Want to improve your staff members’ sense of self-belief and worth? Well, read on. Call Centre Helper has talked to six experts from the call centre world on your behalf to see how they go about building agent confidence.
Recommendation from Ken Crosby, people development manager at the outsourcer 2Touch
Feedback is critical
Feedback is one of the most significant aspects in building an agent’s confidence. It is vital that agents are aware of what they are doing wrong but, most importantly, what they are doing well. Therefore regular one-to-one feedback is essential.
Spending time with the agent, offering advice and sharing experiences, will demonstrate to them that it is a two-way relationship whereby everyone can learn from one another. In addition to this, make sure realistic goals are set in order for the agent to improve and develop. Ensuring the agent takes gradual steps will instil confidence. Conversely, if the goals are unachievable, this will create a negative impact and the agent’s self confidence will suffer. If an agent has had a bad experience, make sure you spend time with them. Discuss every detail of the call and either advise the agent how they could have handled it differently or assure them that there was nothing else they could have done. Be positive and encourage them to take more calls with assistance and support. Never assume that the agent is okay; always praise and provide feedback wherever possible.
Recommendation by Karen Hodge, head of communications centre at the outsourcer Broadsystem
It’s all about communication and training
Firstly, agents need to be aware of the company’s values and vision to ensure they feel part of the organisation as a whole and understand common goals. Communication of these values should not just be covered in their induction or initial training, but consistently communicated throughout their employment. This increases their sense of engagement with the company and ensures they are always up to date with any developments or changes. Consistency in script creation and maintenance is also key and getting existing contact centre agents involved in making changes to existing or new scripts is imperative. As the end user, they know what works and what doesn’t, and this level of involvement means they feel part of the process rather than being controlled by it. Mentoring programmes, coupled with the approach where agents only go solo when ready, ensure confidence builds from the outset. Refresher training at regular intervals and weekly briefings give an open forum for new recruits to mix with experienced staff and gain knowledge outside of formal training processes.
Encouraging group discussion and an open and honest approach in the team also ensures an ongoing supportive learning environment for all, and is a great way of making sure that agents feel confident and comfortable with their work.
Recommendation from Sally Harrison, quality and compliance manager at insurance call centre Call Connection
Get buddying for best results
Call Connection is a statistics-oriented call centre and we recognise a drop in statistical performance can lead to a significant decline in agent confidence. Our top tip for overcoming this is ‘the buddying technique’. Most call centres have coaches and trainers, but at Call Connection ‘buddies’ are call centre agents’ peers. Selected either from their own team or another, they are agents who excel in certain areas of their own performance. Buddies provide tips, advice and a listening ear for those who are struggling. They understand what life is like on the phones because buddies are agents themselves and therefore relate far better, achieving results in short half-hour sessions spent working with those agents needing a bit of help.The aim of a buddy is to boost an agent’s confidence, thus enhancing performance. And we find it works for us!
Sean Canning is UK operations director at the outsourcer Firstsource
A second helping of buddying advice
Firstsource, which has UK contact centres in Belfast and Londonderry, helps new customer service agents make the transition between initial training and taking live calls by providing new recruits with a ‘buddy’. After the first few weeks of training, new agents are paired with a more experienced agent who acts as a mentor. Buddies support new agents and give them the benefit of their knowledge. They guide new recruits through the online systems, answer any questions, help deal with any customer calls the agent may be having difficulties with, and generally enable them to become fully operational team members. Of course, there is a difference between the classroom environment and the live call floor. But the buddy system puts new agents more at ease with handling customer service calls and gives them more confidence. It’s also good for the more experienced agents to take more responsibility and support newer recruits.
Recommendation from Guy Smith, divisional director at outsourcer Orbital IFS
Start by personalising training
A confident and motivated agent will always do a better job for you, the client and the client’s customer. Not only that, they will stay with you for longer too.To get the best out of agents, training and motivational packages should be based upon individual requirements as opposed to a generic, one-size-fits-all approach. Agent competences vary, as do specific client requirements, which need to be taken into consideration if agent confidence is to be built successfully. Ongoing and consistent motivation encourages agents to achieve higher standards. This can be done for example through positive reinforcement, putting individual development plans in place and, perhaps most importantly, giving agents direct involvement with the client. Finally, technology is now an essential agent tool and gives agents easy access to product and customer information. Robust technology systems make this information readily available and resultantly boost agent confidence, enabling them to enhance the customer experience with each call.
Mike Purvisis managing director at the outsourcer Transcom UK
Building confidence from both inside and out
At Transcom we believe that an agent’s confidence has to be built both from the inside out and from the outside in. The former requires that an agent gets appropriate training and feedback in order to successfully handle the variety of requests which customers make. All of Transcom’s agents go through a thorough induction training programme, and the management team ensures that they share their own business objectives with agents so that they work toward common goals. Transcom encourages each agent to remain focused on our five core values – fun, honesty, excellence, passion and innovation – and to integrate these in their work each day. Building confidence from the outside in requires that Transcom leaders provide support and incentives so that agents are kept motivated, even if they are facing challenging or disgruntled callers. All of our agents work in teams and share particularly difficult or rewarding calls with each other. Likewise, Transcom offers both fun and rewarding incentives so that our staff are kept engaged and confident in order to satisfy customers’ concerns. Most importantly, Transcom promotes a work culture that makes our agents feel as if their work is laying the foundation to a good career, be that with Transcom or elsewhere.