25 Apr, 2019 The Life of a Contact Center Agent
The life of a contact center representative can be a stressful one. Their day is defined by dealing with customer issues and complaints, and burnout becomes a real issue to be dealt with.
This isn’t news, as call center staff attrition has long been an issue for contact centers. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Companies have incredible customer service ratings for a reason. Yes, they certainly implement all of the necessary strategies for great customer experience — but in order to do so, they also must have satisfied employees.
Improving the overall workplace for your call center employees shouldn’t be an afterthought. Your contact center staff is on the front lines dealing with customer inquiries and issues — they are the moat that keeps your castle safe.
Improving agent life in your contact center or business will do wonders for your work culture, but it will permeate into better customer service as well. Happy employees are much more likely to do their job the right way when they feel appreciated for their hard work.
So how exactly do you improve the agent life? Well, there are a few key factors that go into creating a happy workforce.
- Training/continuing education
- Focusing on agent retention
- Improved contact center management practices
- Fostering a customer-centric work culture
Investing in your agents means that you actually have to invest in them. How exactly do you do that? With training and continuing education opportunities. It’s far more costly to hire new agents than it is to improve on those you already have. Equip your agents with the skills and tools necessary for them to do their jobs a little easier and with more success.
This not only gives your agents the confidence to do their job the right way but the reassurance that you have confidence in them to get it done. You don’t want agents to feel in the dark about any of the differing or changing aspects of their day to day work. Continual training or education opportunities give your agents the best possible route to success.
This is also something managers should take note of when evaluating their agents. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your team will shed light on areas that can be improved. If some agents need help in a specific area — it should be identified and handled accordingly. Specializing and personalizing the training approach will make every agent feel valued by their employer.
Focus On Agent Retention
As we mentioned, agent attrition is a real problem in the contact center industry. The stressful nature of the job coupled with poor management tactics has left this workforce struggling to find its footing.
The complacency with customer representative turnover has created a real self-fulfilling prophecy — where companies have little faith in retention and therefore put little effort into retaining their agents.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, in fact, it can be the exact opposite.
Companies that focus on employee satisfaction see great improvements in customer satisfaction as well. It’s simple math. Happy employees make for more enjoyable customer experience.
There are a few components to focus on when attempting to spin the agent attrition tradition.
Improved Hiring Practices
Cut out the unhealthy hiring practices that revolve around massive turnover rates. Instead of just accepting the high attrition associated with your call center agents — improve your overall hiring practices by looking for long term employees.
Hire qualified agents. This is easier said than done, but just filling seats doesn’t cut it anymore. Be clear during the hiring process about expectations and company culture. Also, bear in mind that certain skill sets and personality types are more appropriate for certain jobs within the contact center. Make sure that your potential hires are prepared to adapt your company’s mission. Also, be clear about the workload even if it is a lot. It’s better to have employees on board from the get-go rather than burning out a few months into the job.
Many of the stressors that come to haunt your agents during their day come from traditional call center metrics. Handling or call times are important metrics, but they shouldn’t define performance.
If you are going to truly adopt a customer-centric methodology, you’re going to have to adopt satisfaction metrics as well. The quality of interactions should outweigh the quantity.
This will not only improve your customer satisfaction rates but also your agent’s satisfaction as well.
Improved Management Practices
1. Offer career paths
Call center agents don’t want to be stuck in the same role. Unless there is an opportunity for vertical movement, there lacks a motivator to improve on performance. This means that from the start, there should be clear career paths available to those agents that work hard enough.
2. Reward Achievements
Similar to offering a clear career path. Rewarding achievement is a great motivator for performance improvement. Recognition goes a long way, especially in a customer service job where it is often thankless.
Rewards are a great way to retrospectively show appreciation for achievement. But even better, incentives keep agents motivated toward a goal. To improve on communication and teamwork, some incentives can even be team oriented — prompting a more cooperative effort toward your company’s vision
3. Collect feedback
Just like with your customer’s feedback, employee feedback is a valuable slice of information that should inform decisions and actions down the road.
This means gathering their wants and needs for themselves — and suggestions for the company. Get their feedback on their working conditions, their workload, their workplace interactions.
Seek out new processes or solutions for how things operate in the workplace. Nobody knows the job better than those who do it every day, so use this valuable information to your advantage.
Make the surveys or feedback process anonymous if it makes sense to do so. This will help with transparency in case some feel their position at the company were to be in jeopardy because of their responses.
But at the end of the day, all the feedback in the world isn’t worth anything at all if you don’t do something about it. Take recommendations seriously and if any changes do come to light — let the agents know that the changes came from their suggestions.
Foster a Customer-Centric Culture
If the customer service team isn’t already wholeheartedly focused on the customer — it should be. But it takes more than just one department to enhance the customer experience.
“It takes an entire village to raise a child.”
Well, it takes an entire company to create a truly customer-centric environment. To stay ahead of the competition, you must shift the way all teams tackle problems and create solutions to a strategy that revolves around the customer.
This will get everyone on the same page and continue to help pivot your performance metrics and direction toward customer satisfaction instead of handling your contact center like an assembly line.