In some instances, it’s easy to remind yourself that you need to get to the root of an issue in order to solve it or improve your situation. For example, if fat droplets of water suddenly came dripping through your living room ceiling, you probably wouldn’t think that ceiling needs to do a better job. Instead you would think a bunch of words that need to be censored and then run upstairs to check the faucets in the bathroom above the living room.
Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy to remember that if something needs to be improved, there’s probably a reason for it beyond the obvious. As a result, front line agents in contact centers are bearing the brunt of increasing demands from customers and managers alike with only select decision-makers considering that improving customer service isn’t simply a matter of asking agents to provide better customer service.
Before things can be improved for customers, things often need to be improved for the agents with tools like workforce management solutions as well a few organizational culture changes.
The whys of engagement
At its core, it’s pretty simple: happy employees do better work. If contact center agents have reason to appreciate how their organization treats them and are pleased with their own performance, those agents will be engaged in their work, making them more productive and motivating them to provide the best possible customer service.
Once in a while you run into bad apples rattling around in a contact center who won’t be happy with their work no matter what. For the most part, however, there are reasons agents become unengaged. Maybe they’re overworked, being asked to handle too many calls. Maybe they’re stressed by being asked to work in contact channels they aren’t comfortable with when they know they excel elsewhere. Maybe they’re quick to be criticized for performance issues but are rarely praised when doing well. Maybe they don’t know how they’re doing at all. Maybe they feel isolated at work instead of part of a team. And maybe it feels like there is nothing they can do to ask for help or improve their situations.
Simple though the concept of happy employees being better employees may be, increasing engagement can seem like a complex process, especially when the issues agents face can often be linked to systemic improvements that need to be made within the entire contact center or even organization. However, with the right tools, a contact center can be just a few steps away from having more engaged agents providing better customer service.
The hows of engagement
Thanks to technology, this is a great time to be trying to improve engagement in contact centers. Workforce management solutions are a one-stop shop for increasing engagement through empowerment by giving agents control over their performance and schedules, setting them up for success, and showing them that they are valued members of your team.
Leading workforce management (WFM) solutions provide accurate contact center forecasting so you can always have the right number of agents scheduled, keeping agents from getting stressed out with too many calls or checked out because they’re getting too few. They also identify agent strengths, allowing you to schedule agents to work in the contact channels in which they excel.
For the best possible results, get a WFM solution that gives each agent their own dashboard that allows them to track their own performance in terms of their goals as well as compared with their team. Leading WFM solutions will incorporate gamification to further motivate agents, and will allow them to trade tips with each other and offer advice, demonstrating that their knowledge and expertise is valued. These dashboards also enable agents to easily contact their managers, and vice versa, making communication much easier. Another excellent feature included in some WFM solutions is the ability for agents to request time off or even switch shifts with each other, giving them more control over their schedules (and reducing the scheduling workload for your managers). All in all, the right workforce management solution goes a long way towards improving your agents’ work situation while improving the operational efficiency of the entire contact center.
Beyond the tech
For many contact centers, fully improving engagement will require a little extra work beyond getting the best tech. Many contact centers would benefit from demonstrating to agents how closely their work in customer service is connected to the overall success of the organization. Showing agents how important they are to a company’s success – and treating them accordingly – increases an agent’s sense of pride in their work and helps them feel connected to the organization’s overall mission. Consistently rewarding outstanding performance will also pay dividends in engagement and exemplary customer service.
It is also greatly beneficial to help agents feel connected with each other by fostering a sense of community within the contact center and making the workplace an enjoyable place to be. This can be accomplished with something as simple as clean and welcoming break rooms and common areas. According to research from management consulting firm McKinsey, contact center agents who intend to stay in their jobs instead of looking for alternate employment elsewhere are three times as satisfied with their workplace community than those who intend to leave.
The end result
Okay, so improving customer service by increasing agent engagement isn’t as easy as turning off a bathroom faucet. However, there also isn’t any reason to feel like you have to metaphorically rip out an entire piping system and start anew for true improvements. Empowering agents with workforce management solutions, recognizing and rewarding customer service efforts, and making your teams feel like actual teams will hugely improve agent engagement and lead to top-notch customer service. This is the kind of engagement no one will ever want to call off.