We present a collection of quick ideas to improve staff engagement and motivation in the contact centre.
1. Bring in a Daily Stretch
Once per day (or per shift) instigate a team stretch, where everyone stands up from their desks and has a good stretch before sitting back down.
The great thing about this activity is that it takes under a minute and can be done during a call without the customer knowing. You can even ring a little bell to mark the occasion!
2. Create a Stress-Free Zoom Room for Your Agents
Create a stress-free Zoom room which your advisors can use as a retreat and talk to someone, if they need a break from the phones.
While in the Zoom room, you can encourage agents to disconnect their laptop, move away from their desk and relax into a more comfortable environment.
This could be the living room, where they can sit on a sofa and take their mind off work.
3. Reward Agents With an Extra Break
As a non-monetary reward, thank your agents for their hard work by giving out “virtual coupons” for an additional break.
Agents can then cash these in to extend their usual lunch and break times – with supervisors stepping in to fill the gaps on the phones.
Just make sure you set clear rules about how the coupons can be used. For example, they can be used to lengthen an agent’s lunch hour, but not to go home early. It would be a shame to ruin the positive experience with a misunderstanding.
4. Give Annual Leave in Hours Not Days
A simple technique to improve staff engagement is to allow staff to take off just a few hours rather than having to take off a half day or full day.
Rather than providing 24 days of holiday, convert this into 180 hours. These could be called time off on an hour-by-hour basis.
This can be particularly useful if people need to take a few hours to do something like attend a school play.
For more good quick workforce planning ideas, read our article: 50 Expert Tips to Improve Contact Centre WFM
5. Encourage Agents to Decorate Their Walls With Photos
If agents have lots of empty wall space in their workspace, suggest that advisors fill this space with some of their favourite photos.
One good idea to share with your team is to split sections of their wall space into different themes – for example, holiday photos, family snapshots, etc – and the photos can be hung up accordingly.
This idea can also be applied if you plan to move back to a traditional brick and mortar contact centre.
The Ansaback contact centre has a wall dedicated to selfies, one for pampered pets and one showcasing the special talents of their staff.
6. Appoint Knowledge Champions
If you have a knowledge base, look for knowledge champions.
It’s a sad fact that the best people in the company to update your knowledge base are probably the least willing.
These are your best technical support gurus.
You can probably find your knowledge champions by asking for volunteers.
Give them responsibility for keeping certain sections of your knowledge base updated.
For more tips on how best to manage your knowledge base, read our article: 14 Practical Techniques to Improve Knowledge Management
7. Share Recordings of Your Best Agents
It’s a good technique to let other advisors listen to the top sellers. This helps them to observe some of the sales techniques that work and also allows them to hone their own skills.
You have to be careful that they do not pick up bad habits or start using shortcuts, though.
This technique is also great in customer service. You can make an example of calls where an agent has negotiated a tricky situation well.
8. Make Time to Discuss How Things Could Be Better
Every month, gather your entire team together to discuss what could have been done better.
A good starting point for these discussions is to look at issues which have escalated. Alternatively, you can ask agents to put forward calls where they feel there was some weakness in the customer journey.
You can then discuss together what could have been done better.
To really get the most out of these sessions, the team should be encouraged to draw on best practice, personal experience and competitor activity.
9. Encourage Agents to Personalize Their Desks
Encourage your agents to personalize their desk space with photographs, personal mementos, positive customer feedback and certificates of achievement, as these can act as great “pick me ups” during a challenging shift.
You can help keep these “pick me ups” up to date by having photo booths at all of your company events – giving out free prints to your agents on Monday morning – and giving out regular in-house awards for “Agent of the Month” or “Best Customer Experience”.
10. Host a Virtual Agent Appreciation Day
Host a virtual Agent Appreciation Day in your contact centre. During this day, each of your agents should receive a letter of appreciation from at least one of their fellow agents – NOT a team leader or manager!
These letters should include specific praise for anything from making a great cup of tea or always smiling, to covering a last-minute shift or being supportive of a struggling team member.
These letters should be handwritten for added effect.
11. Offer a Variety of Prizes to Make Your Competitions More Inclusive
One of the main issues with running a competition is that it is virtually impossible to pick a prize that everyone wants.
Even something as elaborate as a cruise may not appeal to employees with young families or those with health problems.
A fun solution is to take a fixed amount of money to a department store and spend it on a variety of prizes, from baby clothes to camping gear.
In the contact centre, you can then lay all of the prizes out at the start of the week, placing a bowl in front of each of them.
Throughout the week, your agents can place a raffle ticket in a bowl of their choice for every sales target that they meet.
However, you could also tailor this game to the virtual environment, with some support from your IT team.
For examples of games that you can play in the remote contact centre, read our article: The Best Motivational Games for Employees and Remote Workers
12. Hand Out Wearable Prizes to Liven up Your Zoom Calls
The next time you are giving prizes to your agents for meeting their daily targets, try rewarding them with wearable items such as over-sized sunglasses or silly hats.
This should help to motivate your agents as they try to win their own silly hat, as well as make everyone on your Zoom calls laugh at how ridiculous they all look.
You could also take photos and share them on your online contact centre groups.
13. Up Your Leadership Training
When agents are promoted to leadership positions they often receive very little coaching.
The result is that the new leader just carries on doing what their predecessor did. They become afraid to try new ideas.
So, create a leadership programme that coaches those new to the position to be inspiring and engaging leaders.
14. Incentivize Overtime With a Stamp Card
Create virtual stamp cards, where the agents are rewarded with a stamp for every hour of overtime that they work.
These stamps can then be traded in for prizes. For example, 10 stamps can be exchanged for a £20 high-street voucher.
15. Play Pass the Parcel Between Calls
This is one for when you move back to the office to help liven the mood of the contact centre.
Create a pass the parcel, filling each layer with a small prize. Every time an agent makes a sale or hits a target, the parcel is passed to them and they get to open a layer.
Ideas for prizes include sweet treats, as well as vouchers for “an extra-long break” and instant “time off the phones”.
16. Offer Lunch-Based Incentives
Give food vouchers (e.g. Uber Eats, Deliveroo etc.) so all of your agents in a team are allowed a free lunch, as long as there is no more than one instance of absence (excluding holiday) during that week.
You should find that everyone’s attendance improves, as they won’t want to let their team down (and cost them a free lunch) by being absent.
17. Make It Easy for Agents to Swap Their Own Shifts
Make it as easy as possible for agents to swap shifts with each other.
This is quite easy to achieve through a WFM system, but could equally be done by posting cards on an old-fashioned noticeboard or by using an internal Facebook group.
The more ownership agents have of the process, the easier it will be to manage. It will also help to bring down absence rates.
For more on how best to run shift-swaps in the contact contact centre, read our article: The Trials and Tribulations of Shift-Swaps
18. Frame Puzzles That Agents Have Worked on Together
This is a fun way to inspire teamwork and staff engagement and one to remember for a post-COVID future.
Buy a few large jigsaw puzzles and set them up in the breakout room so that your agents can work on them together.
Once the puzzles are completed, you can then frame them and hang them around the contact centre to remind your agents of what they can achieve as a team.
19. Incentivize Exercise for Healthier and Happier Agents
Incentivize exercise in your contact centre by allowing your agents to earn points for completing various physical activities throughout the week.
For example, points can be earned through walking at lunch, biking to work or working out in your in-office gym.
You can then have prizes in place which match the number of points accumulated at the end of the month – the more points, the more extravagant the prize!
The great thing about this incentive is that part-time agents, as well as those working night shifts, can also take part.
Just make sure that your points are not food related!
20. Send Handwritten Cards to Say Thank You
Giving out handwritten cards is a nice personal way to say thank you to your agents for a job well done.
The more time you spend writing these messages (for example, adding in specific examples of where the agent did especially well), the more they will be valued.
21. Reward Your Agents With “Shout Outs”
A simple but fun way to reward your agents is to add “shout outs” to the company intranet, Facebook page or Twitter account to celebrate everyone who pleases a customer or makes a sale.
These live feeds can then be displayed on your wallboards, if you move back to the contact centre, for everyone to see!
22. The Customer Service Oscars
Everyone loves an awards ceremony, so why not set up an awards scheme for the contact centre?
You could even make it like the Oscars with a posh virtual awards ceremony.
You can do awards for the best in customer service and get people in the contact centre to nominate each other. Nominating each other can become quite infectious and could create quite a buzz.
There are lots of companies that make plaques and cups to order. There are a number that produce gold Oscar lookalike trophies.
You could then do a montage of all the photos from the event.
23. Know How to Celebrate as a Team
If you want the team to do well, it is important to be able to celebrate.
I don’t just mean a round of applause in a team meeting or a nice customer feedback board. I mean team-bonding time to celebrate a success.
Make it a good excuse to do something fun. Out of pandemic, this could include a team meal, ten pin bowling or a boat trip on the river. Yet there are many good ideas for the remote world too.
For lots of great remote staff engagement ideas, read our article: Remote Staff Engagement: 9 Strategies to Make Your Team Smile
24. Stop Chaining Advisors to Their Desks
It’s a bit of an old-fashioned technique that has its roots more in the “if you can’t see it, you can’t measure it” school of the 1950s rather than the 21st century.
Why not allow staff to control their own whereabouts, within guidelines? Certainly, when it is ‘all hands to the pumps’ you will need to get calls answered, but during quieter periods it will probably be more effective to get your staff solving some of those drivers about why customers are calling in the first place.
25. Adopt the Five Coins Method
Here’s a game that has been used to create more positivity in the office-based contact centre, but which could be adapted to suit a virtual environment.
Get your all your managers and team leaders to start with five coins in their left pocket. It doesn’t have to be coins; it could be marbles, buttons or beads.
Every time they say a positive comment to someone in their team, they move a coin from their left pocket to their right pocket.
You’d be amazed at how quickly the positivity spreads around the team.
26. Celebrate With Friday Incentives
On Friday, everyone who completes their quality scores is allowed to draw a number from a bowl.
There should be around 50 numbers that can be drawn, a certain amount of which will allow your agents to “open the safe”.
Inside the safe should be a range of prizes, like a box of chocolates, go home early, or a bottle of wine.
There are simple online tools that you could use to help you to create a virtual safe.
27. Investigate What Motivates Different People
Before you rush out to design a fancy break area or invest in several Xbox consoles, find out what people value most.
One contact centre manager that I chatted with said that the thing that made the most difference to their agents was free hot water.
This enabled people in the contact centre to make their own teas, coffees and cup-a-soups, without having to rely on the bland offerings from the vending machines.
Simple, but effective.
Finding out what motivates people is key to making gamification work in contact centres. Read this article to find out more: What Is Gamification and How Is It Best Used in the Contact Centre?
28. Finish Early on Friday!
At 2pm on Friday, invite two people who have performed well during the week to sign off and start enjoying their weekend early.
If you are in a physical contact centre, this incentive is very visible on the floor and helps to provide a great sense of recognition and reward.
29. Focus on the Working Environment
By improving the working environment, you can simultaneously improve agent performance in your contact centre.
This is more tricky in the remote contact centre. But asking advisors to show you their working environment on a video call can be a great exercise. You can then share tips and provide extra support in helping to improve their home working environments.
To achieve this in the physical contact centre, you should make sure that everywhere is well lit, by bringing the outside in and using as much natural light as possible. You may be able to do this by removing high partitions.
You can also use things like colourful paint and potted plants to brighten up your contact centre, or even put in some artificial grass and a fish tank.
30. Give Staff a Small Empowerment Budget
Are you looking to improve customer service and to drive employee engagement?
Why not allow a small empowerment budget for advisors of, say, £250 per month. This can be spent on doing the right thing for the customer. This could then be used without approval for something like sending a birthday card to a customer, or sending out a bunch of flowers as an apology – up to £50 with no approvals needed.
Your advisors will use it when they feel appropriate and you will probably find that they know when a customer is “trying it on”.
For more on empowering your team, read our article: What Does Employee Empowerment REALLY Mean?
31. Trust Advisors, Don’t Treat Them Like Children
One of the most common problems that I hear from talking with advisors is: “I wish that they would stop treating us like children.”
You probably don’t get beaten up every day on your metrics, so why do you assume that your advisors do?
This does not mean abrogating all responsibility, but it does mean giving more power to advisors to do the right thing by the customer.
Start treating your advisors like grown-ups and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Just remember – as Paul Cooper put it: “It’s not empowerment unless you trust people”.
32. Bring in a Dragons’ Den Initiative
Here’s a great idea that one contact centre used to engage their employees.
They had a staff suggestion scheme but needed to get more engagement and buy-in to the process.
They set up a Lion’s Lair. It was a bit like TV’s Dragons’ Den but with a panel of senior managers. Agents could bring forward their suggestions and present them to the panel.
The virtual panel would either reject the idea or accept it and then get the agent to take the idea forward and deploy the suggestion in the company.
This idea seems to be well liked within the company. It also gets around the problem that so many companies have with staff suggestion schemes that solutions get added but never get actioned.
33. Make It Easier for Agents to Book Holidays
Make booking holidays as easy as possible for your staff. It is a great motivator.
One contact centre I visited had a policy that, providing you gave three months’ notice, they would guarantee a holiday.
Another contact centre had holiday buddies, where two members of staff had to agree between themselves that there would always be one of them available.
34. Set Up a 100% Club
Provide a scheme for people who consistently achieve their quality scores. If somebody achieves their quality scores for 10 days in a row, then give them a certificate.
You could also do things like provide some extra holiday for people who consistently get a 100% customer satisfaction score.
35. Flexible Shifts Can Be a Win-Win
One of the best techniques I have come across to help agent engagement and reduce absence is flexible shifts. This is basically where you ask your members of staff what shift pattern they would like to work and how many hours they would like to work.
There are usually some simple rules
- It must include one anti-social shift per month (e.g. Friday/ Saturday evening)
- You must keep the pattern for 12 months
You simply recruit new staff to fill in the shift gaps.
For more advice on creating engaging shifts, read our article: Shift Planning – What You Need to Know to Best Engage Your Team
36. Hold a Lucky Dip
Introduce a “luck dip” scheme. Whenever an agent makes a sale or meets their quality scores, let them have a go at the lucky dip box to win a prize.
They could pick an envelope that contained either a “better luck next time” or a range of prizes – like time off or a meal out.
The element of jeopardy creates a sense of fun.
37. Encourage Staff to Make Changes
There is nothing more frustrating for either the customer or an employee than to keep hitting the same broken processes.
Encourage staff to take ownership for problems and to be able to work them through the organization. You need to be able to give them time off the phones to do this, but it should yield real dividends.
38. Let Agents Set the Pace for Training
Running an over-cautious training programme – with several months mandatorily separating the introduction of each new campaign or channel – can hold your agents back from reaching their full potential.
It can also lead to some of your brightest agents becoming bored and – in some cases – cause them to look for a new job.
You can overcome this by listening to your agents and tailoring their training to their individual needs and abilities, so that they can move on to the next phase when they feel ready.
Why stick to a plan that diminishes your agents’ enthusiasm?
For more advice on agent training, read our article: 16 Customer Service Training Ideas – With Activities, Games and Helpful Techniques
39. Offer Unpaid Time Off
Need to reduce costs during quiet periods? Here is a simple technique – offer advisors unpaid time off.
You can still set rules about when and how this is offered, but you may find that some members of staff will be happy with a few extra days off.
It doesn’t cost you anything and you may find that they come back more refreshed at the end of it.
40. Give Non-Telephone Treats
Allow staff non-telephone treats (i.e. time off the phones).
Put staff on the phone for 70% of time, but leave the other 30% for other tasks such as emails, new projects, or improving processes.
41. Share Staff With Other Departments
There were a number of examples where people lent agents to other departments.
One centre did it as a back-up to the floor exercise (a bit like a corporate work experience), where agents could go and spend a day in another department. This gave them a better understanding of how other parts of the business worked and also helped to improve the image of the contact centre.
Another company used an initiative called Stepping Stones, where staff were lent to other departments during quiet seasonal periods.
During busy periods they were then also able to get the favour returned and get extra staff to cover the call peaks. This worked best where the call centre was based in head office.
For more on communicating with other departments, read our article: 7 Clever Ways to Improve Internal Communication Between Departments
42. Don’t Target Agents With Talk Time
It’s a sad fact, but the most common measurement in the contact centre is Average Handling Time or AHT.
This may be very a crude guide of efficiency and can be very useful when input into an Erlang calculator.
The problem is that it gives no indication of the outcome of the call.
When you target agents with talk time, you are unconsciously sending the signal to the agent that it is more important to get the customer off the call and handle the next call rather than solving the real reason why the customer was calling.
And at its extreme, you may find agents hanging up on the caller to ensure that they meet their talk-time targets.
Quite a number of contact centres have thrown out their talk-time targets and have seen talk time increase slightly. But they have also seen a significant improvement in employee engagement and first contact resolution.
43. Record Videos With Your Team
This tip comes from Neil, one of our readers.
“We’ve recently started recording interview-style videos where leaders ask team members about their top tips and honest experiences on things like building resilience and handling emotional load.”
44. Create a New Starters’ Network
This tip comes from Teresa, one of our readers.
“We run a new starters’ network to help groups of new contact centre staff bond and learn together.”
“One of new starters runs this and we give them time to do it. It’s up to them how they run it.”
45. Hold Wellness Sessions
This tip comes from Jamie, one of our readers.
“We held a wellness session whereby each agent completed a slide with a selfie, and shared insight around how they have been looking after their well-being, their lockdown guilty pleasure and what they are most excited for after lockdown. It went down really well when sharing with their peers.”
For more on the topic of employee well-being, read our article: Employee Well-Being: How to Reduce Contact Centre Stress
46. Set Up an “All About Fun” Channel
This tip comes from Laura, one of our readers.
“We have a Teams channel set up that is ‘All About Fun’, where agents can post funny pictures, like look at my cat taking over my desk, or chat about weekend plans, etc.”
“Just something to help them feel like they can still chat with others when we are not in the office.”
47. Run Skill Drills
This tip comes from L. Cloutier, one of our readers.
“We are using what we learn in quality to create skill drills.”
“We focus solely on one area of opportunity in pairs to practise the particular skill and have a set of best practices for later.”
48. Familiarize Agents With the Company Website
This tip comes from Seema, one of our readers.
“It’s really important and effective to ensure agents know the company website and content, as this is not only a knowledge base but also important for supporting customers to self-help.”
“Spend a little time talking to a customer about the services and benefits of self-service, and you will shift demand to self-service.”
49. Invest in Your Team Leaders
This tip comes from Dan, one of our readers.
“All the most effective contact centres heavily invest in the team leader role.”
“Support your team leaders well with clear, unambiguous objectives and freedom to optimize the performance of their team.”
For more on how you can better support your team leaders, read our article: Train Team Leaders Well
50. Review Customer Pain Points With Agents
This tip comes from Teresa, one of our readers.
“Involve your agents in reviewing pain points. Take each customer journey in rotation so they are regularly reviewed.”
For lots more quick ideas for running a great contact centre, read our articles: