Things to avoid when celebrating contact center agents

6 Things to Avoid When You Celebrate Your Agents

Your agents are problem-solvers. It sounds like a positive, upbeat kind of role – taking something negative and turning it into something valuable. But, it also means that your agents ALWAYS get handed the negatives first. Being handed a giant platter of complaints and difficulties is just plain exhausting. When someone’s exhausted and constantly served up negativity, it impacts their purpose and positive connection to what they do every day.

An in-depth study by Gallup looked at the five elements of well-being that influence a person’s overall health, happiness, and success in life. Gallup found that of the five factors that influence well-being the most, Purpose Well-Being tops the charts. Purpose Well-Being is all about liking what you do every day and reaching your goals. It’s the well-being category where your career lives. Those who loved how they spent their time each day were more than twice as likely to thrive overall. We spend a majority of our lives at work. When you think about it, the impact of this category makes total sense. So, for the sake of your agents’ well-being, it’s important that you offset their difficulties with happy moments, too.

Celebrating and recognizing your agents is absolutely essential to their success. However, there are certain celebrations and tactics that can come off as disingenuous and lackluster to your agents. We did some digging to find out what contact center agents DON’T want out of their workplace celebrations.

Here are real agent testimonies and six things to avoid when you celebrate your agents.

1. Showering them with branded gifts.

Giving new team members a branded pen and notebook when they start fresh at your company is a welcome ritual, but as your agents progress with your organization, the influx of branded swag becomes a pile of unwanted clutter. Not only that, but, slapping your company’s name on a pen or plastic cup screams “hey, look at me” at a time when your agents want you to recognize THEM. And, your agents know that you likely had a leftover stash of these pens and cups in a dusty storage closet. This giving act comes served with good intent, but it lacks thoughtfulness.

contact center agents swag

Add a personal touch instead:

If you want to make use of items you already have on hand, make the gesture more personal, first. Fill that branded plastic cup with your agent’s favorite candy, a handwritten note, and a few other meaningful tokens of your appreciation. Go beyond what’s easy and available, so you can give your agents something they’ll actually enjoy, and something that suits THEM.

2. Ignoring the elephant in the room.

Your agents really want job security, pay raises, and opportunities to advance. Shiny prizes and tons of activities can be wanted additions to a stressful day, but don’t use these tactics to simply brush your agents’ larger wants and needs under the rug.

Contact Center Agents want a pay raise

Be understanding:

Acknowledge that you know your celebrations don’t replace long-term career planning and the often overworked, underpaid nature of your agents’ jobs. Let them know you’re committed to helping them excel and grow, and start those growth conversations today. But, make sure they know it’s okay to take breaks and enjoy themselves at work in the meantime. No, a bucket of prizes and a few planned events don’t make their jobs better, but if you recognize that you understand this and empathize with them, they’ll be more apt to enjoy their short-term celebrations.

3. Getting the cheapest food possible.

With the endless effort and emotion your agents invest in their work each day, they deserve more than a slice of pizza. Agents are all for getting free lunch as a celebratory treat. But, cheap, low-quality food options reinforce the idea that contact centers are cost-focused, not people-focused. But the stomach ache is worth it if it’s free, right? Nope. Your agents recognize when you take the bargain route, and it makes them feel undervalued.

Give contact center agents more than pizza

Splurge for a quality meal:

Free, catered lunches are a perk that everyone loves. But splurge a little and invest in a quality meal rather than opting for the convenience factor and ordering a rubbery pizza. Plenty of restaurants are happy to come set-up shop with all the serving tools and deliciousness you could ever need. Plus, many even offer discount rates and cost-effective options for company lunches.

4. Getting stingy with the time your agents spend away from their desks.

Workplace celebrations and rewarded time off is different for contact center agents than most other employees. The 24/7 nature of customer service means your company depends on your contact center to be at least partially staffed ALL the time. This means when it’s time for a free lunch, group activity, or congratulatory half-day, your agents often have to take turns participating.

Don’t be overbearing with the celebrations and activities you allow your agents to attend. And, don’t continuously glance at your watch as the end of lunch-hour approaches. These stress-responses will discourage your team from actually taking a breather and soaking in the recognition they deserve. And, they’ll likely feel that they have to work overtime to make up for the time away from their desks.

Contact Center Agents are Overworked

Put your agents first:

Plan ahead of time, and make interim communication options for your customers. Notify them of the downtime in your call center, and leave open lines of communication for emails and messages that can be addressed later. Ask a fellow manager or other department leader to be on hand to field urgent interactions, just in case any crucial situations pop-up. Instead of making it all about the customer ALL the time, choose your agents this time. Put them first, and later on, they’ll give your customers an experience that more than makes up for the 3-hour delay of an email response.

5. Sandwiching recognition with constructive feedback.

When you take the time to recognize your agents and their accomplishments, don’t mix in a dash of critiques. Taking time to celebrate your agents means just that. Remove metrics and missed goals from the picture. While having your entire team together in one space AND in good spirits may feel like a great time to sneak in some comments about improving performance, it takes away from their recognition time. Separate your celebrations from your larger workplace conversations.

Contact Center Agents Need Celebrations

Save criticism for later:

If you want to energize your team to pick up the pace and do better in certain areas, leave those talks for team meetings and individual conversations. Use your celebrations to talk about all the things your team did right. Share positive customer stories and metrics your agents blew out of the water. Then, at a later date AFTER you’ve shown your agents sincere appreciation, you can kick off your constructive conversations.

6. Forcing attendance at events and activities.

Encourage attendance and promote the importance and impact of your celebrations and recognition events, but don’t make them mandatory. Agents already have dozens of mandatory tasks and responsibilities, so don’t make their celebratory lunch feel like an added obligation. If Becky had a rough day and wants to sit at her desk and enjoy some quiet time while the team is away, then so be it. She’s earned that right.

Give contact center agents options

Give your agents options:

Survey your team for events and activities they would like. Include them in the decision-making and planning process, so they’ll feel ownership over the events and actually want to attend. But, still leave the option for people to opt out if they choose. You can’t force enjoyment.

Even though you plan with good intent, celebrations that lack meaning or personalization serve to cause a disconnect between you and your team. Stay away from these tactics, and you’ll be on a path to build a team of trusted, happy agents. If you missed out on Customer Service Week celebrations this year, mark your calendars for next year. Start planning your activities for the first week in October of 2019.

Find out more about how you can bring positivity into your workplace. Read our blog post on how to keep agent morale high!