Building a Positive Contact Center Culture
Turnover is a problem for many companies, but contact centers experience some of the highest turnover of any industry. Often, the jobs are not very highly paid, and they are certainly stressful: agents deal with people daily who are angry, confused and frustrated. The problem is that high turnover rates are expensive for companies. In addition, customer support quality suffers when a majority of agents are trainees with little experience.
Stemming turnover in the contact center is therefore an important and cost-effective step to reduce costs and improve the quality of customer care. This may mean companies need to replace their customer support software solutions with easier-to-use and more intuitive tools. It may mean altering their training methods, or engaging in more accurate scheduling so agents aren’t regularly “swamped” by calls. But one of the most important steps a company can take is to rid itself of any “toxic” work environment and make the contact center a supportive “family.” If agents dread coming to work, they will very probably leave their jobs.
In a recent blog post, Monet Software (News - Alert) CEO Chuck Ciarlo wrote that there are many ways call center management can build a better working environment for agents. For starters, building a call center “family” means meeting their real families.
“You know your agents – but have you met their spouses and kids? By arranging family events throughout the year – bowling tournaments, visits to local attractions or amusement parks – agents will get to know each other better and you’ll meet their families in a relaxed setting,” wrote Ciarlo. “Socializing in this way contributes to a positive culture, and encourages agents to think of their coworkers as a second family – and that will keep them around longer.”
Many workers today, particularly younger workers, value work-life balance in a way that ambitious Baby Boomers did not. While it might seem cost-effective to squeeze workers so they have little time off, it’s not likely to keep them around for the long run. Ensure workers have the time they need to meet family obligations (within reason, of course). Consider giving agents their birthdays off (with pay) and make personal time off available to workers when they’re sick or have family obligations.
“For the ultimate in agent appreciation, offer one or two ‘Duvet Days’ each year; these are days that can be taken off at short notice, with no explanation required,” wrote Ciarlo.
There are other ways call center management can appreciate agents and build a positive environment: buy breakfast or lunch for employees now and then, or offer perks such as well-stocked break rooms. Ensure agents get away from their desks and get time to eat every day, and reward good performance on a regular basis in a visible way.
“Agents like to feel appreciated, especially when that is expressed through some reward for their consistent work,” wrote Ciarlo. “It encourages healthy competition among shifts and gives struggling team members a goal toward which to strive. Bottles of wine, restaurant gift cards, movie passes and extra days off are all worthy incentives, and perhaps a special annual prize could be reserved for your best performing agent each year.”
Edited by Alicia Young