Keeping call center agents engaged

Posted: 01/14/2016 - 16:44 | Inova Solutions

Call center management is hard work. Tracking a multitude of different metrics and fulfilling your superiors' expectations is a tough position to be in. But the hardest part of call center management is keeping an eye on dozens, if not hundreds, of agents who make up your call center's manpower. Agents are the front lines of a customer service effort. Properly used, they can simplify many of the facets of managing a customer relationship. But unengaged agents can make the experience bad for the customer - and bad for you, as a result.

Engagement is a leading factor indicating how well a contact center can perform. No matter how great your call center software is, it can't make up for agents who aren't engaged with the work. Keeping agents alert, motivated and enthusiastic is necessary for the proper operation of a call center. 

Alert agents are extra engaged
Making sure that call center agents don't lose focus during their shifts should be a priority for managers. Agents who are tired or unfocused are more prone to make mistakes and be less professional towards customers. When drivers are tired, their performance is as poor as if they were drunk or on drugs, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If you can't trust someone to drive tired, why should you trust them to work in the call center?  

It might be a good idea to think about gamification strategies to keep employees alert and engaged. We've discussed gamification before, but here's a quick refresher: Gamification is about using game mechanics to influence behavior. Games are pretty good at getting their players to pay attention to seemingly mundane things: Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker was created to satirize games with overly simple mechanics (namely, all you do is click a cow repeatedly) and yet, it became enormously successful.

Gamification can help make the workplace more engaging.Gamification can help make the workplace more engaging.

Using game-like techniques in order to get agents focused on their jobs is a good idea. MyCustomer gave good examples of gamification in the call center, such as turning training into a role playing game-like progression system that awards points for knowledge and customer satisfaction, or a weekly competition for the fastest handle time. This way, even the most mundane calls can present a chance for agents to improve their skills and work their way up the leaderboard. 

In fact, using call center wallboards, you can publicly display the AHT of the most efficient agents, giving them a bar to meet. It's easy for employees to get unfocused when every call feels the same, so giving them something to work toward gives them a reason to put 100 percent into each and every call. It helps to make the various metrics that call center reporting solutions track feel more real and tangible.

Motivate to excel
When dealing with agents in the call center, it's important to ensure that the environment that they're in is welcoming and comfortable, according to CustomerThink. The news provider recommended tactics including greeting agents at the beginning of the day and giving them a common area they can use on break in order to keep staff motivated. Supplying them with coffee and bagels might also be appreciated by agents.

Furthermore, the source recommended opposite tactics for dealing with failure and success. Sharing positive moments with the whole staff builds camaraderie by emphasizing the importance of teamwork in achieving success, and everyone likes to hear that they're doing a good job. Conversely, if you have to reprimand an employee, CustomerThink advised managers to do it in private: Employees don't like to be publicly shamed or embarrassed, and it helps generate office gossip.

"Agents are overstressed and underequipped."

Employees who are motivated will do better at their jobs - but agents are often overlooked in an organizational context. Research by the International Customer Management Institute and Five9 showed that customer service agents are on the low end of the totem pole - they're overstressed and underequipped - and that leads to bad customer service. Survey results showed that inefficient tools and difficult-to-use systems were the top cause of service agent stress in 71 percent of organizations.

To alleviate this, consider upgrading your call center software to take advantage of advanced features that'll help your agents handle calls better, as well as digital signs that agents can use to track their performance. This way, you don't have to be concerned about the technology holding agents back. 

Especially in the call center, where a pleasant voice and an active mind are necessary for proper execution of the job, making sure employees are motivated will bring your call center better results. Engagement is an issue in just about any workplace, but by prioritizing agent engagement in the call center, managers can make sure agents are engaged and providing the best experience possible.

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