A combination of skills, processes, technology and optimization efforts directly impact a contact center’s output. Whether you’re a CEO, senior manager or floor supervisor, knowing how to drive results within your contact center team is imperative for success. In Part One, we outlined 10 of our 20 recommended ways for contact centers to increase production. In Part Two, we share the final ten factors to consider during your planning efforts.
1. Offer agents a clear career path
Establish at the outset of an agent’s employment that opportunities to move beyond the role are available for qualified and interested individuals.
Many of your most productive team leaders, supervisors, quality analysts, trainers, and even executives (even some owners begin their careers on the phones!) are identified and promoted into these roles after working as agents.
A well-defined pathway to future opportunities should be established and presented to your staff, with regular progress updates in relation to goals provided by managers. Make sure to show appreciation for the efforts of those working towards their goals; this approach will result in both short and long-term benefits to your company and employees.
2. Lend a helping hand
Sometimes it’s the small things that matter.
While managers oversee their staff’s efforts, periodically occupying the seat next to employees they supervise can help in multiple ways.
Agents may feel that management is “above them” or unable to relate to them or the jobs they do. Demonstrating a willingness to work as part of the team and proficiency in the work agents do will not go unrecognized and helps builds credibility. Don’t be afraid to throw on a headset and assist your team when queues are building; this can boost morale and productivity simultaneously.
3. Align agent shifts with volume and arrival patterns
With the proper workforce management tools and accurate forecasts, you can define more effective shift patterns for your staff. This approach contributes to the effective delivery of KPIs on your program. WFM managers must combine forecasts broken down by half-hour, desired service levels, and agent skills when identifying shifts for programs.
Enterprises own this responsibility and must effectively plan to align shifts with needs; this is not a static consideration. Remember, too, that your agents often have families and personal plans they need to juggle along with their work responsibilities, so always plan as far in advance as possible. Job satisfaction and agent retention are impacted by this as well. This exercise should be repeated monthly, at the minimum, more often on programs with variable arrival patterns and peak seasons.
4. Institute an internal chat function
Provide agents with the ability to communicate with peers and supervisors in real-time. Yes, 99% of the time, your agents should be able to serve customers without needing an escalation or consultation with an associate. However, there are always outliers, and agents must secure proper answers to relay back to customers promptly when required. Internal messaging platforms are readily available and cost-effective, so there isn’t a good reason not to have one in place. The benefits are far-reaching but at a minimum, impact handle time, customer satisfaction, and first-contact resolution rates.
Many companies have instituted a messaging platform for their internal customer service staff. When an outsourced provider works simultaneously with internal staff, utilizing the same messaging platform effectively provides two paths of support for the outsourcer’s agents – their supervisors and those they have permission to correspond with on the client’s team.
5. Train, train, then train some more
Agents can never receive enough training because we don’t live in a static world. Customer’s needs change regularly, and providing best-in-class service should always be a top priority.
Training shouldn’t end when a program “goes live,” no matter how extensive the initial training was. Beyond recurrent and remedial training, there are often changes to a program that occurs over time. Expanding the scope of service an agent provides on a program can only be effectively conveyed through additional training. Take advantage of all resources available regarding training – your internal training staff, your client’s training staff and surrounding technology that allows one to measure the effectiveness of training through comprehension tests.
6. Provide agents with real-time results
Continuously provide necessary data to staff to show them how well they are doing when it becomes available, not just at the beginning or end of their shifts. Offer as much information as possible so your staff knows where they stand individually and within their team, at all times.
The more competitive your agents are, the more beneficial this information becomes. The success of most programs is measured by KPIs such as sales conversion rate, first-call resolution rate, average order value and average handle time.. Allow staff to monitor their own results, which can result in an inspiration to improve or motivation to keep up the excellent work, whichever the case might be. This approach also allows managers to have more productive conversations with agents since they know where they stand, production-wise, and are already thinking about how to impact change.
7. Measure effectiveness and productivity
The measuring stick for agent evaluation must reach beyond production metrics. An effective strategy is to combine customer satisfaction scores and other qualitative components measured during the quality assurance process to receive a more holistic perspective on who your best agents are.
Make sure to share the results with your staff; this data should readily be available to agents and managers. Employee engagement and understanding of areas to improve upon will follow.
8. Allow agent breaks to recenter and recharge
Contact center programs often require agents to function in high-stress settings with little downtime. Anyone who has ever held this job can relate and sympathize. It takes a particular type of person to serve in a customer service role successfully. Not many people wish to work long hours to solve complex problems with periodically demanding customers or answer the same question repeatedly.
Research tells us that an agent’s disposition, the smile versus the scowl, is apparent to customers on the other side of interactions and can and does impact the customer experience. It’s crucial to give agents scheduled breaks so they can catch their breaths and return to work with the same focus and attitude they began their shift with. Yes, most state laws dictate intra-day breaks, but managers should exercise discretion based on staff needs. If an additional break or breaks are required to help an agent perform their job productively, recognize the value this offers them, your business, and the customers they serve by providing it.
9. Establish structured agent coaching
Regularly schedule coaching sessions with your agents to review performance and provide opportunities for them to ask questions. Focus coaching on supervisor’s and QA analyst’s observations when reviewing their work, considering both performance and qualitative content identified as developmental opportunities.
Continue to measure knowledge in these sessions and provide the opportunity to reinforce what they already know and remediate all else. Agents work more effectively when they thoroughly understand their job, the services to provide and their performance objectives.
10. Give back
There are many ways a company can motivate its employees. Giving back to staff and your community is one such way and should be a commitment your company makes to demonstrate employee appreciation and establish a friendly culture.
Regardless of where agents work, in-office or virtually, there are plenty of opportunities to sponsor events and support fundraising activities for your employees, their children, and the communities in which they live. The dollar amount or specific contribution isn’t vital – your decision to take part, is.
Employees across the spectrum appreciate and recognize these efforts, creating an inclusive environment where employees are more likely to stay engaged with their employer. All contact centers want to mitigate turnover as much as possible, so this by-product benefit is essential.
Now that you know your 20 tools for increasing productivity, we hope you’ll put them into practice. Contact us to learn how Telecom, Inc. has implemented these factors into our partnership programs. We offer nearly 30 years of experience building successful programs, always focusing on increasing performance while employing the latest contact center technology and exceptional domestic staff to provide a strong ROI for our partner clients.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals on your next campaign.