“What a total burnout.”
Cue Sean Penn rolling out of a van in a cloud of smoke a la Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Just like children and teenagers find themselves acting out when they are not kept focused on or challenged by their schoolwork, adults can get burned out too when they find themselves facing a never-ending landscape of utter sameness at work. Sometimes no matter how hard I want to work, I just can’t find the motivation to be as productive as I know I can be. No escalation, no inspiration. Just flat desert plains as far as the eye can see; you could walk forever and get nowhere. If there’s no progress, what’s the point in taking those first few steps?
It’s easy to lose momentum as a contact center agent when you start finding your daily activities and assignments to be humdrum and boring. They might start showing up late, starting to pack up their workstation early and then staring at the clock until their shift is over, or losing that energetic voice when on the phone with customers. When that behavior becomes consistent, their job performance and your contact center suffers. To keep your contact center agents from stagnating, give them outlets for their boredom and the means to get them back on track.
1. Caffeine and Snacks.
I know you want to be efficient with spending, but if your contact center agents seem to be a little lackluster, providing a quick boost of caffeine or a high-energy snack filled with protein (like a handful of nuts or trailmix) is a great way to get them sounding zippy on the phone. Make sure coffee is always brewing.
For the contact center I worked for previously, our supervisor would surprise us with Rita’s Italian ice every few weeks during the summer. Nothing like a touch of sweetness to make the afternoon go by faster. But don't do it too often; it ruins the novelty of it. If money is a problem, start a pool for snacks or a Starbucks run. If every agent contributes a few bucks, even $1 or $2, snacks for the whole contact center become a cheap and easy job perk.
2. Promote your people.
Life without stimulus can get boring fast. If your agents are repeating the same lines to customers every day on the phone, even the best of them are going to lose focus. To keep life at your contact center interesting, promote agents with potential to positions like project manager. Assign them to handle escalated calls. If they excel, it increases the efficiency of your contact center and it gives them more job responsibility. If they have a personal stake in their jobs, they will have incentive to focus.
Plus, lower-performing employees will see their coworkers being promoted and might find a reason to push themselves to keep up with the competition, or at least keep from being the bottom of the pack.
3. Add some humor.
Complaining about customers is not a productive use of time, but it can get frustrating to interact with people who can be rude or inappropriate at times. To channel that frustration, make a humor board where agents can post quotes from or stories of (no sources, though) irrationally behaving customers. It’s a way to share a laugh with coworkers and get the experience out of their system. Turn that negative experience into something useful.
To make a humor board really productive for your contact center culture, you can add a positive section with nice reviews or quotes from customers. This is a great way to boost morale and reinforce the reasons why your agents love to do their jobs.
4. Build relationships.
One of the things that contact center agents or customer service representatives love to hear is that a customer is personally excited about their presence in the company. This is the result of customer relationship building. To inspire those relationships that keep customers invested in your company and your contact center agents invested in their work, set a precedent of customer follow-ups.
Engage agents whose performance is peaking, by having them research case histories and following up with these customers. Set a policy of agents following up with customers a week after their service or support issue has been handled. The customer will be pleased that your agent remembered them and wanted to personally check-up. Plus, you’ll be amazed at how quickly those agents integrate new customer feedback into their call handling and how vocal they become in communicating what they’ve learned to their peers on the contact center floor.
5. A View of the Big Picture.
Positive customer experiences delivered by the contact center often impact the entire organization at all levels. Share that information with your agents. Let them know how their daily work affects the work of everyone else at the company. Understanding how their daily efforts contribute to the bottom line of the contact center can be the boost that some agents need to continue improving. Their day-to-day work is more than just a series of calls and it helps to remind them of that.
6. Give Them a Way to Track Progress.
Make sure your contact center software has a means of monitoring and tracking agent process and productivity. A graph or a visual reminder of the work they have achieved will engage your contact center agents and make them want to beat their personal bests.
Give them a goal to reach with interactions and you will find them motivated to surpass it. If they are unable to meet their goal, at least they have a metric that lets them know what else they need to do. It will keep your contact center agents on task.
One retailer I worked for allowed sales associates to track their sales and account openings for the day, as well as see how they measured up against those in their department and the store as a whole. It was almost like playing a game to watch my numbers rise and it kept me working my butt off the entire 8 hours a day that I was at work.
7. Hear them out.
Create a means for employee feedback and the offhand feedback given by customers to cycle up. Contact center agents get firsthand knowledge of what works in the company and what doesn’t. Do the policies and workflow management that is set up by supervisors actually work to resolve customer concerns or inquiries? Or what are the general workings or any issues or bugs of your company’s product or service?
Your contact center agents will know, but it can become frustrating to run up against the same problems over and over. Make sure that there is a venue or forum for your agent’s feedback, so that they feel like the time that they spend listening to customer problems is actually accomplishing something. Employees also need to feel secure in their jobs, so ensure that no negative reaction or repercussion will ever come from giving feedback. Make sure your contact center has an “open door” policy.
Sometimes I get my best blog post ideas from our customer support team giving feedback at company meetings about issues they encounter. It helps me write with the “pain points” of my audience in mind because they are the front line of communication with the customer.
Give your employees the tools and the motivation to stay on task at their jobs and they will. Life as a contact center agent is not always the most exciting, but it can be with just a little help from a friendly supervisor.