Note: This post originally appeared on the ICMI blog.
There are two hot topics in the contact center that never seem to go away: improving morale and driving results.
The basic idea is we need to find a way to improve morale so we can drive better results.
But, what if we have it in the wrong order?
What Demotivates Agents
A 2006 Harvard Management Update article revealed that employee motivation is at it’s peak when employees begin a new job, but morale tends to decline sharply after the first six months.
This suggests that employees are naturally motivated. Something happens on the job that demotivates them.
For many contact center agents, it’s the inability to drive results. Agents consistently say they’re frustrated by obstacles that make it hard for them to do their job.
It could be a defective product, a broken process, or an unfriendly policy. Whatever the case, morale sinks when agents feel they can’t do something about it. Morale worsens further when they feel their ideas for improvement aren’t being heard.
Contact center leaders are consumed with motivating agents, but we should really focus on preventing demotivation by helping agents drive results.
Agents Love to Win
High performing teams thrive on achievement. Spirits soar when agents can solve problems and help their customers.
A terrific example comes from Rackspace, a provider of cloud management services.
A communications outage brought down their support center phone and chat systems. Customers were suddenly unable to get assistance.
Agents leapt into action. They reached out to upset customers on Twitter. Many used their personal cell phones to get customers on the phone and help them solve problems.
Nobody in management told them to do this. Agents weren’t given incentives to go above and beyond. They were motivated to do it because they cared so deeply about serving their customers.
Rackspace calls this Fanatical Support. It’s something their agents focus on every day, with every interaction.
Other contact centers see a similar connection between agent motivation and the ability to get results.
The customer service team at Phone.com, a telephone service provider for small businesses, focuses on providing awesome service to every customer. They’ve enjoyed exceptionally low turnover because agents feel empowered to be awesome.
One agent said, “I love working here because it's so much less scripted than other contact centers. We’re able to just focus on helping our customers.”
Having a clear, results-focused purpose keeps agents energized.
Managers in these contact centers don’t see themselves as cheerleaders or motivators. They’re enablers who empower agents to overcome challenges and drive results.
Helping Agents Drive Results
Here are just a few ways to sustain morale by helping your agents drive results:
- Hold survey review sessions. Gather the team and dig into your latest customer service survey. Ask for their input on solving the problems that generate the most negative feedback.
- Enlist your veterans. Let your experienced employees share their knowledge. Have them help train and mentor newer employees. Give them special projects like updating your product knowledge wiki.
- Share macro data. Contact centers are awash in handle time, service levels, and other micro stats. Show your agents how they can impact macro data such as CSAT scores, customer retention, and customer growth.
- Remove obstacles. A contact center leader’s number one job should be to make it easy for agents to succeed. Find and remove obstacles that get in their way. Let your agents know you’re going to bat for them!
- Give feedback, not scores. Contact center agents are constantly measured, but many crave real, substantive feedback. Look past QA scores and have a conversation with agents about specific techniques they can work on to serve their customers at an even higher level.
These are just a few ideas. Whatever you try, the goal is to help agents achieve better results.
If you can help them do great things, you’ll see their motivation soar.