Featured Image for the blog: Pop the Confetti: October 7-11 is Customer Service Week and It’s Time to Give Your Agents the Recognition they Deserve

We interrupt our regular programming to broadcast an important announcement: Next week, Oct. 7 – 11, is Customer Service Week.  

You may resume regular activity in your contact center only after you plan for what’s ahead: celebrating your agents.

Some 27 years ago, Congress proclaimed the first full week in October as National Customer Service Week. It’s a week dedicated to celebrating and recognizing all the hard work of your company’s frontline customer service agents.

Your agents live and breathe grit and determination. They’re the face of your company and the voice of your brand on a daily basis. And, they don’t get enough props for all they do.

With new reports surfacing about the sweeping losses that come with poor workplace culture (some $223 billion over the past five years), it’s time to kick negativity to the curb. What better time than now to spend a week improving your contact center environment.

Start by giving your agents the hard-earned praise they deserve. Here are six ways to celebrate your agents for customer service week.

1. Say thank you.

You’d be surprised how often people forget the power that lives in these two small words.  Saying thank you is an act so small, many people leave it off their daily to-do lists because they doubt its impact. But, giving genuine thanks is rewarding and empowering to those who receive it (and, to those who give it). In fact, 82% of employees value praise more than gifts.

During customer service week especially, make it a point to thank your agents. Don’t just offer up a large shout out to your team in a group setting. Offer thanks individually in your in 1:1s and coaching sessions, too. Pen a note telling Vanessa how incredible her metrics were last month. Tell Colin about the customers who raved about him. Personalize your thanks and point out specific moments where your agents showed up and made a difference. That kind of authentic recognition will set the bar high and stir up enthusiasm for the week to come.

2. Play department swap.

Give your agents the opportunity to listen in on a manager’s meeting, make a few sales calls, or try their hand at a marketing email. For some agents, customer service serves as a transitional role. A person takes a job as an agent to get familiar with a company or build their skill set to prepare for another role – like a team lead, a manager, or even a developer.

Guide your agents to plan for their careers and consider what roles they’re passionate about.

Work with fellow managers across departments to arrange times where interested agents can learn more about other roles. Does your marketing team have their team meeting on Wednesdays every week? Or, do you and your team leads hold morning kick-offs daily? See where it makes sense to fit in cross-functional learning and development, first. Then, send sign-up sheets around the contact center.

After the fact, reflect with your agents in their 1:1s and offer advice to those who think leadership might be for them. Give growth resources to those who solidified their drive to be rockstar agents. Or, offer up additional shadowing opportunities for those who want to explore other departments further.

Employees don’t just want more money to stay loyal to your company, they want the opportunity for real career growth. This initiative will show agents you care about their development. Even if their growth takes them outside your contact center’s walls.

3. Offer an opportunity for peer recognition.

Saying thanks to your agents goes a long way. But, making it easy for agents to share positive feedback with each other spreads engagement and skyrockets empowerment. In fact, studies show that companies who built peer recognition programs saw engagement levels spike, retention increase, and number of customer complaints fall off a cliff.

As a manager, you only see so much of your agents’ daily work. Your agents deserve more recognition. And, who better to share that recognition than their desk neighbors. Those who see all the hard work and warm customer moments day in and day out.

Supply your team with notecards and encourage them to write a quick message to a peer. Hold a team meeting where your agents get a turn to give kudos to those who went out of their way for a customer. Encourage in-the-moment praise as the week goes on (and every week thereafter) for a happier contact center.

4. Host a health and wellness fair.

Nearly half of employees consider themselves stressed at work. And, another 44% of employees are either constantly sleep-deprived or tend to lack some sleep.

The picture gets even uglier when it comes to contact center agents. Statistics show, those in customer service have a heightened chance of burnout, anxiety, and depression. A quick scan through call center forums, like this one, gives you a small glimpse at the battles your agents face. So, how about dedicating a day to making their lives better.

Rather than ordering in pizza for lunch, help your agents take control of their mental and physical health. Order in some healthy snacks and meals. Bring in a yoga instructor. Take a team break and walk outside for 15 minutes. Or, hold a mindfulness session.

Even if you’re bogged down with customer interactions, it’s easy to sneak in some wellness activities. In fact, 10-minute mindfulness sessions are proven to show an increase in focus, cognitive function, and overall happiness. If you can’t pause the queue for all your agents at once, divide them into groups and let them leave in shifts to go for a walk outside.

5. Hold a donation drive, or work as a team to benefit a good cause.

People want to feel tied to a sense of purpose. And while our jobs can fuel that purpose, we still have passions and beliefs that exist outside of work. All too often, though, we don’t have time to dedicate to the causes we care about. Because of that, employees seek out (and stay with) employers who support feel-good initiatives.

Turns out, nearly 60% of employees who are proud of their company’s social responsibility are engaged in their jobs. And, 85% of people are likely to stay with a company longer if the company is socially responsible. 

During CS week this year, dedicate one day to supporting a cause (or a few) that your agents believe in. Create a week-long challenge where for every case you close, your C-suite will donate $X to a non-profit of your team’s choice.

In a budget crunch? Set up a donation drive in your contact center and call on your team to bring in canned goods or clothing. Even consider letting a few team members leave early to deliver the supplies.

Agents get sucked into a warp of tedious, repetitive tasks and angry customer interactions. It can be seriously taxing to their mental health. Shaking up the daily routine and rallying around a good cause is one way to spur lasting positivity and celebration across your contact center.

6. Set aside time for goal and career planning.

Some 42 percent of employees say learning and development play the most important role in their decision about where to work. Yet, the number one reason people leave their jobs is a lack of opportunity for development and career growth.

This week, kick off larger career planning initiatives for your team.

Challenge your agents to set three goals for the next quarter, 6-months, or a year. And, encourage them to think about their CAD (crazy a$$ dream). Often times, we get so wrapped up in our day-to-day we stop thinking about the things we actually want to do (and like doing).

If your agents could throw all practicalities out the window, what would they be doing? Use the answers you find to guide agents toward what they love and where their strengths lie. How can they meld together their crazy dreams and a more practical reality? If there’s no overlap currently, how can you shape their roles to get them there?

Start the conversation today and continue it to come up with a solidified plan in the weeks thereafter.

Here are two methods you can share with your team to help them chart their futures:

  1. The Love/ Loathe Method.

Help your agents create the role they find most meaningful inside of their current position. Ashley Goodall, who co-penned the book Nine Lies About Work with Marcus Buckingham, said it best when he explained that you don’t have to change everything about your job to make it better. In fact, a few small changes here and there may be all you need to significantly improve workplace happiness.

“When you look at people who are thriving in their jobs, you notice that they didn’t find them, they made them,” Goodall said.

To start, equip your agents with a notebook and a pen at the start of the week. Instruct them to draw a line down the center of their notebook. Title one column “love” and the other “loathe.” Then, throughout the week, they record their tasks in one of the two columns. No matter how big, small, or important of a task it may be.

By the end of the week, they’ll have a pretty good idea of what keeps them coming to work each day. (And, of what makes them want to call in sick.)

Learn more about the method, in this NY Times article.

  1. The From/To Method.

This method looks at making incremental improvements to get where you want to be in your career. Thinking of your crazy dreams is important. But it can also feel overwhelming and unattainable. So, don’t only focus on the long-term.

Ask your agents to come up with one from/to statement. The “from” portion describes where your agent feels they are in their career now. The “to” portion of the statement describes where they hope to be next in their career.

Here’s an example: From a friendly agent fielding hundreds of interactions daily to a helpful manager driving my team’s progress and troubleshooting difficult customer problems.

Once each agent has a statement, you can work with them in your 1:1s to take next steps and map their career paths.

Learn more about this method in this HBR article.

Adapt and amend this list to your contact center’s needs. Get creative and put the fun back in your work next week. It’s amazing how much good a little bit of intention and planning can do for the health of your team. Get the ball rolling, now.

Need more tips? Here are 10 other ways we encourage you to improve agent morale.