1:1 tips to create a more productive contact center

6 Tips to Make 1:1s More Productive in Your Contact Center

Pop quiz: Don’t you wish you could spend more time in meetings?

Answer: Don’t be ridiculous.

Between scheduling (and rescheduling – thanks WFM), prepping, aligning, presenting, emailing, following up, and (on occasion) cursing them, you’re spending a ton of time in less-than-productive meetings each week. Inefficient meetings are the mortal enemy of productivity.

According to Atlassian, employees are attending some 62 meetings a month, and about half of those meetings fall in the unproductive category. In fact, that report says most business professionals in the U.S. spend about 31 hours a month in meetings that are perceived as unproductive.

That’s an impressive number of hours lumbering through a depressing amount of inefficient meetings – and a staggering drain on business.

The average American works a 43.5-hour work week, summed from statistics culled through the U.S. Bureau of Labor, McKinsey & Company, and Gallup. And, between 50 and 60 percent of that time is spent in meetings each day for the B2B pro. It’s no secret: The cost of productivity lost in inefficient meetings is of colossal proportions.

Atlassian estimates that the salary cost of unnecessary meetings for U.S. business is $37 billion. That’s enough money to give every person in the state of Maine a new Hyundai Santa Fe.

But, another study commissioned by Verizon Conferencing showed the majority of employees (some 91 percent) value meetings because they give them a chance to contribute and provide feedback.

So, what if you could realign your meetings and make them more efficient? How productive could you be if you shifted the time you spend in inefficient meetings toward growing your agents? Here are six tips to make 1:1 meetings with your agents more effective and build a more productive contact center.

1. Have them

A study out of Gallup found that only a quarter of employees feel like their managers provide meaningful feedback or that the feedback they get actually helps them do better work. But investing time and energy into your agents is key to creating a world where agents enjoy their jobs and creating satisfied customers.

If you’re not holding 1:1s regularly, or they’re constantly getting rescheduled because WFM has predicted busy periods for the last two months and your agents aren’t allowed off the queue for feedback or coaching (*cough* our software helps to fix this *cough*), then it’s time to realign your schedule to make them happen. Start now, iterate later. Don’t worry if you don’t nail the agenda right away, but as Sheryl Sandberg would say, “Done is better than perfect.”

2. Make them personal

Avoid making your 1:1s a status update. Touch on current goals and review their progress, but have higher-level topics, like career path, obstacles, and long-term goals at the ready to discuss.

“If you get straight into ‘where are you on this project,’ the tone of the conversation is set up to be transactional,” said Neil Morrison, the director of strategy, culture and innovation at Penguin Random House in the UK. “Whereas, if you start with a ‘how are ya,’ ‘what are you up to,’ – some of the things that come out can be really useful.”

If you’re struggling to connect on a personal level with your agent, try moving the conversation toward personal development. Ask questions like: “Where do you want your career to go?” “What do you hope your next job will be – inside this company or not?” “What about your next, next job?” and “How do you think this job is setting you up for that job?”

This kind of personal level development not only gives you a look inside the mind of your agent, but also provides insight into what might be affecting their workplace behavior and decision-making.

3. Listen

Your job as a contact center manager is to make sure your agents feel heard, safe, and empowered. Let your agent take the driver’s seat for your 1:1 meeting. This adds value to your conversation and helps your team take ownership in building a productive contact center.

Once you’ve heard them, then you can shift into a facilitator of solutions. Talk through what they’re excited about, how you can mentor them to be successful in their role and unblock them to do their best work.

Get them talking and build trust by being an active listener. Affirm their perspective first. Then disclose your weaknesses. Talk through some of the places you’ve stumbled and help them relate. Be unconditionally on their side, even when you’re giving them direct feedback about opportunities for growth. And finally, as you listen, respect them as a person, not just a performer of tasks. Treat them as though they’re your peer and help them grow.

4. Be present

Put down the phone and step away from your email. Show up to your scheduled 1:1 meeting on time and give your agents your full, undivided attention. I get it, your schedule is insane. You’re inundated with meetings so maybe it’s hard to find a dedicated time for your 1:1, but in order to do your job well, you need your agents to do their jobs well. And they can’t do that without your feedback and coaching.

Some managers prefer to have a day dedicated to 1:1s each week (or each month), while others sprinkle their meetings throughout the week to ensure maximum mental presence. A benefit of having meetings on the same day is setting yourself up to find links between what’s going on with your team dynamic. Figure out which strategy works best for you and build out the schedule that allows you the most opportunity to give back to your agents.

5. Change your scenery

It’s certainly easiest, and likely most time-efficient, to just grab a room and get right into the thick of your meeting agenda. But every once in a while, offer to change up the scenery. Take a walk to a local park or grab coffee while you chat.

While it may seem counterintuitive to eat up some of your scheduled time by going offsite, the benefits are two-fold. First, you’re investing in your agents and yes, they’ll notice that. You’re taking time to completely disconnect from your other duties to focus intently on their professional development. That’s worth your time in ROI. And then second, by heading offsite, your agent gets a chance to see you as a human, not just the turgid ol’ boss. You’ll build their trust in you and you’ll get better, more impactful feedback. And that, in turn, will create a more productive contact center.

6. Write things down

Block out a few minutes before your meeting to think specifically about what you’d like to discuss. If your agent is slipping on a certain metric, dig in to see if you can ID the root cause. Then wait to see if they bring it up in the conversation. If they don’t, that’d be your cue to note the feedback and what you found in your research.

Coming prepared to the meeting helps your 1:1s maintain pace and it shows that you respect your agent’s time. Plus, it helps to keep things from falling through the cracks.

Then after the conversation, capture the outcomes of the meeting. For instance, I like to block off 10 minutes immediately following 1:1s with my direct reports to jot down some notes from our discussion. What feedback did she give me? What action items did I promise him? And what action items did she promise me?

Summarizing the outcomes and sharing them with your agent can help eliminate misunderstandings, too. And it makes it easier to pick up and get rolling in the next 1:1 meeting. As a contact center manager, it’s also helpful to take your own notes to track how the meeting went log key takeaways.

Holding 1:1s with your agents, understanding their needs and facilitating solutions creates a more productive contact center. But, there’s no one way to organize a 1:1 meeting. In fact, many unique factors dictate the best way to structure your meetings for success. Keep pulse on things like the emotional needs of your agents, your relationship, and your agents’ experience levels.

The most important element to a successful 1:1 is creating a space where your agents feel comfortable to talk through the issues and concerns on their mind. These meetings, of course, help you understand your agents better, but they’re primarily for your agent, and their participation is vital.