Blog Post

Six Reasons Your Contact Center Agents Are Disengaged

You walked into your contact center this morning to find 10% of your agents absent, another 10% of them out of adherence and most of the remaining front-line staff swearing under their breath, sobbing in their seat or slamming their head against their monitors – or all of the above. You look around and wonder, “Where did we go wrong?”

Unfortunately, you are not alone. High agent burnout and rampant turnover perennially plague the majority of contact centers. Many managers feel that their hands are tied. They believe that high disengagement and attrition are simply woven into the contact center fabric, and that there’s little they can do about it. They are WRONG.

If that were the case, then ALL contact centers would struggle to keep agents in place and inspired. But that’s just not so. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of centers where agents like coming to work and want to do a good job, as well as center where agents love coming to work and are committed to doing great job.

If you are not one of those centers, one or more of the issues below could be what is holding you – and your agents – down:

  1. Your center’s key performance metrics destroy the passion that agents originally brought to the job. Your agents bought into the “customer-centric” culture you sold them during recruiting and came on board excited to serve, but then the center slammed them over the head with rigid Average Handle Time (AHT) objectives and Calls per Hour quotas their first day on the phones. You might want to start emphasizing metrics like Contact Quality, Customer Satisfaction and First-Call Resolution before both your agents and your customers defect. Do so, and you’ll be surprised how things like AHT and number of calls handled fall in line.
  2. Your quality monitoring program emphasizes the “monitoring” much more than the “quality”. Your supervisors and/or QA team are too focused on your internal monitoring form and not enough on how customers actually feel about the quality of the interaction they recently had with your center/agent. All agents see are subjective check-marks on a form that is likely better suited for measuring compliance than quality. To get agents to embrace the quality monitoring process, let them have some input on what the form should contain, and, even more importantly, start incorporating direct customer feedback/ratings (from post-transaction surveys) into agents’ overall quality scores.
  3. Your center doesn’t fully embrace a culture of empowerment. Your contact center has failed to recognize and/or act on the fact that agents possess a wealth of insight, and know your customers better than anyone. It’s time to start empowering agents to use that insight and knowledge to improve existing processes and come up with new ones. This is probably the best way to continuously better the center while simultaneously making agents feel respected, valued and highly valuable. You’ll be amazed by the positive impact their ideas and suggestions will have on operational efficiencies, revenue, customer satisfaction, and, to be sure, engagement and retention.
  4. Coaching & training continuously get buried beneath the queue. Agents are eager to continuously develop and add value, but your supervisors can’t seem to find the time to stay on top of coaching and ongoing training. Your center needs to begin exploring feasible and effective ways to fit coaching and ongoing training into the schedule, such as using e-learning modules strategically, creating a peer mentoring program, and empowering agents to take on some supervisory tasks – which will free supervisors up to conduct more coaching and training.
  5. Agent rewards & recognition programs are uninspired – or non-existent. You’re merely going through the motions in terms of motivating and recognizing front line staff – hoping that such stale incentives as cookies and balloons will get agents to raise the roof performance-wise. Time to revamp your rewards & recognition programs with things like: a Wall of Fame that pays tribute to consistent high performers; opportunities to serve on important committees or task forces; nominations for external industry awards for front line staff; fun happy hours where agents get to socialize and receive public praise for their concerted effort, and inspired events and contents during Customer Service Week.
  6. Your contact center is handing the wrong people a headset. Maybe you are actually doing all the positive things suggested in this article, and are STILL struggling with low agent engagement and retention. Well, then you may want to take a close look at your recruiting and hiring practices. Regardless of how well you train, empower and reward staff, if you are attracting and selecting candidates who aren’t cut out for contact center work or your company culture, you’ll never foster the level of agent commitment or performance that’s required to become a world-class customer care organization.

 

About the author

Author of Full Contact: Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact. He has written hundreds of feature articles, case studies, blog posts and research reports on contact center best practices trends and challenges. He is founder and principal of Off Center, which provides a variety of resources to educate, inspire and entertain contact center professionals. Levin is the former editor of ICMI’s pioneering publication Service Level Newsletter, as well as its highly regarded follow-up journal Call Center Management Review.

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