Posted February 11, 2016
Let’s face it. It’s difficult to deliver exceptional customer service when the person doing the delivering is dreaming of an escape.
Many contact centers consider it a success when they have enough agents to handle the incoming contact load. What they don’t realize is that real success and customer delight requires those agents to actually care about the work being done – to authentically care about the customers who are calling, emailing, chatting, or tweeting.
It’s easy to blame under-performing agents for being apathetic, but the real problem may lie in the hiring program or the established practices and processes. You can’t rush through the agent recruiting and selection process in a desperate effort to fill seats and expect to have an exceptional team. Nor can you push agents to hit unreal and unfair performance objectives and then wonder why half of them are heading for the door.
It’s important to take a step back and assess if the processes in place – including training, quality monitoring, coaching, metric selection, performance measurement, rewards, recognition and workforce management – are helping to drive agent engagement and retention. Do they show agents that the organization trusts them and recognizes how valuable they are? Do they pave the way for agent mastery, autonomy and advancement? Do they inspire agents to care about the company and the customer experience?
These are important questions to ask as agent engagement not only influences customer satisfaction but also contributes to an organization’s revenue growth, as outlined in the Culture Value Chain: Business Impacts Defined white paper by Frost and Sullivan.
Some of the best contact centers in the world use the following techniques to fuel the service spirit of agents and, consequently, make for an extraordinary experience for their customers.
Six techniques to inspire agents
- Emphasize customer-focused metrics over ones that measure mere productivity at the agent-level. By emphasizing metrics like Contact Quality, First-Call Resolution and Customer Satisfaction over Average Handle Time (AHT) and Calls per Hour, you inspire agents to serve rather than force them to play beat the clock. With such a strong customer focus in place, AHT usually ends up falling in line anyway.
- Let agents serve on – or even lead – key task forces and committees. Your agents know your customers and what’s needed to succeed better than anyone. That’s why it makes perfect sense to tap their insight and experience to come up with ways to make the contact center and customer experience better. Doing so not only enhances service efficiency and effectiveness; it gives agents a sense of ownership and autonomy.
- Cultivate a learning culture. Comprehensive new-hire training, as well as focused ongoing training and coaching, keeps agents thriving and customers content. The best centers steer clear of PowerPoint and mix things up with fun and captivating coaching and training methods, including e-learning, games, role plays/simulations, peer mentoring and on-the-job training.
- Regularly reward and recognize agents for performance excellence and improvement. Providing agents with public praise, thoughtful awards and special opportunities whenever they excel – or make notable progress – drives desired behaviors.
- Tap agents’ individual skills and traits. Top contact centers take advantage of their agents’ unique capabilities in order to enhance operations and create a livelier workplace. Examples include empowering agents to serve as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in their specific areas of expertise, or letting artistic agents make design improvements to the contact center.
- Actively involve agents in the organization’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Agents get inspired when they see their company extend its service mission outside the contact center. By giving them ample opportunities to volunteer and/or by matching their contributions to charities, you elevate their engagement and fuel their commitment to service and to customers. Read 3 ways social responsibility impacts your bottom line for more benefits of engaging colleagues through CSR, or check out videos from our own TELUS Days of Giving to see it in action.
Providing exceptional customer service day in and day out can be a tough gig. But investing in your agents and fueling their service spirit goes a long way. In the end, it’s what drives the agent engagement required for customer delight.