Investing in Your Contact Center Agents is Investing in Your Customers
While most companies would agree – in theory – that since contact center agents are the most visible employees (to customers, anyway) in an organization, they are among the most important. They are your brand ambassadors, and they are often the “face” of the company as far as customers are concerned. So if this is true, then why do so many companies treat their contact center employees so poorly?
Call center work is often the topic of ridicule. Most people know, or imagine, that it’s poorly paid, that it involves listening to angry customers ranting for a lot of the day, that it’s repetitive and that the turnover is high. Of course it is…what kind of people enjoy getting yelled at by customers and managers all day for very little monetary reward?
The truth is that some people do enjoy contact center work. Helping people gives them job satisfaction, and they like the flexibility of call center work. If companies could cultivate this type of employee better and add more of them to the contact center ranks, it would a benefit to customers as well as the organization as a whole. Following this logic, anything companies can do to make it easier for contact center workers is an investment that will directly benefit the company.
While most companies aren’t in a position to significantly raise the pay in the contact center, there are things they can do to offer more respect to these important workers. (A recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek article refers to call center workers as “the Rodney Dangerfields of Corporate America,” since they “don’t get no respect.”) Providing them with the tools they need to succeed is a good place to start.
One of these tools is a novel way to train and motivate employees: gamification. Many companies are boosting employee engagement in the contact center by moving to “gamified” applications that allow employees to achieve personal and company goals through a more video-game oriented application that allows them to earn points or badges (or real rewards such as bonuses and gift cards, plus perks like first pick of shifts) and ascend through the levels of achievement, often competing with other employees.
And while gamification has been shown to work effectively, contact centers need to remember the basics, as well. Ensure that agent desktops are easy to use and can help reduce frustrating errors or repetition. Conduct performance evaluation regularly, using a fair process and an easy to understand reporting method. Make use of employees’ skills, and offer remedial training where employees require it, and offer agents some flexibility and power to solve problems on their own. Finally, prevent employees from becoming frazzled and stressed by building effective schedules that allow the pace of work to be reasonable.
At the core of contact center employee complaints about their jobs, you’re likely to find poor scheduling. This results in employees who are forced to miss breaks, take the last pick of vacation time on a regular basis, handle types of calls or contacts they do not have the skill for or who feel they get short-shrift on shift choices because of favoritism on the part of managers. An effective scheduling solution can build fairness and transparency into the scheduling process, an action that can go a long way toward keeping contact center agents more content in their jobs. Companies can then build on this solid scheduling procedure, adding perks and encouragement where it’s needed. The result, in the end, will be happier contact center agents and happier customers.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi