Keeping employees motivated in a call center can be quite a challenge for the managers. Work conditions are usually far from ideal, working hours are long, deadlines are stringent and targets are very often unrealistically difficult to achieve.
This sort of work environment causes call centers to have one of the highest turnover rates in any industry. The work environment also contributes to a generally low morale existing among the employees, which in turn causes employee productivity to remain lower than potential.
Maintaining a high level of agent productivity can make or break a manager.
Even though we have call center software to highlight all the key performance indices that point to productivity rates, it falls upon each individual manager to devise ways by which their employees are kept satisfied, focused and motivated enough to influence their productivity in a positive manner.
What is the difference between a call center that is full of motivated individuals and one which is filled with agents simply going through the motions?
Even though the difference in number of calls taken, or the number of issues resolved may be minimal (even if you are not motivated, you have a target that you must strive to achieve), the real difference lies in the quality of the customer service that is being provided.
Customers often complain that agents seemed to be unwilling to explain the full solutions to their problems, or that the solution that was provided was not sufficient to satisfy the customer. These are indicators that the agent in question is pulling the company down because of a below par productivity.
One of the most common mistakes managers make when faced with a situation like this is to opt for something that raises employee motivation levels instantaneously, and thus influences productivity.
However, such strategies are short-lived, and the motivation thus garnered will fizzle out in time once the employees get into their same work schedule again.
Therefore, it is far better to explore the root of the problem and propose long-term solutions than think of ideas to keep your employees happy for a day or a week.
In this article, we have talked about some of the most crucial aspects to take care of in order to manage employee productivity not just in the short-term, but moving forward in the longer scheme of things as well.
1. Offer agents a chance to develop further skills.
Call center employees often cite a lack of growth opportunities as a reason for their low productivity and even turnover.
Therefore, it serves to benefit both the managers and the employees if agents are trained in different skills that would come in handy for them in the future of their career.
In this way, agents are secure about how they can move ahead in the future, and managers are able to instill a sense of loyalty in the agents so as to ensure that a majority of them end up plying their trade with the same company for a longer period of time.
2. Implement self-service for generic queries.
A lot of the queries that come in to a call center are about customers inquiring about shipping, tracking their products, delivery, locations etc.
All of these queries can be self-served, if the company creates a platform where the customer can log in and see for himself exactly where his product currently is, at what stage of processing it is moving, and how long it would approximately take for him to receive it.
Taking these doubts off the shoulders of the call center employees can significantly reduce workload, and help them focus on the more crucial calls, thus enhancing productivity.
3. Recognize successful performances of individual employees.
Putting a reward or acknowledgement system in place is known to spur employees on to work harder and put in more effort so as to earn that recognition.
A simple public recognition of outstanding achievement boosts productivity because it propagates a sense of healthy competition among the employees at the call center.
One who does achieve something is keen to hold on to the tag, and one who misses out is motivated even further to reach the top next month.
4. Assign agents according to demand.
Demand at a call center fluctuates according to working hours. The peak time would be during the office hours, while the trough is likely to be late at night or early in the morning.
Agents need to be assigned shifts according to the call volume, and not in order to keep the same distribution of employees static.
This allows agents to feel really investing in whatever is happening around the call center. Once they are in the thick of it, they are more likely to take interest in it, and this would lead to enhanced productivity in the workplace.
5. Let agents have access to their KPI scores.
Self-evaluation is a very potent manner of improvement. Key performance index scores are given to employees of the basis of qualitative fulfillment of certain metrics deemed important to productivity.
Employees should have access to their KPI scores so that they can clearly understand which aspects of their skills they need to work upon, and how they can perform better in the coming scenarios.
6. Take a hands-on approach to management.
Managers need to be involved in the day to day operations of the call center so that employees feel connected with them.
During times of very high call volume, managers should do their bit in the field, fielding calls if necessary, chalking out scheduling plans, keeping employees engaged as they seek to answer as many calls as possible.
Hands-on involvement will serve as an example for the other agents to also be dedicated to giving their best during peak hours, so that productivity is heightened.
7. Allow agents to choose a shift that works best for them.
Agents are often wary of the possibility of their shifts being changed on a whim, and hence they find it difficult to plan any aspect of their life beyond the job.
This is also one of the leading causes of dissatisfaction among the call center employees.
Therefore, allowing agents to pick a shift that suits their needs would go a long way to ensuring that the agent then gives his or her best at that window, because they have no other engagements to worry about.
8. Deliver real-time information to help agents on a call.
While on a call, agents often have to take decisions based on their understanding of the customer and these decisions can have a direct effect on a lead.
Arming agents with as much information about the customer as possible is a responsibility of the call center.
Even during the call, data is continuously being analyzed, so if any new pattern in picked up, or a trend of likelihood is identified, it should be made available to the employee immediately so that he can fashion the conversation in the manner that utilizes the benefits of that information.
9. Schedule frequent short breaks. A call center job is taxing, to say the least. Dealing with a persistent client, or a range of tough clients, can take a toll on productivity.
Arranging for short breaks allows your human resource to stay fresh and active for the next call. These breaks help to clear the mind and find a moment of peace before diving straight back in.
Arranging for breaks has been a common manner of reducing stress and boosting productivity.
10. Implement a structured agent coaching process. Sometimes, the job can get too tough to figure out on one’s its own.
This is where the benefit of coaching comes in. Communicating to clients about the best ways to deal with certain situations allows them to actually implement these practices when they are faced with the same situations.
Knowledge of the best techniques helps them reduce stress, understand the crux of the work to be done, and carry it out in an efficient manner.
11. Use interaction to keep agents engaged.
Employee engagement is very important to draw out the best from your agents.
Regular communication works in two ways – the agent understands exactly what is expected of him or her, and can then deliver more accurately on the field, and the manager understands the ground realities of the call center and can formulate strategies accordingly that are a perfect fit.
In these two manners, opening channels of communications between the two strata of workers can help in increasing the productivity of the agents.
12. Rely on data to give you a picture of the customer.
Managers today are advised time and again to adopt a data driven decision making process.
Letting the raw data guide you, rather than intuition, experience, gut feeling or even a sixth sense, is statistically far more likely to bring you positive results.
All of your plans, strategies, schedules, directives and suggestions should adhere to the trends that are being presented upon analysis of the data collected. Sticking to the truth of data is the surest way to enhance productivity.
The Case Study
We have spoken about 12 techniques which could be implemented in order to boost morale and show a positive shift in productivity.
The core of productivity lies in communication and understanding, therefore, if these aspects are prioritized and issues are well thought out, the productivity at the workplace is bound to increase.
To further illustrate this point, we will take the example of VisionTech Solutions, a telemarketing agency that provides call center solutions for an established tech organization.
This is an example that will bring out the requirement of higher productivity and talk about ways in which it could be implemented to benefit the company.
In this case study, we will take a look at the problem as it existed, and the challenges it posed. We will then take a look at what sort of solutions were proposed to counter these challenges, and the results of such a move.
We will decide according to the data whether the changes that were implemented had any positive impact or not.
The Problem Scenario
VisionTech was going through a rough patch, owing to a very high number of calls and added pressure from its parent company.
Leads that were being generated were often not getting matured into actual sales because of the lack of time and effort on part of the call center.
The company tried to bridge the gap using call center software solutions but even then the employees were performing below par.
Some of the most significant challenges that the company faced are listed below.
1. Employees were unclear about what the future had in store for them. They were not sure their careers could prosper and develop further from the role they now had, which is why a lot of them were not motivated to perform.
2. Agents did not receive regular communication from the managers so they had to take decisions based on their understanding, which in many cases was detrimental because they did not know about the bigger picture.
3. Agents complained of burnout and the inability to focus for long hours at a stretch. This was greatly hampering their productivity.
The managers drew up certain solutions to mitigate the problem. They are listed below.
1. Coaching and training was provided to employees so that they can acquire and perfect skills they would need at higher positions in their careers in the future.
2. Managers started communicating their plans regularly to the agents so that everybody knew of the latest developments.
3. Breaks were arranged in between working hours for the agents to refresh themselves and face the next slot more relaxed and comfortable.
After the implementation of these new procedures, productivity was seen to rise by anywhere between 25% and 35% depending on the indicator being referenced.
Sales went up by over 5% within a year, and employee satisfaction levels were high, which meant that agents were able to work to the best of their abilities.
Thus we see that employee satisfaction and motivation plays a key role in productivity, and the way to manage productivity is to understand each individual employee’s needs and work for a solution that best fits the requirements of both the employee and company.