How to Improve Agent Engagement in the Contact Centre

Dawn Cronogue
Posted: 01/30/2017

Dawn Cox, CX Network Advisory Board member and Customer Service Director at Staples, shares her advice for improving agent engagement and retention in today’s contact centre.

Over recent years, due largely to economic uncertainty, customers are placing ever greater importance on trust and ease of doing business with an organisation. Having advisors who can form an emotional connection with customers and be true brand ambassadors is more vital than ever.

Most research suggests that a customer’s attitude towards an organisation, their experience of doing business with them and their buying choices, are significantly impacted by the experience of the employees they deal with. If an employee is disengaged and doesn’t have a quality employee experience you can be sure that will come through in their interactions with your customers.

It’s the emotional connections between employees and customers that create memorable service delivery – for good and bad.

SEE ALSO: How to Deliver an Exceptional Customer Service

The Changing Role of Advisors

Contact centres are becoming more complex, fast-paced and diverse than ever before. With higher customer expectations and a changing landscape of contact methods and technologies, along with the growth of self-serve options, the role of the customer service advisor is changing.

A great advisor now needs to be someone who is an effective communicator and an excellent problem solver, with a wealth of knowledge and expertise. By the time a customer gets to them, they have already tried all of the available self-serve options and they want someone who is able to engage with them, understand them and offer effective and efficient service.

It is much harder to portray that positive experience over the phone than it is face to face. Add to that a disengaged advisor, and it becomes almost impossible for customers to have a great experience with your organisation.

Add Value and Allow Feedback

With average attrition in UK contact centres running at between 20 and 25 per cent a year, what does it take to successfully drive high levels of engagement in contact centre teams?

Firstly, it needs the sustained effort and authentic commitment of senior leaders. The values on the wall have to be more than just a poster; there can be no gap between what’s said and what’s done in the organisation.

For example, reward and recognition based behaviours that reflect value, instead of being based purely on financial results, really help to reinforce the strategic narrative of the organisation.

A big purge just ahead of an annual employee survey breeds distrust and disbelief in your motives. It’s much better to have a quarterly tracker or pulse approach to understand engagement and check the temperature of engagement in the organisation. It should be completely anonymous, short but relevant in terms of questions, give the opportunity for comments, and focuses on getting input from advisors on what and how to improve.

Transparency is also key, whatever the results. Share the comments with the entire team and get their help in designing the improvement actions. Creating opportunities for the employee voice to be heard throughout the organisation will always create a feeling of connection and engagement when it comes to business decisions and change management.

The Role of the Team Manager

Big cultural turnarounds are successful when people feel like they are not treated like cogs in a machine, but as individuals with a part to play in the overall success of the business. It’s vital, therefore, that on an individual level advisors understand the part they play in delivering the overall business goals; how their piece of the jigsaw completes the picture.

This is where team managers come in. Great team managers are the cornerstone of success in any contact centre environment, get the right people in these roles and it goes a long way to making advisors feel connected, valued and engaged. Great team managers will know what engages each person on their team at a personal level, whether it’s public recognition, empowerment and responsibility, development opportunities, being asked for involvement/input in a project or initiative, or the chance to be heard.

Contact centres are community environments. Undertaking community projects, fun days out, and competitions always go down well. They create great opportunities to build team spirit as well as engaging advisors on an individual level. Creating opportunities for the team to work together and have fun is vital in an environment where the nature of the role and the focus on KPIs can often create stress and tension that can, often unintentionally, lead to a negative customer experience.

What Lies Ahead?

What of the future? Employee engagement strategies need to be reviewed regularly for relevance and completeness.

By 2025 millennials will make up 75 per cent of the workforce (US Bureau of Labour Statistics), so the strategies, communication methods and tactics for increasing engagement need to reflect the changes in the workforce. No one is suggesting you turn your entire approach to engagement into a game, but with the rising popularity of gamification it will certainly have an increasing part to play in driving higher engagement in organisations in the future.

Conclusion

An engaged advisor is a productive one. Their productivity is higher, they are true brand ambassadors, aligned to the strategic direction of the business, and they deliver great customer experiences.

Happier customers are more loyal customers to your organisation, willing to recommend you to others. There really is no reason not to have employee engagement at the top of your priority list.

Dawn Cronogue
Posted: 01/30/2017