In the recent past, many industry analysts and pundits have labeled certain years as “The Year of the Customer.” Although I wholeheartedly agree that the customer comes first, and it makes sense to make smart decisions based on the customer, I believe that 2014 will be the “Year of the Employee.”
It’s time for organizations to take a hard look at the resources used to manage and motivate their employees. We’ve witnessed cuts in training, increasingly ineffective coaching and the exit of good employees, so it’s not a big surprise that the techniques of the past are not fostering employee engagement.
One of the things we repeatedly say at NICE is that engaged employees deliver an excellent customer experience. Companies may have processes and policies in place to put the customer first, but we must remember that the skills and tone of the disengaged employee are a direct reflection of your brand and service. Customers can accomplish tasks and in most cases get their issues resolved when the employee is not engaged, but long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty suffer; after all, why should the customer be excited about your company if your own employees aren’t? I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say that we know what an engaged employee sounds like – confident, skilled, enthusiastic, warm and interested. If this is what we want our service professionals to sound like, what contributes to employee engagement?
First, I believe it starts with coaching behaviors and not policy. Random coaching produces random results. Instead, coaching should start with the identification of specific behaviors that drive inefficiencies, cultivate bad habits and produce negative results. Then it’s time to get in the game. Exciting models in gamification are an excellent way to promote consistency, keep employees engaged, reward your star performers and keep skills fresh. More and more organizations are injecting new life into Quality Management and Performance Management by using proven “leveling-up” methods to see fast feedback, promote transparency and encourage fun. While archaic methods like whiteboard games and monthly contests fail to make an impression on employees, online gamification keeps them on the edge of their seat waiting for the next adventure (aka training and sharing of best practices).
Secondly, incentives for contact center employees need a major overhaul. Gone are the days of relying solely on fixed pay, prizes and shift bidding based on tenure. By collecting larger samples of Customer Experience data, coaching agents on a timely basis, and driving sales on service calls, your human resource team and the contact center can come together to provide variable pay incentives that create momentum. Variable pay techniques are sometimes seen as cumbersome, but new tools to manage commissions, promotions, bonuses and spiffs will become more prevalent, and will address this burden. In 2014, balanced scorecards in Performance Management systems won’t be balanced like before; the KPIs across various sources will be balanced with correlated performance that has an impact on pay.
Keep your customers first in 2014, but let’s make this year a time of investment in our people. If so, we can prove the adage true: engaged employees deliver excellence experiences.