A recent call center study published by Avaya showed that nearly 80% of customers today still prefer to use the telephone in order to interact with customer service centers. This is twice the amount of the next-highest contact channel, email. The same study also showed that 50% of customers today still believe that they are not getting great service from call centers. What does this mean?
1.Telephone-based service will continue to be the focus of the contact centers for the foreseeable future.
2.Despite efforts to improve customer service, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done to improve customer satisfaction.
Now is the time for contact center managers to clearly develop and implement the type of contact center development programs to drive agent engagement, translating to improved customer satisfaction and continued success in delivering exceptional customer service in the call center.
The key to these type of programs is engaging employees and encouraging them to connect with tasks in the call center in order to improve effectiveness while building morale so that agents consistently deliver quality customer service experiences.
Three key strategies build the type of employee engagement that result in bottom-line impact for the business and improved customer loyalty and satisfaction.
1. Develop the flexibility and creativity in the contact center
One of the greatest challenges to contact center employees is the feeling of isolation. How do call center representatives feel isolated while in a room with hundreds of other people? Consider the fact that the typical call center position requires a representative to be on the phone for most of their assigned work hours with little interaction with their workplace peers. This is exacerbated by the fact that typical call center structured tiers limit the amount of power and decision-making ability most front-line call center agents have.
This feeling of powerlessness and the level of isolation call center employees feel creates negative workplace engagement for employees, increasing the amount of turn over that call centers experience.
This challenge can be overcome by focusing on empowering employees to be creative in their day-to-day call center tasks. Allowing your call center agents flexibility in their customer service delivery, rather than forcing strict scripts allows employees to emotionally engage with their tasks on a level that becomes personal to them. The resolution of tasks and the specific actions may still be the same, however, the approach by the individual or the delivery can be personal, thus creating emotional attachment to the task.
Many professionals are drawn to customer service because of its nature as a people-focused occupation. Greater freedom and the flexibility of customizing the service delivery allows call center employees to be themselves and personally connect with customers. Each call center interaction then becomes a personal interaction, rather than a generic corporate experience.
The most successful service-focused organizations know this and organize their call center processes to empower employees to develop personal connections with customers. At Zappos, an online retailer, customer service representatives are encouraged to be “a little weird.” Zappos management knows that most of their customers have a little quirkiness to them and allowing their employees to express that helps them connect with the customer. At DigiCert, an SSL Certificate and identity assurance provider, the award-winning technical support team is focused on taking care of the customer, whatever the customer needs. The technical group act as more like a concierge service than a call center. Nearly all of their customer reviews specifically mention a representative by name because the interaction was on such a personal level.
2. Develop the ability to create
It’s human nature that we want to defend what is our own. We are naturally driven to protect, to nurture, and even to fight what what we have established and what we believe in. One of the greatest ways that we can encourage employee engagement in the call center is to allow contact center employees the ability to be part of the creative process in designing and evaluating contact center processes. This doesn’t mean that management is absent from the picture, rather, management allows more participation from its employees in the process of building workflows and work processes.
By giving contact center employees a voice in the improvement of processes, there is a direct impact in the culture of the contact center, greater morale and improvement in performance as employees now act in a system that was not dictated to them, but created by them.
Wyndham Consumer Finance, decided to implement changes to make contact center employees’ concerns a priority and to ensure that they knew that their opinions were valued. In their strategy, senior leaders at Wyndham created a process to engage contact center agents in process improvement, and empowered team members to take an active role in providing feedback and suggestions for ongoing process decisions and department goals. The result was a contact center staff that had a greater sense of ownership, urgency, and responsibility over their day-to-day work.
3. Develop the ability to comprehend
Contact center professionals are motivated and thrive in environments that challenge and enable personal growth and development. Monotony and dead-end are the enemy in the call center and should be seen as top priority in a contact center manager’s agenda. In addition to making it possible for employees to make contributions to their work environment and to work processes, it’s necessary that the tools and resources be available to call center representatives to continually progress in their skills and abilities in their day-to-day tasks. Individuals who feel trapped or who feel their skill sets diminishing over time will flee for new opportunities where they can use all of their talents to make a contribution.
Personal development of contact center professionals is never wasted on just the employee. Ultimately, it’s the customer who benefits the most. Operationally efficient agents reduce cost to the organization, but agents who are effective and who have mastered call center skills drive greater revenue as best practices in the industry lead to improved customer experience.
Contact center agent engagement leads to bottom-line impact
Contact centers that focus on delivering its people the ability to be creative in their roles, who include their employees in workflow management, and who consistently empower personal development with their staff read the benefits of contact center agents who are perfectly balanced between meeting the needs of the people they serve and efficiently performing the business processes that affect the bottom-line of the organization.
Organizations who spend the time and energy to include these principles of contact center management find that their employees are better capable at delivering consistent positive, quality, branded customer experiences that build customer relationships. By optimizing the management of the contact center staff, managers can gain greater results from business processes and establish a culture of personal development and action that will positively impact the future of the organization.