Don't Be a Cynic About Retention: Engaging with Your Contact Center Agents Is More Important Than Ever Before
Today’s workforce craves both engagement and empowerment in the office. When they don’t get the engagement they need, they leave. And in the era of increased remote work, engaging your employees is more important than ever.
Your agents head for the door for a number of reasons, usually because they don’t like how you manage, the work environment is negative, or they can’t see growth opportunities with your company. So what can you do to keep your experienced agents on staff to deliver standout service?
Here are several reasons why and how to focus on engaging your employees in your contact center.
What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is how passionate your team members are about their jobs. It takes into consideration how committed they are to your company, and how much effort they put into their work. Measuring employee engagement looks at your agents’ motivation, involvement, or commitment to the company.
In a contact center, the key to engaging your employees is understanding and valuing them. That means you support them in their work as well as their personal development. When agents feel valued and heard, they in turn become more engaged in their work. This kind of engagement drives performance and leads your agents to better, more empowered decision-making.
Your agents are also the pulse of the customer experience. Valuing your front line agents inspires them to perform better and stick around longer.
Why bother with engagement?
Today’s customers expect to reach you at all hours of the day, even when you’re busy lounging on the couch watching The Mandalorian. They expect immediate solutions and easy fixes. But many contact centers struggle to keep up with customer expectations and rapid changes in technology.
High-quality customer service requires you to train your agents regularly, so they stay in the loop on the latest customer trends and changes to technology. But it’s hard to keep a knowledgeable workforce when the industry turnover rate is between 30-45%, more than double the average of other jobs in the U.S.
Contact center agents tend to feel undervalued and interchangeable, which leads to high rates of burnout, and then, turnover.
We know that it’s easy to get cynical about such a problem. You’re probably thinking, “If they’re going to leave anyway, why bother with the time and effort to coach them well?”
But this attitude and approach to your agents only perpetuates turnover in your contact center. As manager, you have the opportunity to squash this kind of negativity. Harvard Business Review found that companies that invest more in their people unlock 40% higher productivity.
And when your people feel productive and engaged, they stay put, saving you from sky-high turnover costs. It’s estimated that with every new agent hire, a contact center can spend between $10,000 to $20,000 on on-boarding and training.
If you spend more of your time engaging your employees in the short-term, you’ll see long-term benefits. You’ll see financial growth, greater customer satisfaction, and less agent burnout. Investing in your employees is worth every penny.
Employee engagement impacts…well, everything
Engaged and empowered employees perform better, which impacts every aspect of your business. A high-performing workforce increases innovation, productivity, and retention. And your customers notice when employees are engaged in their work.
Harvard Business Review found the top three factors that bring the most success to businesses are: excellent customer service, effective communication, and a high level of employee engagement.
Aberdeen Group found that employee engagement is more than a buzzword. Let’s look at the facts:
- Companies with an employee engagement program enjoy 233% greater customer loyalty.
- Employee engagement programs help companies see a 26% greater annual increase in revenue.
- Employee engagement program users are seven times more likely to link employee performance with good customer experiences.
Plus, employee satisfaction improves in addition to your customer outcomes, too. Recent research shows that satisfied agents are 8.5x more likely to stay than leave within a year. They’re also over 3x more likely to feel empowered to resolve customer issues.
If you embed company goals and spend time and effort engaging your employees, you’ll see nothing but benefits.
Strategies for engaging your employees
So, what influences engagement? McKinsey and Co. found that the top five drivers of satisfaction for engagement are: promotion opportunities, connection to your mission, a sense of belonging, stress management, and job security.
Focus your managing and coaching efforts on those five core areas to increase employee engagement, and to go a step further and empower your team. There are tons of training resources and engagement surveys out there to help you establish a culture of coaching and feedback (like some of Sharpen’s Workforce Engagement tools).
To give you a head start, here are four strategies to improve engagement in your contact center:
- Keep things simple. Give your agents priorities that are actionable and clear, so they know how to reach attainable goals.
- Encourage camaraderie. Community is essential to make hard days bearable. Encourage your employees to take breaks, celebrate wins, and process with one another. Be a team, and value socializing to show the team that you support each other.
- Create a culture of vulnerability and humility. Make sure your agents know they can come to you for help and to offer feedback. Managers can learn from their employees, so posture yourself to hear their thoughts, complaints, and ideas.
- Improve your metrics. If you only measure efficiency and effectiveness, you miss out on key indicators about your agents’ experience and well-being. And your agents’ well-being impacts your CX. Use other agent-focused metrics, like transfer rate and training investment per agent, to get a holistic view of your agents’ efficiency, effectiveness, and empowerment. Then, use the specific data points to see where you can improve as a coach and a manager to make work better for your agents.
These small ways to start engaging your employees are just the beginning. Take time to consider establishing engagement programs company-wide to see a real impact on employee loyalty and growth.
We originally published this article on April 11, 2019, and we updated it for new insight on December 3, 2020.