June 17, 2013

Motivating call center agents – without raising their pay :)

by Evelyn

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

The greatest challenge for many contact centers (apart from hiring the right people) is to keep their contact center teams highly motivated. But, how much can you really do to motivate when your management is not one to opine that a pay increase is in order? Well, no carrots for the horses…. but is it really all about the money?

Money is important, of course.  However, in their article, “5 Causes of call center agent churn – and how to beat them” on Inside CRM, it is cited that surveys showed that money is far from the only consideration in keeping agents. In fact, when it comes to retaining — as opposed to hiring call-center agents, money falls behind other considerations.

In David F ‘s feature article, “Best Practices in Call Center Hiring”, he states that  burnout / emotional exhaustion is an inevitable reality for the vast majority of Contact Center employees – and has negative impacts on Sales, Profitability, Service Levels, Brand Reputation, and on overall Customer Satisfaction.  In his article, it’s learnt that in 2011, the Inbound Call Center Turnover in the USA rose to 33% and Quit Rates rose to 60% of Total Turnover. So in 2011 – the ‘Average Lifespan’ of an Inbound Agent was just 3 years. The Turnover Rate for Agents holding revenue targets – such as Telephone Sales/Inside Sales/TeleCollections was even higher – and the ‘Average Lifespan’ was even shorter.

Perhaps the trick to motivating call center agents needs a revamping as old strategies are recognized to be no longer effective on new generation agents? Here are some creative ways to motivate your agents:

  •  Bring out the games!
    Is the younger generation all about fun, fun and fun? Well, there’s no harm in injecting a bit of fun into your everyday work! After all the team that laughs together, stays together! Since call centers are notorious for being boring, stressful and often repetitive, games will certainly inject a bit of fun and enthusiasm back in the team.  Check out the link below to some creative games for your teams.
  • Use metrics to motivate
    For instance,  where your call center runs high volume calls and is tightly scripted, more often than not your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are focused on Average Handle Time (AHT).  Here, your agents tend to have minimal control over their work, gets easily demoralized, disengaged and shows no interest to provide meaningful interaction with their callers. Where agents are highly demotivated, it’ll lead to high absenteeism too.  The right thing to do is to use these reports to encourage rather than punish / penalize agents for their performance. How do you use your call center reports as motivational tools? Read more here.

  • Manage fairly
    A good and fair management will keep their agents highly motivated. Think about it.  One of the discouragement agents face is that they feel discriminated by gender or race or even marital status to be given unfavourable shifts, or made to work on public holidays or festive seasons.  Some agents also feel unfairly treated with the heavy workload or wrongly fit for a particular skill-based support level.  To keep your agents motivated, always remember to provide reasonable and fair work schedules to all agents and be an equal opportunity employer.

  • Provide a clear career path & training programs
    As many view call centers as flat organizations with very little opportunities to promote, always reinforce potential career path to your agents. Keep them informed of opportunities for advancement both in and out of the Call Center. Team leads are encouraged to lead and mentor the agents and not be selfish about their experience and knowledge.  Agents are also empowered to make decisions within a limit.  This helps agents to achieve a keen sense of responsibility to the team as a whole. Great team work will foster a great sense of belonging and subsequently keep the morale up.

  • Create a unique culture
    Do create a unique culture for your call center that embodies your organization and its values. This culture has to be so strong that your agents feel happy and proud turning up for work everyday! The common ones adopted by most call centers are casual days – where all agents get to dress casually to work.  Others include Cookie days, Pizza days, or any other celebrations of accomplishments and recognitions. It is important to celebrate successes whether through meetings, newsletters, recognition awards, incentives or actual promotions.  This inculcates a sense of belonging and achievement.

    Here’s an example on how a company, TELUS International, builds an online culture of community for its call center employees. (Source: Call Center Times)

    TELUS International Central America (TICA) understands that call center employees want to feel connected to the work they do and to their colleagues. That’s why we developed T-Life, an internal social network site to build a sense of community within the team. T-Life is in its pilot stage but includes such online features as a carpool/ride share program that makes it easier for team members to connect with those who live close to them for a ride to work, event calendars of upcoming recognition activities, videos, discussion groups to resolve issues, a classified section to buy/sell used items, and many other ways to connect and collaborate. TICA knew that to truly engage with the younger generation we had to offer tools that are familiar, relevant and easy to use. With a growing steady stream of exceptional job applicants, and employee turnover rates the lowest in our history, clearly a strong culture of customer commitment, performance excellence, trust, and “fun at work” is making a lasting difference.

    “TELUS International – a provider of BPO and contact center solutions to global clients. TELUS International is the global arm of TELUS, a leading national telecommunications company in Canada, with $9.9 billion of annual revenue and 12.3million customer connections.”

Evelyn has recently escaped from a 12-year maddening rat race. Managing local and regional accounts for telecommunication solution providers, she knows too well the value of a good customer experience and effective communication. As a new member of the team, she hopes to share interesting updates and random musings with you at McGirvanmedia (Asia) Sdn. Bhd.

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One Response to “Motivating call center agents – without raising their pay :)”

  1. Printable Coupons Says:

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be useful to read through articles from other authors and use a little something from other websites.

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