“Almost every survey highlights the high priority of employee engagement for organizations — especially as a leadership pain-point. But how much is leadership actively doing to lead this effort?” ~ Source: Twitter #ICMIchat – @paslec1925.
This was an excerpt from a weekly industry chat I enjoy, and it led me to ponder the state of employee engagement. Specifically, in the contact center. And, additionally, in the context of the most talked about objective in 2016: improving the customer experience, or journey.
According to North American labor statistics, employee turnover is at an all-time high in today’s workplace, with overall attrition averages for the contact center industry range between 30–45 percent (source: http://www.qatc.org/winter-2015-connection/exploring-call-center-turnover-numbers/). I have personally met with customers that have experienced 1-year attrition rates at over 85%; imagine re-hiring almost an entire new department within a 12-month period.
The causes for this are myriad, with contact centers reputed for offering a highly disruptive and volatile work environment, consisting of a very young average median employment age, and lower than average remuneration. Yet, a unique set of attributes are required of agents, such as patience, customer empathy, excellent communication, and strong organizational skills. Clearly, it is a time-consuming and expensive proposition to re-hire and re-train contact center agents on a frequent basis.
To sum up the challenge, the following question should be addressed: What kind of financial and environmental factors can be positively impacted by increased agent engagement?
The answer? The following summary illustrates the direct impact on the customer experience clearly and succintly (Image source: Happy.co.uk)
5 steps to Building High-Performing teams
- Share the mission. Mission-driven teams perform better because they are contributing to a larger cause or objective.
- Ongoing professional development. When agents on a team are provided with a culture of continuous improvement, and are challenged at their own individual pace, their progress contributes to an overall progression for the entire department.
- Recognize and reward. Promotions, raises, and bonuses at the expected intervals should be combined with daily/weekly contests for sales, service or other KPIs. Just make sure there is a fair and just reward attached to those contests. For the more introverted team members, try using intrinsic motivators such as competing with their own past results.
- Encourage employee loyalty. When under pressure and dealing with complex tasks, it takes a lot of time for team members to learn to work together at an optimum level. Sports psychologists have affirmed that stable teams win more often as cohesiveness during play is superior. Some contact centers are worried about capital cost overruns, and some want to encourage retention. But the objective is the same: make sure you keep not only your best players, but also, the ones that work best as a team, a cohesive unit.
- Transparency and continuous feedback. Teams need to know how they are doing in order to stay motivated and to address areas for improvement. Ideally, a system should be in place so that team members receive ongoing feedback while doing their jobs. For instance, if an agent receives feedback that surprises them at their bi-annual review, management has failed to provide the proper building blocks to promote superior job performance.
Happy customers can be directly attributed to happy employees. So unless you have a magic formula for running your customer-facing business entirely via technology, bots, and automated responses, there will always be a human factor involved, and it is crucial to your long-term success.