happy contact centre agents

Morale Mashup: Agent Autonomy and Other Key Strategies for Motivation

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The secret’s out—motivated agents are productive agents.

As expectations for customer service quality continue to grow (the 2015 State of Multichannel Customer Service Report revealed that 60 percent of consumers have higher expectations for service quality than they have in years past) contact centres must take all steps to make sure they can deliver the best customer experience possible.

This initiative doesn’t begin with performance metrics or corporate policies, though. It begins with something much simpler and more integral to your overall success—your agent workforce.

If you hope to keep up with the demanding expectations of today’s consumer, a well-trained and motivated customer care team is a must.

The X Factor: Agent Autonomy

Letting your agents do what they do best is a key ingredient to motivation.

Think about it—across every industry, is there any one of us who likes being told what to do, how to do it, and why it needs to be done?

Probably not. Micromanaging is an all too common trend in the business world, and in the performance and metric focused world of customer service, it can get out of hand quick. Managers who get concerned about subpar metrics have a tendency to get too hands on, removing the autonomy of their agents due to a lack of faith in their ability to get the job done.

Of course, this only makes matters worse. Agents who feel nitpicked by management will perform worse, weakening metrics further and putting a serious damper on the customer experience.

Part of the agent autonomy equation involves flexibility with contact centre protocols—do your agents have to get clearance with management before allowing a product return? Are there password authentications blocking agent access to customer information? How much corporate red tape do your agents need to cut through before they can deliver effective service?

Agent autonomy boils down to two things:

  • Give your agents the freedom to act as they see fit (within reason)
  • Remove obstacles preventing agents from getting customers what they need

Not every agent will thrive with self-direction and autonomy. But the ones that do will be able to deliver a level of service far beyond the average contact centre agent.

4 Key Motivation Strategies

Of course, autonomy isn’t the only ingredient for keeping your employees motivated. There are a wealth of other strategies that effective contact centre leaders can use to keep worker spirits high, even when times are tough:

1. Optimize the Workspace

If your agents have an awful work environment of hectic calls, short breaks, and overbearing management, you have no chance of keeping them motivated. How can you expect them to be happy on the the support channels they are in if they’re miserable after the interaction? Make the environment conducive to success with helpful corporate policies that address their needs and make their workspace inviting and relaxed.

2. Give Them Feedback

Feedback is important, both the positive and the negative. Positive feedback makes agents feel valued and respected, while reinforcing that their hard work isn’t going unnoticed. Negative feedback, when delivered correctly, gives agents clear goals to work on. As we mentioned above, treading this line can be a delicate balance—you don’t want to remove agent autonomy. Nevertheless, feedback and proper coaching are essential parts of building a flexible and autonomous contact centre workforce.

3. Streamline Systems

As anyone working in tech-focused industries can attest, there’s nothing more demotivating than outdated systems that are slow, freeze up, and lose data when it matters most. Preventing this is a callback to our above goal of removing agent obstacles—the customer experience your agents can provide is directly correlated with how many barriers are in their way.

4. Make It A Game

Gamification is gaining popularity in the business world, and its use has proven to be quite effective for those that can pull it off.

Gamifying your centre, much like it sounds, involves adding game-like elements to contact centre protocols. We humans are curious by nature; we naturally enjoy exploring new concepts. These principles can be put to work in your contact centre.

According to data compiled by Blackhawk Engagement, 89 percent of organizations have a reward or recognition system in place. What’s more, 42 percent of employees place value on these programs when considering where to work.

Innovative ways to apply this involve creating levelling systems for employee growth, offering rewards based on performance, or using specific initiatives (or “quests”) to drive behaviors. For example, you could create a quest wherein contact centre agents that achieve specific handle times over a week’s period get entered into a drawing for a prize, or receive an extra vacation day. Incentivizing employees in lighthearted and fun ways can be a powerful way to get them invested in their work.

Mastering Morale

In a stressful contact centre, agent morale is a necessary, yet often neglected, factor in your customer experience equation. Contact centre leaders must take a hands on approach to training and development, but also know when to stand back and let customer care agents work their magic. Autonomy is essential to motivation, alongside a workspace that is fun, supportive, and designed to keep your agent’s spirits high.