Every year I get the opportunity to meet with hundreds of leaders from contact centres from all over the world. What makes some of them more successful than others? It’s fair to say that processes can go a long way to help deliver outstanding customer service, however, they can never make up for poorly trained or de-motivated individuals. The difference between good and great often comes down to employee engagement; your frontline people are the front door to your organisation, why not trust them to do their job and deliver so much more?
The truth is that leadership style can be a major obstacle to trust. Of course, managers need to set the overall direction but processes should be there for a reason, rather than the reason for being. Fortunately the latest workforce management (WFM) solutions typically include features to support employee engagem.
ent and motivation. For example gamification, real-time communication and agent empowerment help to build trust by introducing some fun and giving agents control over their work-life balance.
Mobile apps make it easier for agents to access schedules wherever they maybe, again increasing the transparency of contact centre operations and allowing for timely feedback, for example to holiday requests. All of these features help to build trust and agent engagement.
Include the seven strategies below as part of your planning for 2017 to unleash the potential within your contact centre and release a wealth of positive business outcomes:
1. Capture the Voice of the Frontline: Agents know your customers best. Why not develop focus groups that give agents regular opportunities to discuss pain points, customer frustrations and how to make the service experience, and even your products infinitely better? Consider putting in place feedback meetings to elicit informal suggestions, but make sure you close the loop on all ideas to maintain effective feedback and build morale.
2. Put Training Higher up the Food Chain: Once you’ve hired the right people, inspire and enthuse them with a comprehensive induction programme that covers corporate strategy and culture as well as their day-to-day tasks. Never under-estimate the power of mentoring. Pair up recent graduates with seasoned professionals. A multi-generational contact centre team is a healthy one where all parties learn from each other, keeping boredom at bay, skills refreshed and staff motivated. Be sure to develop a portfolio of learning styles to accommodate different ages. This can be a mixture of traditional in-classroom training or online and interactive e-learning and e-coaching delivered during quiet times. People learn in different ways and allowing agents to choose what works for them builds trust and self-esteem.
3. Set Clear Targets: Make them visible to everyone. Advanced WFM reporting and dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of employee and team performance against specific contact centre Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or customer Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in a fair and transparent way.
4. Measure the Right Things: What is important to you, to spot trends and identify any group problem areas rather than one-off events that just make individual agents feel singled out, deflated and demoralised.
6. Flexible Working: Recent innovations in self-service capabilities allow agents to trade shifts, voice their preferences for overtime shifts and request time off. Setting auto-approvals means staff don’t have to wait till the next day for an answer should their managers be out of the office or on holiday themselves.
7. Elevate the Status of the Contact Centre: Efficient contact centres staffed by well trained professionals are good for business. Trusted agents work closely with other departments to get the answers and support they need to think outside the box and come up with their own ideas for delighting customers. They have the power to make or break new business wins and keep customers coming back for more. Managers should promote the successes of their team to senior executives to elevate the role of the contact centre and gain additional trust and respect.
I believe 2017 is the year when customer service organisations will ditch the command and control approach so often applied in contact centres, for one that truly focuses on customer service and trusting staff to deliver it. By adapting the strategies above, you can enjoy the rewards of improved productivity and increased customer satisfaction in one fell swoop.
Magnus Geverts is head of business development at Teleopti