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How to motivate and retain call centre staff

How to motivate and retain call centre staff

By Rob Denton, Managing Director, Navigator Customer Management.

High churn rates have proved problematic for the contact centre industry as a whole with staff attrition rising for the fourth consecutive year to a high of 23% according to recent research.

Companies often expect their front line staff to do more for the same remuneration, without any additional attention to motivation or rewards schemes.

The industry is in danger of ignoring contact centre staff just when they need to be nurtured and developed, with most agents needing to be re-skilled and their jobs re-packaged if expected high standards are to be met across the board.

Contact centres have been saddled with the negative image of a ‘hotbed of dissent’, noted for being an industry plagued by absenteeism and high staff turn around, with employee loyalty in short supply.

The lack of employee commitment in the call centre industry frequently translates to being out of alignment, with each other and with clients, in executing the companies' mission, goals, and strategic objectives. In other words, what they are doing on the job can be counterproductive and damaging.

Since the issues impacting customer loyalty and commitment to a business are often linked with staff productivity and retention, optimising employee loyalty and motivation becomes doubly important.

Smart contact centres are counteracting this problem by focussing on staff training, ensuring that their agents are in parallel with the products and services they are supporting, enabling them to provide erudite and enthusiastic responses whilst remaining up to speed with the very latest information.

Agents training that is supported by effective data-driven prompts are able to get queries answered quickly and accurately, close sales, and make regular contact acceptable.

By making this training imaginative, whether through offsite ‘away days’ or events, real enthusiasm for the task is built, which then translates through the agents’ communication with the customer.  Businesses should be continually encouraging their agents to have genuine conversations and to ‘live the cause’ at all times.

The inherent link between staff retention and service excellence to both clients and prospects means that businesses need to examine the shared objective and motivate accordingly.  In practical terms, businesses need to look at arranging a bonus scheme for the call centre firm in partnership with the client.

By transparently sharing those rewards with the agents, according to their performance, the client is given the security that call centre company bonuses are really being used to incentive agent performance quality.

Contact centre staff who are knowledgeable, satisfied, enthusiastic, confident and proud employees lead to higher levels of customer service excellence, which in turn results in advocates who live and breathe the companies’ message because they are motivated to do so.

Whilst there is no single way to create a happy working environment, a communicative, flexible management approach will aid motivation and invite agents to feel a certain sense of empowerment as well as being challenged with opportunities to learn and contribute.  Making staff feel welcomed into the business at the start of their working life with a company, for example, brings immediate motivation and creates a happy, responsive workplace.

Even simple rewards, such as giving an employee a days free holiday on their birthday or time off work to focus on their own charity or community projects can breed motivation and content.  Indeed, we have recently trailed linking staff interests outside work to internal projects and donating to one of our staff’s charities with which they are involved, a percentage of revenue from a campaign we have placed, proving that joined incentives really do harness employee engagement.
The process of campaign building depends entirely on an intelligent balance of live agents and technology where appropriate to improve the client experience across all touch points.  This can only be simulated if contact centre agents are fostered and offered proper people training.

This in turn will minimise the suspicion that contact centre staff are not properly equipped to represent the company they are working for.  By investing in staff and appealing to their personal sales initiatives, they will hopefully better engage with the companies mission and the ongoing campaign for new customers. 

To see tangible results from training, leading players are measuring customer satisfaction with the call itself, asking the caller to input a score through their keypad before they ring off (this way the agent cannot know what score is given) and then base some of the agent’s monthly bonus on their average caller satisfaction rating.

Alternatively, mystery calls are made to each agent each month and a score and resulting bonus level given.

Rewarding staff to positively affect attrition is only a viable program if it is provided through a proper infrastructure that presents real, long-term value.  By implementing rigorous and contemporaneous training programmes, contact centre staff can provide a personal touch in their service and develop their customers into brand advocates.

Companies investing in joined-up employee care stand a better chance of ultimately yielding tangible results and competitive business advantage.

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