Call centre managers must sometimes wish they could clone their best agents and team leaders. In the distant future that might become possible, but in the meantime, Matthew Brown explores methods to bottle up the essence of your best employees and spread the magic across your workforce.
The most obvious department in which a manager may want to spread an agent’s skills to other members of the team is in sales. A star salesman or saleswoman is an important asset to a call centre, and the art of making a sale can be a hard one to master. There’s a reason call centre sales jobs, especially outbound cold-calling jobs, have a high staff turnover. It’s hard to keep selling.
A star salesperson may have developed a particularly effective pitch, or they may have a great way with certain types of customer, building rapport and ultimately making a sale. Or they may just have some expert responses to the usual objections customers raise to buying the product or service.
Whatever the reason, great salespeople may have some insight that the not-so-great salespeople on a team will find useful. By sharing it, that insight could help more agents become great salespeople in their own right.
One way to do this is by pairing up a great salesperson in a ‘buddy’ system. A struggling agent can learn a lot from listening in to a good agent’s calls.
Gemma Layton of London-based outsourcer RSVP believes buddying can be a good way to pass on the expertise of a good agent.
“Ultimately, all agents have to make a pitch their own in terms of personality, but sometimes it can just be case of sharing a really good opening sentence, or showing the best way to approach a person who isn’t very open and friendly, to open up the call,” she said.
Buddying is one way to exchange best practice advice, but it’s not as effective when several agents may need advice to improve performance.
Create an archive of good calls
Sharing examples of good calls can be a great way to share the expertise of amazing agents without having to pair everyone up. Most call centres already record calls for training or legal purposes. It is easy to create a database of calls that can be used as a supplementary training aid for agents who struggle to meet targets.
These calls could be analysed and broken down in a group discussion, with useful phrases and good customer service techniques highlighted. The session could be combined with role play or mock calls to practise the techniques.
Hold a ‘best of’ training session
It’s likely that every agent has a certain aspect of their job they feel they do particularly well. Regular performance reviews also serve to identify an agent’s individual skills.
It may be useful to introduce a kind of skills-swap session. Each member of the team could discuss their strengths and offer suggestions as to how their colleagues can improve in those areas.
A group exercise of this type will help strengthen team bonds as well as build individual skills. Attempting to ‘bottle up’ one excellent agent as an example for all others is potentially divisive, and can foster resentment amongst other agents if a star is hailed too much by team leaders and management.
By giving everyone the chance to contribute their best tips and skills, the feeling that one member of the team is some kind of ‘superstar’ is avoided.
Reduce the focus on numbers
The best agents and team managers may sometimes be those most able to deal with the pressure of meeting targets. Rather than any particular skills, it may be that they are simply people who work best under pressure, or don’t feel restricted by the need to meet expectations.
The key to getting other agents up to the same standard may be in relaxing the target-driven element of a team’s work.
“Inflexibility and a purely numbers-based approach can lead to a restrictive working environment, which can contribute to churn of both employees and clients and limit creativity and innovation,” said Mark Brown, Managing Director of Contact Centres and Loyalty at Arvato UK.
Some agents, especially those with a lot of experience, know how to work effectively under pressure. But if the rest of the team seems to be struggling to hit targets, perhaps it is worth relaxing the focus on numbers.
Reward amazing agents and team managers with promotion
Consistently excellent workers are often natural candidates when a vacancy arises elsewhere in the call centre. Promoting a successful agent to team leader, or a good team leader to a more senior management role, sends a positive message to other staff.
It demonstrates that the call centre recognises and rewards talent. Agents with aspirations to build a career will have an incentive to improve their performance.
Amazing team managers may have the ability to inspire others, and could make good trainers. If they have already been successful as an agent, and then as team leader, it is likely that their personal outlook aligns with the company’s goals. Getting them involved in training new staff is a logical way to spread enthusiasm for the company ethos.
Promote brand advocacy
The point about successful agents being those whose personal goals are aligned with the company’s can work both ways. It is important to instil the organisation’s mission and key principles in new staff from the moment they begin work.
Regularly briefing staff on new developments in company policy and successful achievement of business objectives can build a sense of focus, reinforcing the mentality of everyone working for common goals.
Amazing agents – and team leaders – can act as a kind of ‘brand champion’. They are the living embodiment of the success of the organisation.
Create a pleasant working environment
Part of the challenge of ‘bottling up’ amazing employees is to create an environment in which staff can thrive. There is a simple way to do this – ask them for suggestions.
“Encourage employees to make their own recommendations on working procedures and what would help them meet their own daily goals,” said Mark Brown of arvato UK.
“This not only empowers the team, but can also provide some simple but effective insights that senior management may not have considered.”
Obviously not all suggestions will be practical or desirable. But by listening to employees, a call centre may be able to unlock the hidden potential in some of its agents.
How do you bottle up your amazing agents and team leaders? Please leave your comments in an email to Call Centre Helper