Published: September 20, 2021 | Comments
Every manager needs to be tuned in to the daily challenges their employees face, but contact centers are extremely unique work environments with especially delicate cultures. Contact centers require even more from a leader to keep your talent happy and thriving. The monotony, stress, burnout, and high turnover affect productivity and performance every day. Left unchecked, these things seep into the culture, changing it from the inside out.
Finding and keeping talent these days is difficult enough; contact center managers must be proactive in fostering an environment that lets their representatives know a positive culture is their top priority. With all the negativity that comes with the territory of being in customer service, it’s paramount for managers to continuously counterbalance it.
The math is simple: happier team members equal better customer service. And there is no shortage of eye-opening statistics about what this means to consumers. Some 68 percent are willing to pay more for products and services from a brand known to provide outstanding customer service.
You likely have spent a lot of time building your culture, so it’s important that your contact center representatives see and feel that experience in their day-to-day activities. You want it to be what keeps them motivated, especially when facing those more challenging moments.
The culture you foster makes a big difference in your ability to retain talent, maintain productivity, and achieve success. Here are six ways to build a strong and supportive environment for your contact center team:
Create a Fun and Positive Workplace
You already know it’s tough being in customer service. Your team talks to people who aren’t exactly calling to chat about happy thoughts. Overcoming customer challenges each day is difficult for even the most hardened contact center veterans.
A great rule to live by as a contact center manager: 3 positives to 1 negative.
If a team member has a bad call or bad day—resulting from a series of difficult calls—how do you counteract that? Get them thinking about and experiencing things that outweigh that through a fun and positive workplace. These can be everything from pleasant surroundings with colorful walls and comfortable break areas to relax and tune out, to fun contests and scoreboards that provide visible recognition, to special lunches where everyone gets to participate.
Treat All Your Reps the Same
Your team is likely made up of full-time reps, part-time reps, and contract reps. You may even have in-person and remote team members, but the last thing you want is for any of them to feel categorized.
Classifying workers and creating distinctions between groups can create cultural hierarchy, decrease morale, demotivate, and significantly increase turnover. Avoid things like having them sit separately or wear different badges. Make sure they have the same positive experience, including access to perks, training, and you.
At the same time, you can still motivate through distinction without making it feel like a separator. When someone reaches a milestone or produces on a high level, celebrate it. When you have a part-time or contract rep go full-time, make sure you make a big deal out of it. Take a picture with the rep and manager and put it on the rotating board. Show pride for the accomplishment and make it clear the same opportunities are available to all workers.
Hire for Fit and Train Your Talent
A critically overlooked factor when it comes to retention is fit. Not all good candidates are a good hire for every contact center position. Since contact centers service different kinds of companies and product lines, depth of knowledge requirements will vary, as will the level of support and challenges faced while providing great service to each customer calling.
Make sure you thoroughly identify each candidate’s persona using a cultural assessment. Is their experience more suited for outbound or inbound? Will the position be voice only or involve chats and email? Will troubleshooting require basic knowledge or a true tech-minded rep? Be aware of skillset mismatches from the start.
Once you’ve got the right fit, the next big step is to provide valuable and motivating training that keeps them engaged and moving forward. Too often, training is used as an elimination test. If you find yourself during onboarding saying “X percent of you won’t be here in two weeks,” you’re not just setting employees up for failure, but you’re risking your success, as well. Remember, they will face their share of negativity; they need all the positivity and constructive feedback they can get coming from you.
Training also needs to be ongoing. Encourage reps to take ownership of specific tasks, develop SME-level knowledge, utilize available resources, and steer their own career paths. This increased level of engagement allows for advancement, builds loyalty, and increases call success rates as reps build confidence and hone their skills.
Model Open Dialogue
Communicate. Listen. Do it often. Do it as a team.
Sound simple? It is, but it’s on the list because of how easy it is to forget!
If you’re a manager, you’re busy. A day can go by, a week, longer; if your communication with your team slips, it becomes noticeable. Be rigid with yourself about communicating with consistency. Take time at the beginning of a shift, at midday, and at the end of a shift to speak with your team and stay connected. During these touchpoints, look for ways to remove barriers to your team’s success.
This type of proactive engagement pays off, so don’t wait until there’s a challenge to do it. Regular communication brings regular feedback. It builds camaraderie and sets expectations at the same time. When these are done together, you are helping achieve the desired atmosphere of 3 positives to 1 negative. Plus, when your team feels supported, they’re more invested in the service process.
Empower Your Reps
At the end of the day, as a manager you want your contact center team to provide a level of service that is remembered, that builds your brand, that drives repeat business and even creates new business. For reps to perform at this level, there is one key word you need to keep in mind — empowered.
When reps feel empowered, they are much more likely to create personal connections with callers and deliver amazing experiences. These connections go both ways; your reps feel good too! These are big, big wins in customer service.
Encourage your reps to be their authentic selves. Provide them with the processes and scripts to perform their job well, but also allow them the space and flexibility to create connections unique to them, connections which enable the next level of service. Consumers who rate a company’s customer service as “good” are 38 percent more likely to recommend it to others.
Don’t Overlook Exit Interviews
The exit interview is an underutilized tool that provides feedback you won’t get anywhere else. Done right, these interviews will make you a better manager every time. By asking pointed questions and listening actively, you can learn a lot about what you or the company did right and wrong. You’ll gain insight into how to identify rep personas more effectively and efficiently, better match skill sets, and improve training. You’ll identify opportunities you missed to communicate more, stimulate more engagement, be more empowering, and balance out the negatives with positives.
Your goal in an exit interview is to continuously learn how to provide your team members the same level of service you ask them to provide callers. If you practice this with humility, you’ll be on your way to creating a contact center culture that attracts and retains the talent you need.
The customer service industry’s 45 percent turnover rate is the highest of all businesses. Investing in your contact center’s culture yields an incredible ROI—your client, caller, and employee satisfaction all hinge on it. You must nurture it every day, throughout the day, with discipline and thoughtfulness. If you do, performance, retention, and success dramatically increase.