Lorraine Harriott, a team leader at mplcontact’s Nottingham centre offers seven ways you can start motivating your agents without spending any money at all.
“We would love to do more to motivate our team, but we just can’t afford it.”
How many times have you heard that phrase in the past few months? Most managers and team leaders in the call centre industry recognise the value of motivated agents, but gone are the days when we all had budgets for weekly prizes for the top performers, team away-days and bonuses for exceptional performance.
But this does not now mean it is impossible to motivate staff.
If you are a parent do you encourage good behaviour in your children by buying them expensive presents every time they behave well? Of course not. You encourage it by explaining to them what good behaviour is, by praising them when they achieve it, listening to them and giving them practical support when they find it difficult and, finally, by setting a good example yourself.
In the same way, agent motivation has very little to do with the spot prizes you hand out and everything to do with how you communicate with your staff.
It can be easy to lose sight of this simple fact. We are all busy and the culture of financial incentives is so deeply ingrained that, in the heat of the moment, it can be much easier to just offer a pair of cinema tickets to the top performing agent than to spend time genuinely communicating with agents.
1. Understand their obstacles
Ask your staff what would improve their performance. You might be surprised what they tell you. They are, after all, the ones doing the job day in, day out. It could be something simple which you have never thought of before – a software tweak, a change to seating plans, a slight shift in working hours – something you can change quickly tomorrow and immediately transform your team’s performance.
2. Explain your decisions
Sometimes you are able to make the changes they want, other times you are not. When this does happen make sure you explain the reasons why. Fail to do this and your team will assume you just ignored their request and, next time you ask for ideas, they will be much less forthcoming. It’s all about building trust.
3. Remember they have lives outside of work.
Very often it is not what happens in the contact centre that affects agents’ performance; frequently it is issues at home or in their personal lives. You do not need to become a workplace counsellor, but your agents should feel able to let you know what is happening in the rest of their lives and to keep you updated on anything that might be impairing their performance.
4. Offer honest feedback
People need to know where they stand. So let them know when they have done something well and offer them public praise. When performance falls short, let them know, in private, and offer them all the extra support they need. Finally, do not be afraid to lay down the law where necessary. Communicating effectively is not the same as being nice; you must be firm yet fair.
5. Give them variety
By delegating where possible, and by rotating agents around departments and functions, you introduce variety into what can be a repetitive job. This not only helps to motivate them but also builds a flexible and multi-skilled workforce that can prove invaluable at times of staff absence or peak activity.
6. Be vulnerable
Mistakes happen, especially when we are striving to achieve high standards in new fields, so let your agents know that they are allowed to make mistakes. The key is that they learn from them and do not make them again.
In the same way, let them see you making mistakes and being vulnerable; they will warm to you and be more prepared to test themselves in challenging and unfamiliar environments.
7. Lead by example
Finally, never ask someone to do a task you would be unwilling to do yourself. Let agents see you doing the job they do – but make sure you do it well!
Thanks to www.mplcontact.com for these tips.