Call center agents suffer tremendous stress from modern workforce challenges, including rising customer expectations, growing call volume and a shaky work-life balance, according to a Calabrio report in October. Not to mention threats from angry customers. The point is, that call center agents deal with the brunt of frustration from customers. They need some special care and attention. An effective call center culture helps support that.
“A great call center culture begins from the top, with every functional or line of business owner being held accountable for the aspects of their business that impact both the customer and agent experience,” said Michael Lawder, chief experience officer at ASAPP.
Hire the Right Fit, Conduct Thorough Training
Inside the call center, Lawder said it starts with hiring people who are passionate advocates of your brand. “Hire people who have a connection or passion for the products or services you sell, and/or people who gain deep satisfaction and gratitude from helping others,” Lawder said. “And make training fun and inspiring. Connect the job to the company’s core values.”
With those hires, conduct training that makes it easy to learn and improve on the job, implement procedures that empower agents to take care of customers and deploy tools/technology that reduce cognitive load and allow them to focus on solving customer inquiries. In a recent call center agent survey conducted by ASAPP, 77% of agents surveyed indicated that hands-on training and shadowing are the most effective in getting there.
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Foster a Culture of Caring
Create a culture of caring for customers across your company, at all levels, according to Lawder. Get executives to listen to calls side-by-side with agents and turn the leadership of your company into advocates for the voice of your brand: those would be your agents.
And to get them to care about customers, it goes a long way if you recognize and reward the hard and sometimes thankless efforts that these frontline workers perform every day, Lawder said. “In the customer and company ecosystem, the agents are sometimes forgotten,” he added. “Shine a light on them, and make them feel valued.”
Establish a Foundation of Empathy
Merijn te Booij, executive vice president and general manager of workforce engagement management at Genesys, said a strong, effective culture starts with establishing a foundation of empathy where employees feel seen, heard, understood and valued.
“Listening to your agents and understanding their values and motivations, and then acting upon what you have learned, helps them feel connected to the business and cultivates a strong sense of ownership,” te Booij said. “When you elevate the employee experience this way, you not only improve your employee retention, but empower them to deliver exceptional experiences to your customers.”
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Know What Your Call Center Agents Want
Genesys recently conducted a study into the values and likes of high performing contact center agents, identifying personal responsibility, growth and achievements among the top attributes.
Offering opportunities like learning new skills, training for new technologies, gamified experiences and more, will improve employee engagement by mapping back to their values and help them to feel heard and understood, according to te Booij.
“Understanding that in a shifting economy, while everyone is working from home and old management styles like ‘management by walking around’ have lost validity is a key insight many businesses are still struggling with,” te Booij said. “It is no secret that the companies that succeed are the ones that are able to disrupt themselves and change. The key common element between them is the focus on their people. Retention first, education, experimentation.”
Tech Should Reduce Friction, Not Create It
Another important element to the call center culture experience is ensuring that agents are equipped with technology that helps them thrive. Technology should reduce friction and obstacles to help employees be more effective.
“Human-centric design and deployment is key in understanding the role of both employees and tools,” te Booij said. “Examples of ways technology can help improve the employee experience are: streamlined access to training opportunities; in or just after the moment coaching; connecting agents with customers that need a human agent skill set; simplified operations; and increased efficiency.”
Make It Easy to Collaborate
Today’s customer service professionals are more skilled and more motivated than ever to increase customer satisfaction — one of the highest drivers of business profitability, according to Christian Wettre, SVP and GM, Sugar platform at SugarCRM. Whatever makes it easier for colleagues to collaborate across teams and departments (i.e., sales, marketing, services, and operations) will benefit a call center culture especially in these work-from-home times.
“Cross-functional collaboration is particularly important,” Wettre said, “for long-term, more complex, high-value customer relationships and in the current remote contact center environment.”