5 Ways to Keep Your Call Center Staff Engaged

call-center-staffEmployee engagement is the lifeblood of any customer service department. This is especially true of call centers. If your company's call center agents are not satisfied and unified in their support of the organization's mission, their disillusionment will bleed over into their contacts with your customers.

From the customer's perspective, the service representative's voice equals the corporate voice. Given that, it is important to make sure that you are actively supporting your call center employees and encouraging their efforts, or outsourcing to a contact center provider that can professionally and seamlessly dovetail with your company's mission and values.

Regardless of whether you outsource, or keep your call center operations in-house, here are five ways you can keep your customer service representatives engaged and satisfied.

1. Encourage associate feedback.

Often, the best way of figuring out what is working and what could be changed to work better is to listen to feedback from employees who practice your methods every day. If a process you have put in place isn't efficient, they're going to be the first to realize it, because they are routinely hearing your customers' feedback. And because they are the team directly tasked with implementing your customer service procedures, your reps are often also your best source of ideas for potential solutions when things aren't working well.

So how do you tap into their expertise? Make sure that they know they are empowered to bring their ideas to the table. More importantly, if your associates do identify a critical area of need, address and act upon it promptly. It's one thing to tell your associates that they are empowered; it's quite another to show them that you value their contributions to process improvement.

2. Provide ample opportunities for reps to communicate with you, but skip the long, boring meetings.

Meetings rarely encourage teams to offer up real solutions. They're long, they're stagnant, they're boring and usually, the only people doing the talking are the bosses and the one or two true extroverts. Sometimes, they devolve into non-productive gripe-fests and nothing is truly accomplished. So ditch them.

Try a daily "huddle-up" instead.

Before each shift starts, take five or ten minutes to gather your team together. Communicate the departmental goals for the day. Review a core value and recognize a member of your team for a particular instance in which he or she exhibited that core value in daily practice. Holding your team huddle as a stand-up on a limited timeframe will keep the discussion concise and on-task.

Ask for feedback or questions; if an issue brought up by the team can't be quickly addressed, schedule a one-on-one appointment with the associate who raised it. And make sure that you have a behind-the-wall communications process in place, so that the more introverted team members will also feel like they have an outlet. Remember, not everyone feels comfortable speaking up in front of the entire department. You don't want anybody simmering or stewing out there; eventually, they become energy drains on the team.

3. Ditch the Orwellian "CorpSpeak" and the meaningless industry buzzwords.

Chances are your team already knows you have an MBA from Harvard. You don’t need to keep reminding them with your business-speak. Asking your reps to try "scalable modalities for customized satisfaction assurance" or telling them how you intend to use "metric results going forward" not only confuses your team members, it obfuscates your point. Moreover, such phrasing makes you sound unapproachable.

You want your team to support your efforts? Speak with them like a real human being should. No one wants to work for a textbook. And we've all seen Office Space. Don't be a Lumberg.

4. Foster better understanding by asking your associates to demonstrate concepts.

In your huddle-ups, try some role-playing exercises. Maybe take some real-life situations your team has encountered and demonstrate, with the associates involved, how they were effectively handled. Then ask other team members to tell you why such and such tactics were effective. Focus on the positive interactions your team has had with the public.

Positive examples of good service give team members something to aspire to and emulate. Negative examples only bring down your team's morale.

5. When your team reaches a goal, set another.

Keep raising the stakes. And as you do, offer more rewards for attaining team goals. Leave out corny, grade school-esque rewards like "team pizza parties" or "extra Jeans Day." They're not true motivators for continuing performance. Tie performance— as a team and individually— to real gains in compensation. Offer significant performance-based team bonuses and raises, extra vacation or paid personal time off, meaningful promotions, or even stock options.

Corporate practices over the past 15-20 years have had a myopic focus on cutting compensation while increasing productivity. Every time you lose a longtime team member to compensation-based attrition or perceived inability to grow within the company, you lose knowledge and experience that can't be quantified. Moreover, you lose any labor cost savings in time and effort spent training and re-training a revolving door or new team members.

You want loyalty out of your team? Show them loyalty, too.

If you are considering outsourcing a contact center, choose a provider that makes employee engagement a priority.

Even if you do not directly employ the people who will be staffing your call center, your customers will not perceive the difference. You need to make sure that the people on your end of the line are satisfied and aligned with your company's mission. By staffing professional, engaged call center agents, you'll be improving customer service with every call.

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RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.