Overview

Improving Agent Morale to Reduce Turnover in the Contact Center

Studies show that agent turnover contributes heavily to contact center labor costs, and that reducing agent turnover will improve your contact center’s bottom line. It’s also true that oftentimes we are guilty of killing off the drive and creativity of the new contact center employee. To reduce agent turnover, we must look at ways to preserve that drive and reward it.

Because contact centers are so metric driven, it can be easy to fall into the trap of treating agents as nothing more than a walking set of statistics. That isn’t Jennifer – it’s “Average Talk Time of 20% higher than anybody else in the group”. And he isn’t Mike—he’s  “Never Takes Enough Calls”. There’s no question it can be demoralizing.

To foster a best-in-class contact center, managers need to bring a sense of “humanness” back to the contact center, without stepping away from accountability and responsibility as core values. We all know that workers need to feel valued, and that their opinion matters to their management. It doesn’t take technology to permeate the contact center with this feeling – but it does take time to focus on it.

One suggestion that can improve morale is for contact center management to gather feedback from agents who work directly with customers. For instance, what processes seem to be broken and annoy customers the most? Contact center management should appropriately scrub and present the feedback to other departments to try to effect change. In a sense, they are acting as advocates for the agents to improve the situation. Let’s be frank — no one likes repeatedly getting yelled at because of a broken process they can’t change. You’d be looking for another job too if that was your daily experience.

On the other hand, if agents see their management values their input, and goes to bat for them, they feel valued. Even better, if they see the organization make changes based upon their input, it improves operations and empowers the agents. The same input process can work to gather suggestions for new products, services, or other ideas that can be proposed to the company. The feedback process can strengthen the reputation of the contact center throughout the organization, and help agents feel even better about their jobs.

Granted, it may help to also have customer survey result data to back up the impressions of the agents. Objective data backing up anecdotal evidence strengthens an overall case. But even without survey data, agents need to see their management taking their side where it is appropriate. You’ll gain more of their respect, and restore some of the “humanness” back to the contact center.

I look forward to hearing your opinions on this idea, and hearing of other ways to improve agent morale.

Rachel Wentink

Rachel Wentink

Rachel Wentink

I joined Interactive Intelligence in July 1999 as Manager of Technical Support for the Americas, then had the good fortune to move to the South of France to manage our Technical Support and Education division for Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (and yes, the South of France truly was wonderful!). I headed up our Product Management team for many years, and now lead a team focused on deploying our newer Business Automation technology worldwide. These include our business process automation, content management, and mobile application development solutions. My team and I perform frequent on-site customer and prospect visits and have the opportunity to see how many different industries perform their work across the world. This new focus also gives me a chance to work with disruptive technologies, and to experience how firms innovate from within--both successfully, and unsuccessfully. Prior to Interactive Intelligence I served in different roles as a technical support agent, knowledge manager, manager of an IT team administering a CRM system, and as an IT consultant focusing on customer service best practices. I hold an MBA from Ball State University, and an undergraduate degree in French Language and Literature from Florida State University. I promise to keep the existential philosophy to a minimum in my blog articles!

2 comments to Improving Agent Morale to Reduce Turnover in the Contact Center

  • Agree on almost everything you said. We have been working a lot in contact centers in Italy for multinational companies such as Vodafone, ING Direct…). A way to improve morale (without working on motivation) is developing commmunities and working on the sense of professional belonging to a group, a team, a business unit, and, more, working on the sense to be part of a community sharing interests, ideas, know.how, reputation, even specific tasks (moderation, content management, etc….)
  • Maurizio,

    You bring up a really good point. In a previous blog entry’s comments readers brought up the potential for social networking products to assist in the contact center. The previous discussion covered how social networking could provide information, and provide a mentoring platform. The new point you raise that we hadn’t looked at is the potential to use social networking products to build a sense of "belonging" within teams, and thereby build morale. It’s a very interesting topic we should all explore more. I think I have my next blog topic!

    Thanks,

    Rachel Wentink

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