A sense of purpose enhances retention and performance–but how can it be instilled in the workforce?
In the race to build a highly engaged workforce to deliver exceptional customer experiences, contact center leaders are asking some deep questions. That’s because employee engagement isn’t just that age-old survey topic: employee satisfaction.
Turns out, being okay with the cafeteria menu, while tangentially linked to overall engagement, is not equivalent to being emotionally committed to a job. And it’s the latter that truly drives excellence.
Employee engagement taps into a sense of purpose—and that’s why executives and managers are probing their organizations’ underlying missions. And no, we’re not talking about those once-popular mission statements, which all read alike.
What is a Contact Center Mission Anyway?
For some campaigns, defining the mission is easy. When employees are doing charitable fundraising, for example, agents naturally grasp the importance.
Most of the time, however, contact center employees are tasked with selling consumer products, booking vacation stays or handling customer complaints. In these situations, agents may not immediately see how their contributions matter within the bigger picture of their own lives, beliefs and interests.
This disconnect is where employee engagement often stutters, and it may be why only one-third of U.S. workers reported being engaged with jobs in a recent study. Although it’s not possible to artificially engineer meaning, a meaningful call center mission isn’t as elusive as it may sound.
A Matter of Motivation
A shared call center mission is really about motivation. Managers might begin by asking themselves why they show up each day. Sure, there’s the paycheck. But what drew you to overseeing customer contacts rather than working in retail, accounting or any other specialty?
The picture will be similar for agents. A good hourly rate is nice, but alone it’s not enough to generate engagement. The “extra something” employees see in the job is what elicits loyalty and involvement.
Still stumped? How many times has a prospective agent said they’re interested in the position because they’re a “people person”? Start there. Many individuals entering this industry value communication and are looking to help others—and that’s what most contact center jobs are about!
Making the Connection
How can the contact center tap into that helping instinct? Here are some ideas.
Talk About the Customer
Beginning as early as the interview process, reference the customer. What is the purpose of the company’s products or services? Why do customers buy in the first place?
Managers can help paint a picture to evoke employees’ empathy. Something as simple as a collection of markers might be a customer’s ticket to self-expression. A mobile phone plan might be the tool that ensures the photos they capture of their children are safely stored in the cloud.
Seen through this lens, answering a customer’s questions or even resolving a complaint takes on larger meaning.
Employees have a vast trove of experience. Have them think about when a positive customer experience stood out.
For example, an employee may remember buying a faulty product and being concerned about losing their money, only to have a customer service representative handle the return with no fuss. Another might recall an agent making them laugh, adding a nice touch to their day.
These can be their models. Why not try to deliver the same positive impact?
Invoke the Team, Too
The focus on others needn’t be solely external. Agents’ colleagues count, too. When employees feel like “we’re all in this together,” the sense of belonging can boost engagement. From traditional team-building activities to breaks scheduled strategically to give employees downtime for interaction, there are many ways call center leaders can help create a sense of community.
“For the Audience, It’s the First Time”
No matter how empathetic an employee, a difficult call or a gray Wednesday can sap enthusiasm. Coaching can help counter the effects.
There is inspiration everywhere. For instance, career coaches will sometimes use the analogy of stage plays to help inspire workers. Actors say the same lines, sing the same songs and follow the same choreography night after night during a play’s run. The actors have to find a way for the audience to experience each line, song and dance as though it’s the first time the play has ever been performed. Because for the audience, it is the first time they’re seeing the show even if the actors are on their two hundred and twelfth performance. Agents can be encouraged to make each contact fresh for their audience.
But Engagement is More than Mission
The foundation of employee engagement is a shared mission, the purpose of the call center that will bring employees together. But there are numerous other elements.
Fortunately, we’ve delved deeply into this topic in our white paper The Complete Contact Center Guide to Employee Engagement for SMBs. From the basics to the environment to skills progression and beyond, we’ve got you covered. So grab your copy here.