7 Tactics to build an agent-first contact center environment
By: Pam Hynes, Vice President of Client Experience
Originally posted by Contact Center Pipeline.
Agents are powerful. As the contact center’s lifeline, they’re the heart of customer service teams and the fuel that keeps companies running. However, agents are less engaged in the workplace than ever before, contributing to a turnover rate of nearly 50 percent (or higher). Since 92 percent of customers say the agent’s perceived mood affects the experience, it’s crucial to learn how to deliver an agent-first work environment with these tactics.
Re-evaluate hiring strategies
Losing employees is expensive and can cost a single contact center more than $300,000 a year to recruit and train new agents. Because of this, contact centers can’t afford to hire agents who aren’t a fit for the team.
So, as a candidate moves through the hiring process, consider their personality, communication skills and cultural fit. Also, make sure every candidate is provided with clearly defined job roles and examples of common tasks, so they understand day-to-day responsibilities. This will help ensure the right agents are hired and stay with the company for the long haul.
Provide in-line training
From week to week, agents only get about 7 percent of their manager’s attention for training, which leaves them unequipped to handle the pressure and workload of dealing with unhappy customers. Fight this battle by investing in technology that provides proactive in-line training, which allows agents and supervisors to work in quick periods of training throughout the day without interrupting operations.
Offer the right incentives
Make sure to offer incentives to attract higher-quality candidates and entice them to stay. Done right, these kinds of programs can keep employees focused and excited about their jobs. One example would be offering top performers the option to work remotely or from home. Fortunately, with cloud-based systems, remote agents are now easier to manage and monitor.
Another type of incentive is offering training opportunities to recognize top agents. Not only does this showcase how the company invests in the success of its employees but also helps determine which agents are well-suited for management positions.
Let them step away
In a contact center, agents sit for most of the day, which only contributes to the effects of stress. Counteract the deadly combo of stress and sitting by letting agents step away from their desks. This can be accomplished by encouraging them to get up, move or meditate for five minutes every hour. Implementing multiple quick breaks throughout the day has been shown to reduce stress and increase productivity.
Offer flexible schedules
All employees crave flexibility in the workplace. One way to accomplish this is by self-rostering, which has been shown to reduce absenteeism and turnover. With this process, peers work together to agree on their schedules, rather than be assigned a schedule from a manager.
Another way is through annualized hours, which calculates the number of hours worked per year as opposed to per week. On this system, contact centers can more easily allow agents to take time off for vacation or personal days, contributing to less stress and more happiness in the workplace.
Even with flexibility and top-notch training, stressors will still present themselves daily. However, investing in new software can help decrease stressful situations by streamlining work processes.
For instance, up-to-date software from leading vendors makes agents’ jobs easier by allowing them to seamlessly work with multiple applications, and switch between communication channels. Agents are then able to gather all relevant data with a single click and move from channel to channel without ending interactions.
Set clear KPIs
First Contact Resolution, service level and Average Handle Time are all important data points to measure. But agents need to understand a manager’s goals and expectations so they know when they are underperforming. Without clearly defined goals and the necessary support, agents will be at risk of failing. If goals or expectations change, always be sure to communicate those changes to agents on a consistent basis.
There’s no clear-cut path to improving agent happiness. And although reducing agent turnover doesn’t happen overnight, don’t wait around and allow unhappy agents to hurt customer retention and loyalty. The time is now to implement these actions to improve contact center culture and create a better workplace.
About Pam Hynes
Pam Hynes is the vice president of client experience at Sharpen Technologies, a contact center platform with an agent-first focus. Sharpen’s cloud-native contact center platform helps midsize to enterprise-level companies create perfect customer experiences. Designed for agent productivity and efficiency, Sharpen offers a solution for both customer support and outbound sales teams. Through better technology, the company is creating happier agents and seamless customer experiences. Learn more at www.sharpencx.com.