Published: January 10, 2018 | Comments
Increased wait times, low closing percentages and poor productivity; that's what was in store for me as I entered the contact center. Sounds like fun, right?
In one of my first assignments as Area Director of Training, my goal was to find out why our CRES Department (central reservation) had high turnover and low agent morale. I sure had my work cut out for me.
There were approximately 32 cubicles, most with double computer screens, but less than half were manned - it seemed strange for a Tuesday at 10 am. (This was my first bad sign.)
As I waited for the department manager, I scanned the workstations for anything that seemed out of place. Reams of paperwork covered each desk and hung from clipboards mounted on the cubicle wall behind each employee chair. (Second bad sign? Time would tell.)
As the manager walked down the hallway towards me, I was a bit surprised by her casual attire. She was wearing flip-flops, a faded t-shirt, and jeans.
For about 45 minutes we spoke about challenges with morale and the agents failing to “close” enough callers. We continued discussing the department’s needs for a few minutes, and then I spent the next two hours speaking with the agents to find their recommendations for improvement.
As I completed my evaluation, I identified five strategies for boosting agent morale and preparing them to succeed.
1. Stop Focusing on Call Times as a Measurement of Success
Too many contact centers are more concerned about having their agents spend the least amount of time on each call than they are about resolving the issues their customers are having. If we can’t fix the problem, or provide the information the caller's requests, moving quickly onto the next caller won’t do us any good.
Most agents genuinely want what's best for customers and become frustrated when supervisors rush them off the phone. They lose their motivation to provide exceptional service when they see management’s focus is elsewhere.
A good practice? Focus on the speedy problem resolution or upsell and not on how quickly agents move onto the next caller.
2. A Professional Work Environment Starts with Management
I remember dressing in my “Sunday Best” for class photo day in junior high school. Just wearing a nice shirt and pair of pants changed our behavior from a bunch of unruly kids to “perfect little angels” – well, not exactly.
But our actions and attitudes did match our look. When an employee is dressed professionally and is proud of how they look, their performance and morale will improve. Management must provide and insist on maintaining a professional workplace that will nurture the spirit of their employees.
3. Ensure the Free Flow of Agent Information
Earlier I mentioned that I saw reams of paperwork on the agent’s desks and on clipboards on the cubicle walls. That was their “filing system.”
As new or updated information was created, it was sent to the departmental managers who then forwarded it to the individual agents. The agent was expected to print out the information and update their “filing system.” Does that seem like a productive way to work? Having incomplete company information is a recipe for disaster – and poor service.
How can agents pass on the correct information when they must ruffle through a mountain of paperwork held together by clipboards or strewn on a desk? It's just not possible. Make sure all agents have the tools they need to accomplish their goals.
4. Hire the Right Employees
Countless studies have shown that the voice can easily broadcast the attitude, friendliness, and confidence of a person over the phone. When we willingly hire a person for a call center that we wouldn’t hire for a cashier, restaurant hostess or server position, we shouldn’t be surprised when the customer satisfaction scores are low, problem resolution is poor, and turnover is high.
We must recruit highly motivated people with a “servant mindset” who can work independently and with little supervision. Train them well, build trust, allow “out of the box” thinking and reward great performance. These are the employees who can stay motivated and provide the success the company desires.
5. Give Your Employees a Reason to Celebrate
If my 20-year hospitality career has taught me anything, it’s that the Housekeeping Department has the most fun. They always have employee appreciation days, team building sessions and “pot-luck” lunches where each brings in a dish to share.
No birthday goes unnoticed nor does a work anniversary or other special occasion.
Hotel housekeepers have a difficult job. But, if we can motivate these employees just by showing our appreciation and giving them positive reinforcement and an opportunity to break free from the monotony of their position, surely we can do the same for our call center agents.
Here are four ideas you can try to boost agent morale:
- Follow up each customer interaction with a survey and reward the agent for a score of 90-100% satisfaction.
- Empower your agents to do what is needed to resolve any issue or ensure an exceptional customer experience.
- Hold a weekly/monthly “service roundtable” with the boss; an employee-led open discussion on ways to improve customer service.
- Let your agents use your product or service - they should be a walking billboard for your business.
It’s not that difficult to provide an atmosphere that encourages your employees to do their best work. If you don't do it, their next employer probably will.
What strategies have worked well for your team? Share your ideas in the comments.