Tips for maintaining contact center engagement, no matter the season
It’s that time again. The holiday season is fast approaching and employees are starting to check out mentally, as if they’re suffering from the call center version of high school “senior-itis.”
Given the struggles many agents endured with COVID-19, the end-of-year malaise you’re seeing may be even more severe than usual. But SMB contact centers still need to finish strong, especially if the business took a hit from the pandemic.
A long-term, customized employee engagement strategy should be the ultimate goal for any call center. But maybe you just need to boost motivation, morale and workforce engagement as this crazy year (finally!) comes to a close. We’ve got 10 tips to help you do it, and fast.
#1 Distinguish lagging motivation from true burnout
It’s normal for call center agent engagement to fluctuate, over the week (hello Mondays!) and season to season. Burnout, on the other hand, isn’t a sudden-onset condition. It builds up over time and needs more intensive interventions (which we’ll discuss in our next blog).
Make sure to distinguish which problem agents are facing and use the ideas in this article to help overcome a temporary downturn in morale.
#2 Get healthy
It would usually be the company party, a few too many holiday cookies and some late-night happenings that compromise employees’ wellness and energy levels. This year, however, COVID-19 is also adding stress as people try to figure out how to tailor their traditions to the safety demands and even mourn what they will miss out on.
Surprisingly, a contact center shift can provide a healthy, motivating interlude at times like these, if leaders make some adjustments. Managers can encourage active breaks with some light stretching, for example, to inject some mood-improving endorphins. Food offered on site can be nutritious (or get some healthy holiday recipes to remote agents), and the employee newsletter or intranet can feature stress reduction techniques to help employees achieve some calm attention.
Right now, agents may feel pulled in too many directions—family, shopping, finances, job, events and have we mentioned the pandemic?! They will often bring this disjointed sense to work with them.
Don’t add to it! Help them focus instead. Streamline QA review sessions to identify a single improvement goal for the coming week. Have teams attend to one program change at a time. Even cutting out the clutter on the production floor—or encouraging clean desks for remote agents—can help employees re-center so they get back into the customer service mission.
#4 Upgrade support
The fast lane to better call center workforce engagement (also known as contact center WFE) often goes through the agent support structure. Consider how you help agents deal with their own unique challenges. Can managers do more to welcome employees for the shift, instill confidence, offer words of encouragement, assist after a tough call and do the other little things that add up to a huge impact on morale?
And here’s your notice—if you haven’t moved your motivation techniques online but sent your employees to work from home, it’s time to get on it!
#5 More empowerment, more positivity
Being flogged to the finish line is miserable. In some cases, end-of-year woes arise because agents feel like they’ve taken a beating to achieve the annual targets and heard mostly about their shortcomings along the way.
Turn these habits on their head. Spend as much time (or more!) this month encouraging agents as critiquing them. Let them make their voices heard, maybe in an employee survey about potential call center improvements for the next year, and publicize how you’ll implement their suggestions. Empowerment and positivity are among the cornerstones of employee engagement and can take time to build, but why not start now?
#6 Solidify skills
There are numerous times when it’s exciting to tackle new challenges. When temperatures are plummeting, the days are short, and agents are just trying to make it to vacation—that’s not one of them.
Save the next big leap for the new year, if at all possible. For now, find opportunities for agents to celebrate the achievements they’ve made since last January 1, the adaptability they’ve shown in difficult circumstances, and the skills they’ve built. Underscore their accomplishments so they know what existing behaviors contribute to their success and are more likely to keep them up, enthusiastically.
#7 Loosen up a little
Could you offer a December dress code allowing agents to wear less formal attire? What about gifting 10 extra minutes for lunch? Or maybe you could scale down the usual lecture if an employee is late or has another adherence issue? There’s a difference between giving a little slack and totally losing control, so it’s okay to consider where to cut employees a break or when to cut loose for a little fun.
#8 Highlight customer experience
Encourage agents to get into the spirit of the season by giving of themselves to assist customers. Helping people is a more inspiring message, especially right now, than asking agents to achieve a specific average handle time or other metric. If they can make a great impression in each contact, even a slightly longer call might pay off in customer loyalty, in addition to making agents less harried.
#9 Don’t forget the quick fix
Sometimes “quick fixes” get short shrift. If you can use a prize, incentive, teambuilding game, or company event to turn up the motivation, do it. We’re not talking structural changes here—we’re trying to make it through to January when energy levels tend to rebound!
#10 Say thanks!
A little gratitude goes a long way. Agents put in tons of hours and effort for your contact center. Make sure to thank them for all they do.
When it comes to employee engagement strategies, these tips are only the beginning. To boost employee engagement for the contact center all year round, you’ll need some additional tactics, which you can learn in our on-demand webinar “How to Build an Employee Engagement Strategy that Lasts Through and Beyond Uncertain Times.” If you’ve got the time, watch that now.