Agents are the most important part of your staff from the customers’ perspective, and there is no way to provide consistent and qualitative customer service experiences without well-trained, experienced, and, what is even more important, motivated agents.
But what is agent engagement and how to motivate call center agents and get engaged and motivated employees? Let us find it out together.
What is call center agent engagement?
Well, the definition of a call center agent engagement can be different depending on whom you ask for defining it. As a general rule, it is defined as the level of agent involvement in all processes concerning their work and the company’s functioning, taking into account not only direct contact center job responsibilities and tasks but also other activities, such as training, exceeding service levels and KPIs, showing a high level of self-motivation and creative. It is considered that high agent engagement scores can be reached only if there is positive agent experience concerning colleagues and internal communication, training quality, contact center environment (including the comfort of working place and tools agents are provided with), managers’ attitude, workload, number of dumb and routine tasks, and so on, and so on. Does not it look like a synonym for agent satisfaction, does it?
But it isn’t the absolutely same characteristic as agent satisfaction. First of all, agent satisfaction determines how much is employee satisfied with the work conditions, tasks, career prospects, communication in the team, and other aspects of their job. Otherwise, agent engagement determines how deeply are workers involved in the company culture and work processes, whether are they motivated enough to go above and beyond their managers’ expectations and requirements and self-develop themselves to become more productive and effective as customer service agents.
What does an engaged contact center rep look like in real conditions?
- Shows interest in the onboarding process, asks additional questions, asks for knowledge materials for a better understanding of the role and job specifics;
- Shares ideas and describes his or her point of view about the ways of improving customer service and customer satisfaction;
- Always does his or her best while servicing customers, tries to find the root cause of the issue, doesn’t refuse clients in providing advice or assistance even when the issue isn’t on the company’s side;
- Tries to improvise, be empathetic, and work with every client as with a unique personality, doesn’t rely on call scripts only, tries to provide even more assistance than it is asked for;
- Tries to find his or her personal areas for improvement, asks for constructive criticism and relevant feedback, and always asks additional questions regarding the contact center industry, company, contact center culture, service levels, and other important aspects of the work;
- Participates in all non-work related activities, tries to become better in his or her own KPIs achievement, communicates respectfully and empathetically with both higher management and other contact center agents;
- Never tries to avoid customer calls or other work tasks, tries to reduce the sick days, never shows signs of absenteeism or other forms of avoiding the work.
You would say - that’s not possible, such contact center agents exist only in fairytales. We can beat this argument by explaining one little, but a vital thing - agents are common people, as well as we are, too. They want to be respected, their work to be valued, and their effort to be rewarded and praised. These three components are the things that will determine whether will you reach the awaited call center agent engagement level or not. Thus, let’s think of how can you deal with it. But firstly, let’s define another vital thing - what is agent experience and what is its connection with agent engagement?
Agent experience vs. Agent engagement
Another term that can be confused with agent engagement is agent experience, as well as agent satisfaction as we have discussed above. Agent experience is a very similar subject to customer experience, so it is quite simple to differentiate between agent experience and agent satisfaction - agent satisfaction is just a part of agent experience, as well as agent experience, includes such things as the most popular and annoying problems in agents’ work, agents’ challenges, relationships with the team and executives, and so on. The difference between agent experience and agent engagement is also clear - agent engagement refers to the agents’ involvement in work operations and the effort they put into doing their best and going extra mile, while agent experience is about all feelings and experiences that the agent has faced while working on the position, where some aspects of work could be positive, and others could be negative - it includes all agent experiences across “agent journey”, the same as it is with customer journey which is very different for happy customers and dissatisfied customers.
Thus, without positive agent experience, there would be no agent engagement. Agents who suffer from unfair treatment at work, have no prospects for career growth, feel a lack of communication and development, constantly solve routine and uninteresting tasks, do not receive adequate technical support, do not receive constructive feedback and various types of encouragement, will never show the expected level of agent engagement and agent performance. Keep in mind that agent experience is a multicomponent aspect of an agent’s job, so you have to improve it on different levels and using diverse methods and techniques. Moreover, you also have to communicate with agents to understand their feelings and emotions, or otherwise, you will face one of the biggest call center problems - high agent turnover and attrition rate which harms contact center efficiency.
Why is agent engagement important?
There are a few reasons why agent engagement can be beneficial for your business and provide you with measurable results.
Better quality of customer service and positive customer experience for all clients
Agent engagement powerfully influences the quality of servicing buyers, and this is also the most important factor when we are talking about the consistent improvement of the service quality. Agents who are not engaged enough will only try to keep the minimum required service levels and do nothing besides that, and that’s not always their fault. Imagine you are put in a situation where you don’t see career opportunities, all you do is repeat the same things every day, year by year, and you have even never received praise for your effort. Is it worth doing your best for such a job, especially if we take into consideration that contact center rep salaries are kind of the lowest ones in the US and Western Europe countries? Even though agents are paid a bit more than such positions as street food cooks or cashiers, those jobs can’t be even compared to each other! While the call center agent is responsible for customer retention, customer loyalty and customer relationships with the brand, a street food cook has a much less level of responsibility - especially if we take into account that this work is about manual work, while call center agents need numerous soft skills to exceed customer expectations.
On the other hand, engaged employees are ready for close cooperation with clients for fast issue resolution. Engaged agents understand the importance of such contact center skills as active listening, adaptability, and empathy. They are stress-resistant and are ready to solve conflicts, they can always give a piece of advice to a client and handle root cause analysis of any complex case because they want to do it. They will never abuse the on-hold button or transfer customer calls that they could handle on their own. Therefore, engaged agents are greatly performing agents in any case.
Faster issue resolution and higher First Call Resolution rate
Agent engagement have its goal to let agents understand that they have to be focused on the positive resolution of all customer inquiries they are going to deal with. Fast service, as well as fast Average Resolution Time (or Average Handling Time, or Average Handle Time), is one of the main priorities for clients, and they are not going to tolerate delays, long on-hold times or numerous call transfers (especially if they also have to repeat the query each time the customer conversations are transferred). First Call Resolution rate is also a significant call center metric that shows how many customer problems are solved within one contact with a customer support agent. Are non-engaged agents able to perform around 80% of the First Call Resolution rate (FCR), or to resolve issues faster than is defined in the Service Level Agreement (SLA)? Surely not. Engaged agents can improve the Average Resolution Time and increase the number of customer queries resolved within one contact because of their higher concentration on customer complaints and customer issues and higher motivation to show better performance results than other agents, which leads to faster thinking and using all possible tools and methods to resolve the issue as fast as possible. Moreover, this also guarantees that you will receive more satisfied customers for the same money.
Lower agent turnover rate
Call centers, both inbound call centers and outbound call centers especially, always suffer from high employee turnover and attrition rates, and this is because of both objective and subjective factors. Objective factors include average low salaries, lack of career development, routine work, uncomfortable scheduling, angry customers, high level of stress, and emotional pressure. Subjective factors include poor internal communication, lack of onboarding and training, unrealistic expectations, lack of trust and transparency inside the company, bullying from contact center managers, and a lack of scheduling flexibility. Agent engagement, as well as positive agent experience, can greatly decrease your average turnover rate by 10-20% depending on how happy agents are and what level of engagement agent is showing. Thus, you can save money on replacing agents and training unplanned new hires you would have to hire because of staff turnover.
Positive working environment and stable team
Engagement agent shows during his work is the first sign that the entire team is on a right track. Engaged agents are agents who focus on reaching company goals, so all of them understand that they are a team with one purpose - to provide excellent customer service, retain current customers, and gain new communication skills for providing exceptional customer experiences. This affects many aspects of work, but experience agent gains during onboarding sessions and engagement agent show after that can define what will the team environment look like, and this is very important if you want all your agents to be engaged and satisfied with their work. Agent engagement also encourages agents to communicate with each other more often concerning work issues, but this also helps to build informal relationships in the team and build trust and transparency. Though, who would ever think of leaving a team where they feel comfortable?
How to improve agent engagement and agent experience?
Provide constructive feedback on a regular basis
Your main goal is to motivate call center agents, and the best way to do that is to provide constructive feedback. It doesn’t mean you have to praise agents for non-existent merits, but this also means that even the smallest reason for praise is enough to come and say: “You’re doing great, carry on!”. Agent engagement is also built via close personal interaction between call center managers and agents. Call center managers set individual and business goals, but they have to explain the importance of these goals and advise about the best ways to reach them. If managers say: “We have to reduce the abandonment rate by 10% this month, now come and do it” it will never work and it will harm the experience the agent gains as your employee.
Create a reward system
Call center employee engagement activities include rewarding your employees for their merits and performance rates they show. This is all about material rewards, but they are not about to include money rewards only. You can show your care and praise by gifting employees with free gym memberships, books, free qualification improvement courses and webinars, merch, coupons with discounts from your partners, and do many other things that will benefit your relationship with the agents and motivate call center agents to perform even better to receive more rewards. A reward system can also include career growth opportunities - for instance, those workers who perform on the same high level for a pre-set period of time can become call center supervisors.
Collect agent feedback
Agent feedback is another side of the coin when it comes to trustful and transparent relationships between the employer and employees. You have to communicate with agents on a daily basis, ask them whether they like their work or not, and ask what disturbs them or what they need to perform better. You have to create an environment where workers will not feel afraid of providing you with negative feedback, and this is the only key to success in building a team that will be stable and focused on business outcomes. You can use both anonymous and open feedback collection methods to get the entire picture of internal relationships in the team and the overall atmosphere among employees.
Encourage internal communication
The best factor that drives agent performance forward and helps to motivate call center agents is internal communication, close relationships in the team, and trust. New agents have to feel free to ask questions to more experienced agents, as well as experienced workers have to help new hires pass through the onboarding period and gain needed hard and soft skills. Experience agent gets as a part of a team is very important for retaining this agent as a stable staff member. Overall call center engagement also highly depends on the level of trust and friendliness in the firm, so doing your best to let workers communicate with each other closer is a vital priority.
Invest in technologies that eliminate routine and repetitive tasks
Call center engagement can’t be retained at the same level if you don’t help your agents to grow professionally and feel the importance of their work. Even such a simple example as manual dialing during outbound calling campaigns works great here: agents will start asking themselves “Why should I do these outbound calls manually if Josh from X company has an auto dialer?”. The work that has little sense but consumes tons of time is the factor that harms agent engagement the most. It isn’t interesting, it isn’t challenging, and it is impossible to explain its importance to agents. Automation of such tasks lets agents focus on really important tasks and challenges and reach their KPIs faster and without losing effort and time on things that kill motivation.
What are such technologies to enhance agent engagement?
A cloud call center software solution is the best call center software tool for call center automation, and it is also a great instrument for improving agent productivity and agent engagement. It has such features as internal chat for communication between agents and other employees, call monitoring features for helping agents deal with difficult customers in real-time mode, tools for agent training, dynamic call scripting to ease agents’ work and process customer interactions with better service quality, and many other features, including above-mentioned auto dialers in three different dialing modes, option to integrate your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system and a customer base with the software via API.