Contact centre life should be enjoyable! If your front line agents aren’t engaged with their role and employer then this negatively impacts their performance. Love it or hate it, the phrase ‘Happy People Sell!’ is absolutely true. Happy people also give better customer service.
How can you help your agents be happy employees?
Training is one of the best ways to increase sales and increase customer satisfaction.
However, I work with interesting clients, e.g. providers of social housing, 999 emergency call takers, debt collection agencies and insurance companies. Their teams can deal with a lot of negativity, so it is important to ensure that the teams are properly trained, supported and coached to handle this and bounce back.
Listening skills, questioning techniques and rapport building are all key components of contact centre work, across all channels. However, you may also want to add to this portfolio with resilience training, cash collection skills, conflict resolution and/or influencing skills, to name just a few, to further support your front line staff.
Naturally it’s also important to ensure that your teams are properly and competitively rewarded. Failing to do this is short-sighted and simply costs you in recruitment and induction training fees.
Compare your pay and reward structure with industry benchmark reports and with the competition in your local area. Make sure your environment is clean and pleasant. Even the temperature, car parking and quality of food available onsite make a huge difference to employee engagement. The quality of your coaches and team leaders is intrinsic to the success of your contact centre. If they lack the ability or motivation to have everyday conversations or productive one-to-one meetings, and refuse to take ownership of driving forward the strategic performance of your contact centre, then life will be difficult.
I’m a huge fan of promoting from within; i.e., growing talent from front line agents into people managers; but they must be properly developed as managers. It’s important to note that the skills that make one a good agent can be very different from those needed to be a good manager of people. Even more challenging is when agents are asked to manage their ex-peers and friends, a difficult, although not impossible, balance to achieve.
Resourcing of staff against contact volumes is a skill. Invest in the training of your Planner(s) and help them out by working to accurately plan (and where possible reduce!) shrinkage. Build in time for breaks, holidays, training, resilience recovery (after especially traumatic calls if needed) and manage punctuality, use of wrap time and absenteeism fairly but firmly. A slogan I like to use is ‘Absence Makes Your Friends Work Harder!’
Ensure that when you are recruiting people they understand the shift plans, any weekend or OOH shifts and the focus on punctuality. This should never come as a shock. Recruit for attitude, aptitude and energy; you can train the rest later. Avoid using temporary contracts except for peak cover. ‘Temp to perm’ is not as attractive as a permanent post with a probation period. If you want to attract the best people instead of them applying to the centre down the road, make the job offers permanent if you possibly can.
Talk to your people!
Taking the time to speak to them both as individuals and as teams is critical, and yet sometimes the bigger the call centre, the less this happens by senior management. I see them striding importantly through the call centre on their mobile phones, while the advisors (who would be sacked for having a phone on the floor) are ignored.
This can impact motivation, retention, and absence.
As one manager said when she changed her behaviour and started taking time to smile, greet and praise her staff: “I saw the advisors grow a foot taller!” Powerful stuff; and best of all, it costs nothing.