Ignore your contact center agents at your peril. Taking care of customer service agents is expensive. However, not taking care of them costs far more.
Too often, the economics of customer care mean that we neglect our contact center workers. At the same time, they are on the front line! Unhappy customer service agents hurt everything from cost per call to net promoter scores (NPS), customer effort scores (CES) and more. And, according to a recent survey, 73% of customer service professionals have difficulty meeting their metric goals as it is.
Unhappy contact center employees also quit faster. Few managers recognize that this costs at least $5000 per attrition in environments with four weeks or more of training. Even worse, too many new agents on the floor also hurts cost per call and customer satisfaction.
If you want to improve your bottom line, you will have to move beyond carrots and sticks and even “gamification.” Customer service agents already may already know that they are at 85% of their average handling time (AHT) goal and that they will get bonuses or fired based on how they responds to customers.
Try instead to focus on your agents, personally. Here are seven ways to help you do just that.
1. Help contact center agents manage stress
Customer service is famously hard. Encourage your group to share their strategies for calming down after a frustrating call. Consider offering yoga or a meditation room for breaks or instituting a deep breathing or guided relaxation program. Most important, reward your agents for investing in themselves. They will feel valued, will be less stressed, and will perform better and stick around longer.
2. Create a sense of belonging
Social engagement is a key driver of employee happiness and success. Give your team the opportunity to do things together. Find opportunities for group activities or challenges, especially when new employees join. Try to schedule breaks with this in mind—people need to forge relationships with others quickly.
3. Leverage customer service expertise
One advantage of socially engaged customer service teams is that best practices diffuse more efficiently. Make sure people who are struggling get help from more skilled agents.
Better yet, build a strong enough team that this happens automatically through relationships. The learning will virtually take care of itself and you will infuse more meaning into your senior agents’ work. Also, constantly utilize agent input to improve your processes. They are the experts. Show them that you understand that.
4. Pay attention to employee health
Contact centers aren’t exactly fortresses of fitness. Hold monthly wellness challenges and reward improvements. Try switching out junk food for healthier fare, or giving employees the chance to earn a Fitbit or other wearable. Healthy employees are more engaged, and this is yet another opportunity to create stronger team ties.
5. Empower agents
Provide appropriate training and tools so customer service agents can learn to make decisions and work on their own. Then, let agents quickly earn the right to make more decisions as they show competence, rather than having to depend on their supervisors.
Increased autonomy produces more ownership of work and more engagement. And the supervisors will have a little more time to pay attention to agents’ needs rather than just handling escalations.
6. Focus on the supervisor
The research strongly suggests that your customer service supervisors are the lowest hanging fruit. Teach them to think beyond carrots and sticks. Teach them how to create an inclusive, engaging, lower stress, team based environment, and you will see your AHTs drop, your customer satisfaction score (CSAT) soar and your retention change dramatically.
7. Make agents feel appreciated
Recognize excellence and improvement wherever you see it.
Most likely, you already do this for performance metrics. But consider other facets of performance. Who is mentoring others? Who is improving the fastest by taking advantage of team expertise? Who is bringing the team together? These things all drive employee performance.
Make sure to recognize all the drivers of performance, not just performance itself.
The bottom line
The truth is that the more satisfied your contact center agents are, the better they will perform. Ultimately, you will be able to provide your customers with a better experience, which will positively impact your bottom line.
Ready for more tips for how to improve customer service? Download the free eBook today: How to Use Remote Collaboration Solutions to Create Amazing Customer Experiences and Gain Quick ROI.
About Ron Davis
Ron Davis is the CEO of Tenacity. Tenacity is an employee engagement solution for contact centers. Tenacity improves employee engagement by utilizing technology to fill in the gaps left by overworked supervisors and managers. Its platform allows managers seamlessly and at scale to apply the seven management techniques above and more to get agents engaged. For more information or to see a recently released case study on their impact on attrition and performance in a telecom contact center, visit http://gotenacity.com.
Tenactiy is a spun-off of from MIT’s Human Dynamics Group.
About Glance Networks
Glance helps enterprise organizations create the ultimate customer experience with smart, omni-channel visual engagement solutions based around integrated cobrowse, screen share, and one-way agent video. We are one of the world’s simplest, most reliable and secure platforms that enable companies to see, show and share anything online, creating a frictionless path to great experiences in sales, support and customer service. The result is improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, increased revenue growth and operational savings. From financial services and healthcare to retail and travel and leisure, even the most advanced technology and SaaS organizations – we transform the customer experience for today’s business. Learn More »