Which comes first, the customer or agent experience?

By Greg Collins

Published March 16, 2017
Last updated March 16, 2017

In order to meet the needs and expectations of increasingly connected and empowered customers, companies are finding they need to change their go-to-market strategies to better recognize the customer’s voice. Rightfully and thankfully so. We affectionately refer to these efforts as focusing on “The Customer Experience”.

Much sound counsel has been written on the customer experience, yet all too often I find it’s void of the entire relationship. The advice focuses solely on the customer, neglecting the employees and company culture that establish the tone of your company’s engagement. This can lead to short-sighted strategies that result in employee burnout and disengaged customer support.

Does a satisfied customer create a satisfied employee? Does a satisfied employee create a satisfied customer? I believe, like all healthy and prosperous relationships, that they are intertwined and dependent on each other.

This is why we focus our customer service on strategies bigger than the customer experience. We focus our strategies on "The Support Experience".

The Support Experience = Customer Experience + Agent Experience

Customer experience is commonly measured with a Customer Satisfaction score (CSAT). The focus on CSAT is correct, yet it’s only half the story, absent the support team that delivers that experience. As such, CSAT is a trailing indicator, measuring how well your team did after the customer interactions occurred. But how can you measure how well you’re creating the conditions for that success? Measuring CSAT in isolation has the potential to mask internal problems that can prove expensive to your bottom line down the road.

If your agents are the people who are delivering service to your customers, shouldn’t we also measure Agent Satisfaction (ASAT) so we can capture both sides of the relationship? I believe so, and at Zendesk we do, with impressive results. Every quarter, every person in our global Customer Advocacy team has the chance to share their thoughts about their experience in advocacy. ASAT feedback gives leadership a barometer of where the team’s at—a guide to help gauge how to invest in the advocacy team, what’s working, and how we can improve.

Since the third quarter of 2014, our approach of investing in “The Support Experience” has reduced the cost of support as a percentage of MRR (monthly recurring revenue), while our paid customer base nearly doubled. We also added two support channels, doubled the number of languages we deliver support in, and maintained or improved these key metrics:

  • 95% CSAT (Customer Satisfaction)
  • 91.5% ASAT (Agent Satisfaction)
  • <5% agent turnover, including inter-departmental transfers
  • 78% reduction in First Reply Time
  • 74% reduction in Requester Wait Time (aka “agent productivity”)
  • 89% reduction in Full Resolution Time

We’re proud of both our CSAT and ASAT numbers, and we believe that the improvements to the other customer metrics shown above are directly related. By stressing the importance of both our agents as well as our customers in the decisions we make, we’ve kept our agents happy and their turnover rate low—meaning our agents stay longer, become more experienced and effective, while decreasing the costs of lost expertise and recruiting, and hiring and training up new staff to replace them.

I believe that happy, motivated, and engaged employees are paramount to how a company creates happy, motivated, and engaged customers. By taking care of my advocates, my advocates take better care of our customers.

Learn more about Zendesk’s customer service team, and how easy it is to measure customer satisfaction in Zendesk Support and Zendesk Chat. For tips to help make your team happy, see our guide on managing your amazing customer service team.