3 Ways to Make Your Contact Center More Agent-Centric
The happier the agent, the better the customer experience
Now more than ever before, contact centers are focusing on improving the agent experience as a direct means of improving the customer experience. No surprises here. Most everyone agrees that if an agent has a positive mindset, it will be reflected in his or her interactions with customers.
Understanding the link between the agent experience and the customer experience is the easy part. Getting agents to their happy place? Not so much.
Three Ways to Empower Agents & Improve Workplace Happiness
Keeping employees, management, and customers happy is no small task for contact center leaders. The balance is difficult to maintain, with business objectives and customer expectations often weighted more heavily than the agent experience. Agents are left feeling less than empowered and rather underappreciated.
One way to restore the balance -- along with agents' sense of self-worth -- is by giving frontline staffers greater control over their work environments. Below are three ways to give agents a greater say -- and, in turn, not only improve service delivery, but morale as well:
- Supervisor for a Day - Reward those agents who have achieved specific performance measures with an opportunity to shadow a supervisor for a day. On a given day, have them join the management team for meetings and encourage their input on various issues. A Fortune 500 company I once worked for had tremendous outcomes using such an incentive program. It not only gave agents greater empathy for management issues, but also uncovered frontline hot buttons and areas for improvement. So while you may employ it to give agents a greater sense of say in their workplaces, it might also tell you something you didn't know.
- The Big Rocks Team - This idea, based on an exercise created by leadership expert Stephen Covey, may not be a new concept to some managers, but a successful one that is worth bringing back again. In the contact center environment, workday pressures can make people feel helpless and out of control. With Covey's Big Rocks exercise, participants discover how to regain control via improved planning and execution. The term is based on a team exercise in which you ask people to see how much sand and how many rocks -- some big, some small -- they can fit into a jar. When you start with the big rocks first, then small rocks, then sand, you can get the most volume into a jar. The exercise is a metaphor for how to prioritize change. What affects the most people or has the greatest impact (i.e., big rocks) gets top priority. Following the exercise put your agents in charge of a Big Rocks team. In addition to having them identify and prioritize the "big rocks" in your workplace, have them detail action plans that outline the impact of the changes on budget, workforce planning, customer delivery, and so on.
- Flex Scheduling - Contact centers by nature need to run a tight ship. But this time-clock mentality can place undue stress on agents. Reward your top performers and alleviate the pressure of a time crunch by allowing shift preferences at least twice a year. Give those agents who meet certain performance criteria a chance to pick from various shift options, such as four- or three-day schedules, or the opportunity to show up within a 15-minute timeframe.
While the above ideas are varied in approach, they share several common outcomes. In attempting to provide a more agent-centric environment, you will improve agent morale and resulting customer interactions. And as a manager, you'll learn more about your business, your customers, and the people who work for you as well.