Here are some great ideas we picked up on our visit to Skipton Building Society’s contact centre in Yorkshire.
1. Free thank you cards make it easy for agents to show their appreciation
Put stacks of free thank you cards and envelopes in various locations around the contact centre floor – and encourage agents to send them to one another.
This will help agents to show their appreciation to their colleagues, as well as brighten up the desks across the floor. You can also encourage them to send them to different people in the business.
For example, an agent might send a card to a member of the scheduling team to thank them for accommodating their last-minute request.
|Skipton Building Society Fact File|
(based on 2015 figures)
|Size||254 seats (FTE)|
|Wallboards||Interactive Intelligence Telephony platform|
|Agent Desktop||Interactive Intelligence|
|Call Recording||Interactive Intelligence|
|Call Scoring||Interactive Intelligence|
|Speech Analytics||Interactive Intelligence|
2. Role-play customer issues to help agents continually develop their empathy and understanding skills
It can be challenging for an agent to fully empathise with a customer’s situation, especially if it is something they have never personally experienced before.
One way to bridge the gap of understanding is to introduce role-playing exercises which allow agents to experience some of the issues your customers are currently dealing with.
For example, Skipton Building Society recently completed a pensions role-playing exercise, helping agents to better understand how their personal decisions (and those of others) impacted how much money they had left later on.
This helped them to relate to their customers pension dilemmas, as well as educated them about what steps they needed to take to secure their own future.
3. Ask agents what THEY expect from the organisation
Setting expectations should be a 2-way exercise. The next time you plan to remind agents of your expectations of them (e.g. they turn up on time, try their best to help the customer, etc.), ask them what they expect from the organisation in return.
By asking their agents what THEY expected from their workplace, Skipton Building Society uncovered an employee need for personal-use Wi-Fi and have since introduced free Wi-Fi across the business.
4. Challenge teams to turn £10 into profit to raise money for charity
Here is a fun idea to help increase the amount of money you can fundraise in your contact centre.
Give teams £10 each and challenge them to turn it into the most profit. For example, a team at Skipton invested the £10 in sponges and buckets for a day of car washing at the head office.
5. Recruit agents in cohorts to help them find their work buddy
Recruiting agents in groups or “cohorts”, who all go through their training and induction together, can help them find a friend at work before they join their teams on the floor.
“Agents really benefit from spending these first few weeks in a small, close-knit group,” said Laura Preston, Resource and Operations Manager at Skipton Building Society. “Even now, on work nights out, you can pick out the cohorts because they are still close friends.”
For more information on the importance of having close friends at work, read our article Employee Engagement: Do You Have a Best Friend at Work?
6. Agent-led training sessions encourage the frontline to improve their skill set
Give your agents some free rein to create and lead their own training sessions for their peers.
These “Sharpen the Saw” sessions can be on anything from their own take on how to improve soft skills, to the best way to handle a customer complaint. This regular activity can help to broaden your agents’ skill sets and improve cross-team relations.
These sessions should be held over lunch where possible, but it can help if the initiative is fully supported by the scheduling team (to accommodate additional time where necessary).
7. Seek agent feedback after social events to make the best of your budget
Some contact centres are fortunate enough to have budget to spend on social events for their agents.
Whether this is a hundred pounds or thousands of pounds, it can be a useful exercise to review how effectively you are spending this money.
Asking your agents to fill in a short survey after the annual summer party can help you make sure that next year’s event is even better – and that you aren’t spending money on unpopular gimmicks.
8. Invite local businesses to set up a one-off stall in your canteen
A good way to support local trade – and make it easier for your agents to purchase treats or gifts – is to occasionally invite small business owners to set up a stall in your canteen. For example, local booksellers or jewellery makers.
This initiative can also help to support students learning through Young Enterprise (a charity which empowers young people to harness their business skills) and can be especially convenient for your agents in the lead-up to Christmas.
9. Hold a car boot sale on your contact centre’s car park
A resourceful way to fundraise for charity is to make use of the organisation’s car park on the weekends by holding a car boot sale.
It will also give your agents a good excuse to clear out any unwanted hats, toys and furniture, as well as socialise with their team away from the contact centre floor.
10. Don’t allow team meetings or one-to-ones in the breakout room
If space allows, try to use different rooms for one-to-ones and team meetings – and stay away from the breakout room!
The breakout room should be a haven where agents feel they can truly relax – not somewhere where they have to keep their voice down because an important meeting is taking place in the corner.
11. Align peer-recognition awards with your organisation’s values
A good way to reinforce your organisation’s values is to use them as a foundation for your peer-recognition awards.
Skipton Building Society’s Star Awards are based on their 3 values of ‘trust’, ‘ownership’ and ‘one team’.
Agents can nominate each other for a Star Award by writing down 3 examples of how a colleague has displayed behaviour aligned with one of the organisation’s values.
In a large contact centre, a peer-led recognition scheme helps to make sure individuals’ good deeds don’t go unnoticed.
12. Nominate a “Change Champion” to field issues about broken processes
It is easy for broken processes and error messages to be ignored, with some agents creating workarounds and adopting the attitude that “it has always been this way”.
One way to break this cycle is to nominate a “Change Champion” for each area of the business. This person should be chosen based on their willingness to make a difference and play a bigger part in the day-to-day running of the operation.
They will be responsible for fielding issues from their immediate colleagues about anything that appears to be broken or is causing some level of frustration.
They should then take steps to involve the person reporting the problem and representatives from other areas of the business who may also be affected, to resolve any problems that come to their attention.
13. Print your organisation’s values onto lanyards and coasters
A good way to remind agents of your core values is to print them onto their lanyards and coasters.
These useful items will become part of your agents’ day-to-day life and act as a constant reminder of why everyone has come into work today.
14. Encourage team leaders to discuss their coaching methods with each other
In a large contact centre, it can be challenging to ensure that one team leader’s coaching style and definition of excellence is exactly the same as another’s.
To help improve consistency, encourage team leaders to discuss their coaching methods with each other – either during their lunch breaks or in scheduled “training” time.
This regular exercise can help to identify whether a “problem” agent or scenario is being dealt with fairly. This can be especially useful in the weeks leading up to quarterly reviews.
15. Set up a tuck shop on the contact centre floor
Selling sweets and cans of fizzy drinks on the contact centre floor can give agents a cheaper and more convenient way to buy themselves a treat – without having to go down to the canteen.
The proceeds can be regularly collected and sent to a nominated charity, or added to the budget for the annual Christmas party.
16. Try asking your agents “How can we help YOU to help the customer?”
When trying to seek feedback on improving the contact centre, sometimes asking agents “What could you be doing better?” puts them on the spot and makes them question their personal performance.
Instead, ask them “How can we help YOU to help the customer?”. This change in focus should help your agents feel more open to discussing improvements.
With thanks to Skipton Building Society
*While the word “agent” has been used throughout this article, Skipton Building Society prefers to refer to their frontline employees as “colleagues” as they believe that language choice can have a big impact on how people feel.