Tamara Irminger Underwood
Published: November 29, 2015 | Comments
There is a lot of attention focused on the customer experience, which is great, but with so much attention paid to the end-users experience, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the very employees who are an integral part of the customer experience. Without motivated and engaged employees it is near impossible to create the types of customer experiences that foster loyalty and repeat patronage. For many companies the weakest link in the customer journey is the contact center, and not because these agents aren’t doing their jobs, but because the turnover is so high. When managers are diverting their energies to the effects of employee churn, they are not able to focus on the bigger picture of servicing the customer.
Contact center agents are under a lot of pressure. Not only are agents expected to meet various performance measures, they also interact with angry or frustrated customers day in and day out. Combined with low pay, haphazard training, and watching the revolving door of agents coming and going, it’s no wonder contact centers are plagued with high turnover rates.
The holiday season is a particularly grueling time for contact centers. Call volumes at their highest for the year and often contact centers are staffed with temp agents to meet the increased call demand. Once the holiday season is over, managers don’t have the luxury of giving all their agents a week off for some much needed R&R, they simply return to business as usual.
Reducing agent churn is more than placating employees. Creating a work environment that is supportive, respectful, engaging and motivating requires the same amount of focus and attention that is given to creating better customer experiences. Here are four tips that managers can integrate into their daily routines to prop up morale, excite their agents, and keep the energy high so that both the employee and the customer has a fulfilling experience.
1. Relevant training (the big picture)—before managers can expect their agents to meet certain benchmarks, agents need to be trained to understand what is meant by the term “customer experience” and how the company goes about delivering such experiences. Being trained on the basics of building customer loyalty; engaging in conversations that bring about solutions; working with difficult customers; and delighting the customer, even in challenging situations, are all essential building blocks in the customer experience. It’s not possible to expect agents to understand the finer points of delivering great experiences without comprehensive training that addresses how to do so.
2. Micro training (the little picture)—agents that have gone through training that covers the bigger picture can then benefit from on-going micro training and coaching. Managers that are trained in the finer points of motivation, communication, evaluation and coaching are in constant contact with their direct-reports and create a working environment that inspires agents to perform at their best.
3. Create meaning—many call centers are staffed with a high number of millennial employees. It is well documented that this generation wants meaning in their work. If you are rolling your eyes and saying to yourself “Get over it. A contact center is a contact center,” think again. Companies such as Zappos, Amazon, Telus International are all examples of where the contact center is the backbone of the organization and yet they’ve developed cultures that are meaningful and relevant to their employees. Obviously, no single manager can re-make a company culture, but they still can influence the meaning that agents find in their work. Creating volunteer opportunities for agents to give back or internal fundraisers for projects or NGOs that agents would like to support are easy ways that managers can develop a meaningful environment that is more than the day-to-day tasks.
4. Listen and consider—agents are on the front line and often have great insight into tweaks that can be made to improve efficiency or improve upon the customer experience. When managers take the time to listen, consider and implement the feedback received by agents, the message sent to agents is they matter and are valued.
Reducing churn within the contact center is as important as delivering great customer service. One doesn’t happen without the other. There are a number of measures that managers can take to boost morale, improve attitudes, and motivate employees. When employees feel respected, valued and listened to, they are less likely to walk out the door. Not only is this better for the bottom line, it’s better for the customer experience as well.