Investing in Your Frontline Workforce is Good for Business

As companies increase their focus on improving the customer experience, frontline workforces are getting more attention. Companies are realizing that when frontline employees are satisfied and can operate at peak efficiency, things like productivity, performance and customer satisfaction are sure to follow. In other words, that the investment made will be well worth it.

A recent article in The Washington Post discussed the impact of major retail chains like Gap Inc., Wal-Mart, Target and T.J. Maxx raising their minimum wage of frontline employees in an attempt to boost business and increase the bottom line. As Glenn Murphy, CEO for Gap, said in a letter to his employees, “Our decision to invest in frontline employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

According to the article, since Gap raised its baseline wage to $9/hour nine months ago, they have seen a significant increase in the number of people who have applied to work at their stores. And in general, more applicants translate to better talent overall, which ultimately leads to better employee performance and productivity. The long-term impact on sales and employee retention is still unknown, but executives are hopeful.

Of course, these investments aren’t only beneficial to big retail chains. Any organization with a frontline workforce can experience significant business gains. And it isn’t always about money – employees can be motivated by more than just a bigger paycheck.

In the contact center, for example, there is a clear link between agent performance and the amount of time managers spend developing their agents. Finding time to coach and train agents so that they are more effective and confident can have a huge impact on job satisfaction. Sure, contact center agents would like a larger paycheck, but more training and skills to do their jobs better is always at the top of their wish list.

Incentive programs like flexible scheduling, or even entering agents who improve their training completion rates into a pool for a half-day off, can serve as a powerful motivator. Also, frontline agents value diversity in their day – taking different types of calls and working between calls to complete training, gaming, and various back-office tasks.

These activities not only break up the monotony of a shift, but also improve agent performance. And when frontline agents are able to handle customer inquiries and solve their problems, they are more satisfied overall.

Inefficiency can haunt your efforts to invest in your workforce. But by automating some of the manual processes around schedule adherence in the contact center, supervisors and coaches can find the time to invest in what is really important – developing their frontline agents.

What’s going on at Gap is an example of that workforce investment, and it will be interesting to follow their progress. Gap is also working on a pilot program for shift swapping among employees. They’ve also changed operational procedures for back-office work to empower employees to take responsibility for their workload and done away with performance reviews and focused more on ongoing performance measurements.

After all, the primary goal of any customer-facing enterprise is to provide an outstanding customer experience that drives profitability. So invest wisely. More productive and effective frontline employees are happier (and more productive), which leads to happier customers and a boost to the bottom line.

About the author

Matt McConnell

Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in its market with more than 300,000 call center agents around the world using Intradiem every day. Matt is the author of the book Customer Service at a Crossroads and holds 11 software patents. He graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in industrial and systems engineering.

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