When you’re overwhelmed and it feels like every customer interaction is one that needs undivided attention, it may be easy to think the answer is locking your agents down until they solve every remaining customer problem. Whew, no more customer problems? Now, that would be a relief, wouldn’t it?
Except that’s not the way it works. Especially in a growing business. Your customers will keep reaching out for help, and you’ll keep doing everything in your power to help them. So, step back, and let’s think about some actionable ways you can problem-solve.
We’ll go ahead and give you the answer to step one. (Hint: It’s a super important one!)
Improve agent morale. Your agents are your best assets and biggest advocates, so take care of them. Below you’ll find a list of 6 contact center tips to boost agent morale. Take a peek, and try some today.
1. Ask for agent feedback, and listen
See what your employees think about working for you. Ask them what makes them stay, and what could be better. But go a step further. Listen to what they tell you, and act on that feedback rather than tucking it away in the back corner of your mind.
There’s a growing trend that helps you structure this kind of conversation with your agents. It’s called the stay interview – it’s like an exit interview, but you have the conversation before an employee decides to leave instead of after.
Ask them what makes them happy at work, and what they could do without. Then take this feedback and use it. Exit interviews focus on questions like “what’s your reason for leaving,” and “what do you think we can improve?” But stay interviews find out what’s working, so you can amplify it. You get insight into each employee’s personal motivators, too. If you have these conversations and discover that Jordan stays because she loves the fast pace of the contact center, then you know she’s a great candidate to push more customers to when your other agents are in a pinch. If Mark stays because he sees opportunity for advancement, then you keep him in mind for new positions as your team grows.
When you ask the right questions, you can get answers that drive growth and empowerment in your contact center. In fact, you don’t even have to ask tons of questions to get actionable results. Gallup researchers found a set of 12 questions that most accurately measure employee engagement and its impact on your business. Your agents will appreciate the effort to have honest conversations and work for constant improvement. Showing genuine interest in each of your agents creates a friendly, empowered work environment. Most organizations are dead-set on listening to and acting on customer feedback, so agents recognize when this effort isn’t reciprocated. Make agent feedback a priority to boost morale – they’re your internal customers.
2. Build a culture of trust
Here’s the kicker: Conversations like the stay interview won’t happen the right way without trust. And really, none of these contact center tips will be all-that-effective if you don’t build trust with your agents. This is the foundational layer of running a successful contact center. Trust can come from small practices like giving agents the autonomy to decide when it’s okay to take a break. Or it can come from more structured practices like having frequent one-on-one conversations.
Building trust can take time, so it’s important to start creating trusting relationships with your agents right off the bat. One sure-fire way to create unnecessary apprehension is creating overly-strict policies on breaks, sick days, and infractions. Zero-tolerance policies and policies that ask agents to clock in and out for quick breaks indicate a lack of trust. Nix policies like this and opt for flexible guidelines and standard expectations instead. That way agents can use their judgment to guide their work day. After all, you hired smart, capable people, so let them be smart and capable.
The benefits to employees who feel trusted at work are staggering. Harvard researcher Paul J. Zak studied trust and organizational performance for decades. His research identified some pretty incredible findings. Inc. Magazine shared some of these findings:
“Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report 74 percent less stress, 106 percent more energy at work, 50 percent higher productivity, 13 percent fewer sick days, 76 percent more engagement, 29 percent more satisfaction with their lives, and 40 percent less burnout.”
Wow, talk about benefits! It’s hard to wrap our mind around how one factor can have such an impact on a person and an organization, but it’s safe to say that building trust is one of (if not THE) most important determinants of your agent’s morale and performance.
3. Use in-line training to give agents actionable feedback
67% of contact center managers say sufficient training is essential to creating satisfied agents, but there’s a problem. Contact center managers only have 7 percent of their time available to train agents each week. The average American works 47 hours per week. If you’re on par with the average worker, that means you only have 3 hours and 18 minutes to spend training your agents. Pop a bag of popcorn, turn on the Titanic, and watch it start-to-finish… that’s equal to the amount of time you have available to train ALL of your agents each week.
More often than not, training is viewed as a time-intensive project that takes weeks to plan. Traditional training methods mean shutting down the contact center, gathering your agents in a conference room, and flipping through three different 80-slide PowerPoint presentations. Scrap that. In-line training can solve this problem and make more training completely feasible for you to tackle. Teachable moments exist in-the-moment. If you stock your examples and feedback for review at the end of the month or quarter, you and your agents likely won’t remember the customer interactions you reference. Train your agents as coaching moments come up. Be proactive rather than reactive.
Contextual training identifies exact moments in customer interactions where your agents excelled and others where they could use some pointers. You can listen to transcriptions and identify areas where they shined, or those that need adjustment – even down to a few choice words the agent used. Quick, micro-learning exercises make training easy for you to implement, and make the lessons more valuable and actionable for your agents. Giving them the tools they need to succeed, and the knowledge they need to problem-solve for your customers will create empowered, happy agents.
4. Develop formal career paths
Create actionable plans for your agents’ growth to keep morale high and motivation at its peak. If they know what they’re doing is valuable and matters to the organization, they’ll want to continue doing a stellar job. Being a rockstar agent means much more than endlessly handling angry customers. These frontline employees have the power to make or break a person’s day, and even a relationship with a brand. Your agents will feel this larger sense of purpose when they can see firsthand how their contributions matter and how progressing with your company will strengthen their ability to positively impact customers. Plus, it’s easy to be motivated when you know there are future benefits in it for you, too.
There’s more to it than just improving morale. Developing formal career plans will help you retain more agents. According to a Glassdoor survey about employee turnover, workers who stagnate in jobs are more likely to quit. Creating actionable plans for growth will prevent employee stagnation and ensure that your best agents are getting the recognition and career opportunities they deserve. Investing in and growing your employees aligns devoted individuals’ wants with your company’s needs. You want to give your best employees a reason to be loyal, and when you do, they’ll keep positively impacting your business.
So, what exactly do we mean by actionable plans and formal career paths? Create a timeline for progression, decide what key metrics must be hit in order to move up the ranks, and schedule check-in conversations to make sure agents have the resources they need to make it happen.
5. Encourage breaks and rejuvenation
Relax for a second, stop thinking, and take a deep breath. Didn’t that feel good? Everyone needs time for a breather during a hectic workday, so make sure you not only allow, but encourage your agents to take breaks. It can be incredibly demoralizing to be slammed with calls and emails, miss your lunch, run to and from the bathroom, and solve other people’s problems all. day. long. Breaks give your agents time to decompress and refresh, that way they stay positive and enthusiastic. It’s for their benefit but will prove helpful during customer interactions, too.
Plus, contact center agents often have shifts longer than the standard 8-hour work day, so breaks are even more important to make sure agents get the time they need to rejuvenate. Working long hours and handling loads of customer complaints can be taxing to a person’s mental state. Go one step further and encourage moments of mindfulness when agents take breaks. It’ll help relieve some stress.
Meditation and mindfulness (even just 10 minutes a day) can have extremely powerful impacts on a person’s mood and behavior. Some studies show that moments of mindfulness even make people more compassionate and willing to help others – two traits that come in handy for contact center agents especially.
6. Invest in easy-to-use tools that focus on the three e’s of agent experience
Here’s one final contact center tip to rule them all (and a shameless plug). Invest in intuitive tools for your agents. We’ve developed a way to measure your agent’s experience, and it measures three different dimensions: efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment.
None of these dimensions can reach their highest potential without the right tools for your agents. If you have software that’s incredibly quick and incorporates multiple customers channels but it’s difficult to learn, then you’ll have agents who rank high in two dimensions, but low in one, bringing down their average experience.
An omnichannel platform that works for your agents incorporates all three dimensions equally to create happy (efficient, empowered, and effective) agents.