2021 State of Work — How Covid-19 changed digital work (2021)

[iv] NICE: The Inner Circle Guide to Agent Engagement and Empowerment (2021)

[v] NICE: The Inner Circle Guide to Agent Engagement and Empowerment (2021)

[vi] NICE: The Inner Circle Guide to Agent Engagement and Empowerment (2021)

[vii] NICE: The Inner Circle Guide to Agent Engagement and Empowerment (2021)

[viii] Salesforce: A Look to the Future of Getting to Know Your Customers (2021)

[ix] Salesforce: What Are Customer Expectations, and How Have They Changed?

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