Your call center employees are very often the first employees your customers interact with. They are problem solvers, and they are the keys to driving innovation, knowledge, and revenue throughout your organization.
Call center employees also spend a lot of time talking to customers who are less than happy. The rigors of this work can lead to increased employee frustration and disengagement. A disengaged workforce can cripple your contact center’s ability to provide quality customer service and will ultimately raise recruiting and staffing costs which will impact your bottom line.
According to Gallup, only 30% of the current American workforce say they’re engaged and inspired at work. The other 70% of workers identify as “disengaged” and fall into two categories:
- Those who do the bare minimum: show up, do their work, then go home (50%)
- Those who are actively seeding discontent (20%)
The employees who fall into the disengaged category are at risk of fleeing your contact center and bringing others with them. Both disengagement and turnover have been historically difficult issues to tackle within contact centers.
According to Contact Babel’s 2017 study on U.S. contact centers, employee turnover at call centers is the highest it’s been since the recession — currently at 30%. Rates can reach as high as 70% at contact centers who outsource call center employees. Remember, a healthy turnover rate is about 10%.
How can you inspire engagement at your organization? Check out seven ways to keep call center employees engaged.
1. Recognize Employees
Appreciation is a fundamental human need, but it’s one largely ignored in the workplace. According to Gallup polls, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. The same study shows that employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year.
Recognition in the workplace confirms your employee’s presence —and work —is valued by others. As a result, recognition keeps your employees motivated and engaged, which elevates productivity.
2. Listen to Your Team
A great way to gather employee feedback is through pulse surveys. Surveys drill down on how your employees feel about their working situation and your organization. For example, pulse survey allow you to ask more granular questions about what you could be doing better, or how you can support your team more.
With surveys, you’re able to analyze employee feedback and then implement changes that show your team you are listening to them. Change connected to feedback is a great way to keep valuable call center employees engaged and happy in the workplace. It’s never too late to start leveraging employee surveys and feedback tools to gauge employee engagement levels, and take immediate action to address any disengagement right away.
3. Shorten ASA times
One of the major themes at the 2018 Contact Center Week (CCW) Executive Exchange was the importance of decreasing the average speed of answer (ASA) times at contact centers. Shortening ASA improves both the quality of customer service as well as your call center employees’ overall perception of their job.
Callers stuck in waiting queues for long periods of time may be irritated, annoyed, or emotional when their call is finally answered. These emotions are naturally pushed to the agent who answers the call. The more stress your employees absorb, the more likely they are to become disengaged from work— a high volume of stressful calls is taxing on your staff. Further, Michael Tremblay of Air Canada claims 85% of contact at call centers is considered “bad contact," according to his discourse at CCW.
Taking steps to decrease ASA times can help soften the tone of a call, which ultimately protects your employees from excessive stress, and improves the atmosphere of their job.
4. Focus on Long-Term Hires
Employees who churn after 90 days or less from their hire date are a common problem in the contact center industry. When a contact center is plagued by 90-day turnover issues, it automatically decreases the average agent competency in an organization. With so many ‘learners’ on staff, it is difficult to provide quality customer service. Agents who have more on-the-job experience have more skills to complete their jobs better.
Specifically, tenured employees are more likely to have higher first call resolution rates (FCR). Favorable FCRs create a better experience for the customer and decrease the volume of follow-up calls that burden your workforce.
A staff with more positive than negative experiences is a happy staff. And, happy employees will stay with your organization longer.
5. Zero in on Staffing Balance
If attrition is high at your organization, you may be placing massive stress on call center employees who remain loyal to your team. These staffing gaps can quickly run down employees who are weighed down by additional responsibilities.
Understaffed contact centers also run the risk of inflating their ASAs and FCRs. At CCW, one contact center executive was asked, “What can you do to bring your ASA down to one minute?” The response was simple enough, “Get five more people on board.”
Overbooking or spreading your employees too thin leads to resentment, increasing both attrition and absence rates, which is often a telltale sign of disengagement. The average absence rate at contact centers is currently 9.1%. If you notice an uptick in absenteeism, it’s time to act quickly to re-engage your staff.
6. Address Financial Wellness
The financial wellness hierarchy of needs suggests all humans need the following to be true to feel financially secure:
- Control over finances
- Capacity to absorb an unexpected shock
- Savings and planning for the future
- Ability to make a discretionary purchase
Personal finance issues can cause distractions that create disengagement from the workplace. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, one-third of all employees are distracted by personal financial issues while at work. Nearly 50% of employees with financial stress spend three hours or more each week handling personal finances at work. From a revenue standpoint, this distraction can cost employers $7,000 per employee, per year or about 20 hours of lost productivity each month, per employee.
Many organizations recognize the issues financial stress can cause, and have begun to unroll wellness programs which provide multiple benefits to workers and the corporation alike.
7. Offer Unique Advantages
The current job market is the employee’s market. Thanks to a record low unemployment rate and a plethora of job openings, your employees are always looking for the next best thing. And while monthly bonuses and incentives are a useful strategy for attracting talent, they aren’t always the key to continuous engagement. Find unique benefits that your staff will continue to find useful over their time with your company — something that differentiates you from the crowd.
A growing trend, perpetuated by major contact centers like DialAmerica and CaLLogix is on-demand pay. Offering on-demand payments means your employees have access to their earned but unpaid wages at the click of a button; no more waiting for their next paycheck. It is a great way to reward your employees for the work they’ve already done, and provide them with something valuable as a perk— their money, faster. Daily pay benefits are proven to reduce turnover and absenteeism while simultaneously boosting engagement.
By focusing on employee engagement, you can keep your employees from burning out and turning over. After all, the highest level of growth in an organization occurs when companies have highly engaged staff.
To learn more about how to engage your employees, check out Achievers’ e-book, “Engage or Die: How Companies that Act Fast on Engagement Outpace the Competition.”
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About the Author
Megan Wells is a writer for DailyPay, a data journalist, and content strategist based in San Francisco, California. Wells' work has appeared on Fox, Nasdaq, MSN, Motley Fool, and more. Wells also spoke at the 2015 Exceptional Women In Publishing conference.