The job of a call center agent is considered by many as high pressure and stress-inducing and this is what makes the aspect of call center motivation such a critical component to the success of any organization. As a manager you have been tasked with two crucial deliverables which are, ensuring that you improve both customer and employee journeys. We tend to put more of our focus on meeting customer demands and doing whatever it takes to ensure we improve the quality of experiences for the customer at the same time, however, putting in negligible amounts of effort on the employee. This causes an imbalance in our call centers, leaving the agents feeling unappreciated and in turn causing unnecessarily high attrition rates. This article wants to give you the cheat code to achieve that beautiful balance that will allow you to achieve customer satisfaction and realize employee motivation and morale.
The surprising truth about call center motivation
Motivation is not as straightforward as it may seem and digging deeper to find insights on what areas you need to focus on, is the key to getting it right. Following Maslow’ hierarchy of needs pyramid, a human being has both extrinsic and intrinsic needs and these particular needs influence factors that motivate them depending on the level that they are at. At the very bottom outlines the basic needs of an individual which are
1. Agents need to feel that they are safe at work
2. Agents need to feel that they are secure at their workplaces
3. You need to pay agents enough to live comfortably so that money stops being a point of concern. That is good pay, bonuses, compensation schemes, all that.
The motivating factors that have been outlined above are extrinsic factors. As you read through them, you can clearly tell that they are very surface-level. These are needs that absolutely have to be met as they are what allow an agent to exist with basic human dignity. All organizations must, by all means, prioritize these particular needs but also realize that doing so, is just the beginning of the journey. Humans have so many layers to them, kind of like the way onions do. Just when you thought that you’ve mastered everything about them, a new need crops up and you have to go back to the drawing board.
Luckily for us, Daniel Pink who has done massive scientific research on human motivation lets us off easy on rediscovering the layers to a human being and provides us with the 3 critical factors of motivation. They are listed as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Using these factors, we shall then delve deeper in how they can be achieved within a call center setting.
7 Proven tactics for call center motivation and morale
Foster an enabling work environment
This tactic falls right under autonomy and we’ll break down why this is such an important facet of motivation. The ability to make our own objective choices within a work environment is such a motivation booster. A call center that implements, strict dress codes, strict work times and even goes ahead to implement punitive measures to serve as warning signals for broken rules, grossly undermines the autonomy of its agents. All actions taken by agents start to feel more mechanical and their detachment from work begins at that point. Imagine the morale dump that you feel when you’re in a place where you can’t be your true self and have to put on a façade. It won’t take long before you’re out the door looking for a place where you belong, where you’re allowed to make your own choices. How do we create an enabling environment that fosters autonomy?
a. Allow flexibility in work schedules by implementing hybrid work programs or even flex hours. As long as work is done in the right way, does it really matter where it’s done from?
b. Champion diversity of styles, thoughts and overall being to encourage employees to bring their whole self to work.
Encourage time-outs and minimize bureaucracy
Embracing the concept of autonomy goes hand in hand with releasing control and allowing employees to choose what works best for them and trusting that they have the organization’s interest at their core. On a daily basis, agents are dealing with difficult, impatient customers as well as handling unrealistic requests and all these interactions are timed and recorded and the expectation is that at all times, they have to be on their best behavior. That’s a lot of pressure for one to take. Allowing an agent to schedule time-outs, whether it’s a small breather just to recollect themselves after a draining interaction or to schedule a well-deserved break to recharge and simply inform the manager of the said decision should be a no brainer. Unwarranted bureaucracy is stifling and quite simply put, a motivation killer. This revolutionary tactic can be achieved through,
a. Implementation of flexible shift scheduling that allows agents to view available shift times and offers them the option of choosing shift times that suit them.
b. Open conversations on options available with regard to time outs and making agents aware that they are allowed to explore the options as and when they see fit.
Create a road-map for the achievement of organizational goals
Goal setting and goal achievement are two very different things. When an agent is made aware of the step-by-step approach that they need to take to achieve the set-out deliverables, they can then systematically make incremental improvements that allow them to be better at their craft and measure themselves against the set standards.
a. Define metrics that will be used to evaluate the agents and communicate this with the agents as well as the SMART goals for each agent. In a contact center, it is easier to achieve this through automation and if you’re in the market for a solution, Sharpen Performance Tiles has proven itself to be a leader in this regard.
b. As agents get visibility of how they’re tracking against the set goals, set up a solid training plan that allows real-time coaching of agents to help them make the necessary adjustments to their interactions with the customers so as to improve their daily performance.
c. Equip agents with the right tools that allow them to focus on the task at hand. When an agent has an integrated system that allows them to access all the customer information that is necessary for their work, then they spend more time finding out ways o become more efficient, boost productivity and overall, better at their work. Scattered systems generally put a strain on the employees as they grapple to switch between one system and the next trying to keep the customer engaged and at the same time looking for the relevant data to support that customer query. Inappropriate systems are bad for mastery and encourage struggle, which is a word that does not rhyme with motivation.
Create a feedback loop for agents
Feedback is such a crucial element to the success of any call center. It is through feedback that you are able to determine whether you are achieving the intended effect or have completely missed the mark. Take, for instance, Customer satisfaction surveys, they are considered as a necessity for all call centers as they allow an organization to view themselves through the eyes of their customers. These same surveys can be trickled down to the agents and be used as a reference point in explaining what went right and what went wrong. This conversation allows an agent to see their contribution to the overall well-being of the entire organization and how essential they are to its success.
Feedback does not always have to be external, internal feedback is equally important. Peer-to-peer feedback, detailing areas of improvement, areas where excellence was achieved and recognition of this is an absolute boost to the motivation and morale of a call center. How rewarding it must be to know that your peers see you in a positive light.
In addition to peer-to-peer review, is the bottom-up feedback that allows agents to reveal to their superiors their thoughts on how some issues should be dealt with. This invitation to take part in important discussions at the workplace is encouraging for agents.
Create a culture of learning and development
At the very core of any employee is the need to grow in the organization. As a manager, this need has to be recognized early. There has to be a deliberate attempt to recognize the different strengths of employees and learning opportunities availed to reinforce those strengths and lastly, opportunities to demonstrate their skills in their strong areas should be granted fairly to employees. After all, isn’t it better to retain great talent within the organization even though they may not necessarily be working within the call center settings?
In the long run, an agent will be grateful to a manager that sets them up on a career path, and what more screams motivation than a person who feels that their manager has their best interests at heart?
Boost camaraderie within the workplace
Everyone wants to belong, know that they have a tribe that they can call their own. Fuel relationships building within the call center by going heavy on communal activities such as birthday celebrations, team luncheons, and evening happy hour sessions. These activities seek to reinforce the importance of a single individual within a team and it makes them feel heard, seen and that they have a purpose and they belong.
Show that you’re invested
Agents can tell when you’re doing things for show and when you’re genuine about it. Be about all the things that you want to implement and apply yourself accordingly to the successful achievement of all the goals that you seek. Employees will be motivated to see that you can walk the talk and that they are important enough to you for you to put in the effort to ensure everything is just right.
When the right balance of autonomy, mastery and purpose is achieved while trying to motivate your call center agents, you will definitely reap amazing results. May these 7 proven motivating tactics get you well on your way to call center success.