A call center’s effectiveness depends on one very significant factor: the productivity of its agents. When team members are happy with their job and feel fulfilled and motivated, they are able to deliver great customer service. And when they’re tired, overworked, and dissatisfied, it reflects on their job output as well. According to a Bain & Company study, companies with the highest employee satisfaction scores often have the highest NPS, with the inverse also proving true.
Call centers are often seen as cost centers within their businesses and have traditionally been judged solely on the numbers they put out, chief among them cost per contact. As a result, the industry is known for being one of the most competitive and demanding to work in. This means ensuring agent happiness and productivity can be a difficult and overwhelming task for managers. The Great Resignation has thrown this into stark relief, with customer service enjoying the unfortunate distinction of having one of the highest employee attrition rates.
By making a few adjustments to how you run your call center, you can increase agent engagement and spark motivation. Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Give your agents autonomy
Working in a call center can sometimes become monotonous. In a lot of cases, agents follow a set system of responses, often canned ones, and processes that make them feel their job is tedious and repetitive. Even worse, agents can get stuck not being able to help valuable customers because of those processes. Giving your agents a certain degree of autonomy when it comes to how they approach customer service and some leeway to make decisions themselves can have a major impact on their productivity. They get to hone their skills, genuinely feel like they’re helping more often than not, learn to relate better to customers, and become more adept at thinking on their feet. Giving agents the power to make refunds, send new products, or make other economic decisions without needing to check in with a manager, can be massively empowering.
2. Allow agents to take frequent, short breaks
There are numerous causes of tension and stress in a call center — irate customers, deadlines, meeting quotas, and very stringent protocols that need to be followed. All of these aspects of working in a call center can add up and affect day-to-day productivity and job satisfaction. They can also prohibit agents from going above and beyond and forging emotional connections with customers which can lead to lasting loyalty. A quick solution? Give your agents the option to take short but frequent breaks throughout their shift. Whether it’s to grab a snack or a quick cup of coffee, or simply take a breather, doing so can help give them some sense of control over what’s causing their stress and improve productivity. Not to mention, breaks give agents a chance to simply reset and meet the next customer confidently with a smile. The right customer service platform will allow agents to set themselves as away or present, or even allow for simultaneous ring (letting them take calls on their mobile phone instead of at the computer if they need to walk their dog or grab some fresh air). Remember, treat your agents like you want them to treat your customers.
3. Measure agent performance and reflect together
In addition to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that have traditionally been used to measure how well agents perform, you can also utilize newer technology to provide more specific, individualized insight into an agent’s performance and where they can improve. Making QA part of the day-to-day of your agents is a great way to continuously drive improvement and help your agents level up as well. By studying speech analytics, time spent on calls, response times, and other critical elements, you can assess what areas need improvement and coaching.
The most important part of measuring performance is to allow agents to reflect on it themselves. Being part of that process as a manager usually exposes inefficient processes and other causes of agent dissatisfaction (which often have a strong correlation to customer dissatisfaction as well). Checking in with your team and showing that you care goes a long way in helping boost team morale and, as a result, performance.
4. Be sure to recognize a job well done
Providing agents with positive feedback, incentivizing great performance, and recognizing even small achievements are great motivators for some agents. Knowing that they are making a difference to customers and the company they work for highlights their relevance and importance to the business. Treating your agents like the valued members of the team they are, will also lead to a more positive work environment which will encourage agents to stick around, saving you time and resources.
Incentives can also be an effective way to spur motivation, whether you are offering major bonuses or free lunches. Incentives can give agents an extra push to continually strive to be their best. However, if you decide to provide incentives, make sure they encourage behavior that won’t ultimately cause your business harm. For instance, incentivizing the ability to take many calls won’t always have a positive effect on performance: in some cases it can cause agents to rush through calls, often failing to adequately solve a customer’s problem, which in turn just causes the customer to call again.
5. Develop multichannel agents
In an industry where repetition is impossible to avoid, developing multichannel agents not only provides agents with a more diversified workday, but it also provides agents the opportunity to expand their skillset. Developing multichannel agents increases employee retention and reduces fatigue due to the variation in tasks.
By training agents in providing customer service on multiple channels, agents have the opportunity to uncover more of their strengths, which you can utilize to refine skill-based routing. It also allows your customer service department to deliver higher quality service, increasing customer satisfaction. All of these benefits improve agents’ overall work experience, sense of fulfillment, and productivity as a result.
It’s important that employees feel valued and relevant in an organization so they remain committed and motivated to do their jobs well. Investing in your agents will help your call center perform consistently better and retain employees. Start by implementing some of these tips and consider the benefits of running a multichannel contact center to keep morale and productivity levels consistently high.
Improving your agent experience goes a long way towards building a happier and more productive team. Our latest report, Why Service Leaders Should Focus on Improving Service from the Inside-Out, explores this in-depth and provides concrete steps to improving your agent experience.