Our panel of experts shares examples of goodwill gestures that will help leaders strengthen employee relationships in the contact centre.
1. On-the-Spot Recognition
When facing criticism, rejection or fear, our bodies produce cortisol, a stress hormone. It heightens our sensitivity as we perceive judgement and negativity from others.
Unfortunately, the effects of cortisol last 26 hours, according to the Harvard Business Review. While feel-good hormones also exist – namely oxytocin – these metabolize quicker.
Consistently praising people will, however, keep oxytocin levels high and cortisol low. It is, therefore, the ultimate goodwill gesture.
Recognizing good performance – in the moment – allows leaders to maximize oxytocin levels across their teams.
The difficulty is catching people doing good things! However, with performance management software, leaders can access near-real-time advisor statistics through a simple dashboard.
2. Development Opportunities and “Pet Projects”
“The Great Resignation” is here, and attrition levels are soaring. Contact centres are suffering from this phenomenon. In part, this is due to a lack of progression opportunities. Many advisors leave in search of a career, not just a job.
However, contact centres can provide fulfilling careers. Leadership and management positions are sparse, but operational roles typically offer routes into other departments. Laying out such pathways reduces attrition and increases morale.
Individual development plans are, therefore, critical goodwill gestures. Chances to step up when leaders are away, buddying opportunities and “pet projects” are great ways to enhance these plans.
Leaders specifically design these pet projects to prepare advisors for their preferred position.
Reviewing the knowledge base is an excellent example for an employee who wants to climb the contact centre ranks. It improves knowledge management while the advisor better understands an essential contact centre tool.
3. A Second Computer Screen
Switching between various systems, such as the CRM, knowledge base and communications platform, is time-consuming and makes life more difficult for advisors. However, with dual screens, advisors can view multiple systems simultaneously. This streamlines their experience and lowers the time spent switching between systems.
A second screen is, therefore, a goodwill gesture with a long-term impact. It pleases advisors by simplifying their role, while Jon Peddie Research found that multiple displays increase productivity by 42%.
Combining dual screens with smart desktops goes further to create a better advisor experience. Smart desktops are infused with analytics, assessing interactions in real time, guiding advisor actions and automating tasks, such as After Call Work (ACW).
4. Scheduling Freedom
Micromanagement breaks strong employee relationships; empowerment makes them.
Empowerment involves giving advisors more control over:
- What they do – e.g. providing chances to manage multiple channels and work with different departments
- How they do it – e.g. lowering script adherence and offering homeworking opportunities
- When they do it – e.g. reworking schedules and adding flexibility
Empowerment builds stronger employee relationships. Yet, to start, really focus on the final bullet point. After all, recent Calabrio research found that the current high levels of advisor stress across the industry is predominantly driven by a lack of work/life balance.
For this reason, providing advisors with schedules that align with their lifestyles is an excellent goodwill gesture.
Better yet, allow advisors to use a smartphone app to monitor their schedules, set preferences and swap shifts. Doing so provides work/life harmony, decreases stress and drives up empowerment.
Thanks to Graeme Meikle at Calabrio
5. Work-When-You-Want Week
Such a scheme proves an excellent incentive for contact centres that offer rotational patterns.
Rotational patterns enable advisors to work a sequence of repeatable shifts each week over a designated period. In big contact centres, different groups of advisors will work different patterns.
Many will regard one or two of these patterns as offering the “best shifts”. They usually have a starting time of between 8am and 9am with no weekend working.
When advisors work these rotations, the opportunity arises to change to a “work what you want week”.
At worst, the contact centre gets the actual working pattern it prepared for that week. At best, they might get advisors working shifts perceived as less favourable in the rotation, giving coverage during difficult periods such as evenings and weekends.
If this is the case, the contact centre still gets the coverage it expects, but the advisor receives the empowerment of choosing their patterns.
6. Time Off in Lieu (TOIL)
TOIL proves particularly useful in contact centre environments that experience volatile contact volumes, where forecasts often fail to meet reality.
The strategy works by allowing advisors to accrue potential time off by working extra hours during busy periods. The agreement enables the employee to take these hours back when it suits them and, if possible, the business.
Like-for-like trades facilitate this. For example, an advisor who works two extra hours one evening may take them back next Friday evening.
Build and release advisor “balances” later, using accounts of banked hours. Most contact centre planning tools have this capability as standard, while self-service advisor portals allow advisors to self-book their accrued hours.
7. Self-Scheduling Breaks
Pre-pandemic, few companies had introduced self-scheduling breaks, but they have become more prevalent in customer operations over the last 18 months.
In many cases, the contact centre environment suffers from a “parent and child” dynamic. Yet, straightforward actions – such as allowing advisors to take breaks when they want – help create a significant culture shift.
Most WFM systems now have intuitive advisor portals that make it easy for advisors to do so. They also offer complete schedule transparency to planners, allowing them to see the impact and act accordingly.
Thanks to Dave Vernon at The Forum
8. Advisor Appreciation Day
Spending a bit of money on an employee party to celebrate advisors and the tough time they overcame will go a long way.
Perhaps celebrate “agent appreciation day” with complimentary food and drinks. Why not also consider running a raffle with your advisors where they can win some prizes?
Also, to stay in line with the “agent appreciation” theme, think about running an awards session during the day. The awards could thank individual advisors or teams with an impressive track record of solving complex customer issues. Or perhaps praise advisors who have remained consistent with their metric scores.
Either way, celebrate employees throughout the year rather than waiting until the end of the year. Doing so will show the team that their hard work is always appreciated.
Thanks to Alex Stenton-Hibbert at Business Systems
9. Mentorship Positions
Some people within the contact centre team will jump at the chance to learn more while developing themselves and their skills. Focus on those that do and help them make connections within the business or even externally for mentorship.
Doing so may help them expand on their experience, build relationships and get an expansive view of different roles and challenges.
Investing in time – although it offers little monetary incentive – shows real commitment to that individual.
Thanks to Sean McIver at MaxContact
10. Ownership Opportunities
Start to stretch high performers and those that show aptitude by providing opportunities to work through a challenge. Chances to lead a project with guidance may also work well.
Demonstrating to people that hard work leads to more opportunities is a budget-friendly motivator for individuals.
Plus, offering such opportunities helps contact centres to develop crucial skills within their next generation of leaders.
Thanks to Ben Booth at MaxContact
11. Feedback Opportunities
The simple act of listening can go a long way. The more a leader listens to their team, the better they can coach and react to emerging concerns before they worsen.
Providing regular opportunities for employees to share their feedback shows that leaders care about their concerns and are interested in their well-being.
A single annual survey is not enough. Have regular conversations with agents. Ask how they feel about their work, uncover their future goals, and learn whether they are happy with current opportunities.
Every effort to listen to them will lead to greater productivity, commitment, and motivation – particularly when a leader demonstrates that they have taken feedback seriously and acted on it.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
12. Collaboration, Transparency and Autonomy
Building better employee relationships starts with a positive workplace culture. The pillars for establishing such as culture are:
Collaboration means knowing that employees have each other’s backs. It also means that advisors, leaders and managers share what they have learned. They may then help one another where they can.
Transparency hinges on making information freely available, which is especially important in the era of remote and flexible working.
Autonomy starts with allowing people to take responsibility and rise to the occasion. When employees understand how they can contribute to company-wide success, they become more likely to gain a sense of purpose.
Thanks to Jennifer Waite at Playvox
13. An Automated Helping Hand
On average, many customer-facing employees access two-three applications during customer interactions. These are mainly used to register customer needs or actions. Simple tasks, of course, but tasks that burden efficiency and motivation over time.
Desktop automation will enable contact centres to mechanize cumbersome administrative work that impacts the wellbeing of frontline staff. Such technology provides the helping hand, which automates monotonous tasks.
These may include manual form filling, opening applications and copying and pasting. If such tasks are automated, advisors may focus more on providing empathetic service.
Also, powered by speech analytics, the “helping hand” automatically updates CRM client records, reducing wrap time. Sometimes referred to as “auto-summarization”, this alleviates queue pressure that often culminates in advisor stress.
Thanks to Rene van Popering at Contexta360
14. Positive Observations
Recognition of good work keeps employees motivated and engaged, which promotes productivity. Positive observations also pave the way for giving rewards that further enhance performance.
Rewarding advisors with increased responsibility or the opportunity to head up a company-wide initiative may send the right message and instil individual pride within the team.
Further observation of team dynamics will also provide a clearer picture of an employee’s and a team’s overall health and resiliency. Leaders may then provide more opportunities for junior team members to contribute.
Such moves are not only goodwill gestures but critical actions to reduce attrition and increase engagement. After all, there is nothing worse than an advisor feeling that their hard work is going unnoticed.
15. Financial Gestures
When in doubt, financial gestures are always a good incentive. Bonuses help to attract talent. However, finding something new that differentiates the contact centre helps to generate unique job openings and bolsters company culture.
Gestures that connect the company and internal values demonstrate an investment in employee futures and overall experience.
Avoid underestimating the value of a commitment to enhancing the employee experience. To attract and retain talent in an ever-changing industry, reiterate what it means to be a part of the company.
Thanks to Linda Farrel at Alvaria
16. Upgrade Workstations
Contact centre advisors can experience enjoyable and rewarding customer interactions, but they are often stressful and tiring. As such, comfort is crucial.
To achieve this, manage background noise and distractions that impact advisors when handling customer conversations – particularly on the voice channel.
Offering a choice of headsets to suit the personal preferences of staff keeps comfort levels high throughout a long shift. They are an essential goodwill gesture.
Also, look beyond the local premises and ensure that network teams prioritize voice services.
Keeping equipment and systems up to date and responsive is critical. After all, there is no place for latency, echo or noise on the line during a customer interaction.
Thanks to Mike Palmer at Spearline
70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, according to recent Microsoft research.
As such, it is crucial to empower employees with choice. Sticking to their remote work and schedule preferences, for example, will prove motivating and increase productivity.
By doing so, businesses empower their employees, which is critical when fostering long-term relationships.
Thanks to Sabine Winterkamp at Five9
Investment in the person can have a more intense longer-term effect. This investment can come in many different forms, but they all have the same end goal – engaging, developing, and empowering colleagues to grow as individuals as well as building stronger relationship with them.
Work/life balance is an important aspect of everyone’s lives and one that can be difficult to manage and maintain. While people often say “leave home at home and work at work”, this isn’t always realistic, and quite often the two encroach on each other.
A gesture in the form of changing somebody’s work pattern, or granting a last-minute holiday can avoid stress for the individual and help maintain the trust that you value their welfare.
Thanks to Jo Hodge at Sensee
Discover more ways to create crucial connections with your team by reading our articles: