Agent Engagement: Why it Matters and 6 Ways to Nurture it
In a world where customer experience is a key to business success, contact center agents play an important role as brand ambassadors of your organization. By the time a customer reaches an agent, they’ve likely tried all self-service options and want someone who can talk with them, understand their problem, and quickly resolve it.
A customer’s encounter with your employee has the power to shape their attitude about your organization, their experience doing business with your company, and even their buying decisions. If one of your agents is disengaged, it will be reflected in their customer interactions. It’s the emotional connections between employees and customers that create memorable service – both good and bad.
While engaged employees can make an organization hum, disengaged employees can throw a spanner in the works. When workplace harmony is disrupted, an employee’s output and productivity can drastically decrease. Disengaged employees often can’t focus on the work at hand and that can impact your organization’s overall productivity.
A study by SMF found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than their unhappy peers. Satisfaction in the workplace starts with agent engagement and there are several ways you can foster it, and potentially make your brand more successful.
What is Employee Engagement?
Before we discuss how to nurture engagement, let’s start by defining what it is.
After all, “employee engagement” can mean different things to different people. And for your company to tackle it, you must agree on what it means and what it looks like in practice. Your company’s culture and vision have a large impact on how engagement is viewed, and subsequently, how it’s measured.
Ultimately, engagement is about creating the right environment and conditions for your employees to fulfill their potential, to give their best each day, and to have an enhanced sense of well-being. Engagement is a commitment to an organization’s goals and values, and to its overall success.
Trust, integrity, and two-way communication fuel employee engagement. And, when done right, engagement can boost agent performance and increase the chance of business success.
So what does agent engagement look like? Here are some workplace examples:
- Knowing your role in the organization, feeling energized on where it fits in the company’s overall purpose and objectives, and being empowered to share ideas and express views.
- Acting as a company advocate for customers, going the extra mile, and having a sense of pride and loyalty working for your organization.
- Being fully included as a member of the team, receiving regular and constructive feedback and support in developing new skills; feeling appreciated and recognized for accomplishments.
- Experiencing a sense of trust and fairness that’s based on mutual respect; honoring of commitments between employers and employees.
- Decreasing sick days, accidents and attrition, as well as fewer conflicts and grievances, all of which stem from a deeper commitment to the team.
6 Ways to Keep Your Call Center Agents Engaged
Now that you have a sense of what it looks like, you may be wondering how you can keep your agents engaged. After all, today’s contact centers are omnichannel, increasingly complex, and fast-paced. It’s easy to see how this could leave your employees feeling stressed or burned out. Try these six ideas for fostering agent engagement in your call center:
1. Start with company culture. Organizational culture and employee engagement go hand-in-hand. Strive to ensure that your agents feel happy, supported, and empowered in their roles. Consider:
- Does your staff feel comfortable speaking up about concerns?
- Do you recognize and reward employees for their successes, progress, and achievements?
- Do you provide clear expectations of what you want your agents to achieve? Can they define what “success” looks like?
2. Focus on values and seek feedback. With contact center attrition hitting around 20% a year, driving high levels of engagement requires the sustained effort of senior leaders. The company values on the wall must be more than just a poster or office art; you must live your values and reward the behavior you want to see. Recognize agent performance based on actions that reflect your company’s values, instead of being based purely on goals or financial results.
If your contact center does an annual agent engagement survey, consider doing this quarterly for a more timely understanding of employee engagement. A survey should be anonymous, short, ask relevant questions, give the opportunity to provide comments, and seek input on what, where, and how to improve.
Transparency is key, regardless of the survey results. Share the feedback with the entire team and ask for their help and participation in designing plans for improvement. Creating opportunities for your agents to be heard will create a feeling of connection, engagement, and a sense of belonging
3. Paint the bigger picture. Cultural turnarounds happen when individuals feel they have a part to play in the collective success of the business. It’s vital that your agents know their role in achieving the business goals. Or, how their piece of the jigsaw puzzle completes the bigger picture.
This is where team managers come in. Great team managers are the cornerstones of success in any contact center. They know what engages each team member at a personal level — whether it’s public recognition, empowerment, added responsibility, development opportunities, or simply the chance to be heard.
4. Invest in technology that supports engagement. What’s the point of having a company culture that celebrates honest and open communication, if you don’t have a collaboration tool that makes it easy for your team to connect, share best practices, and recognize each other?
Determine the kind of technology your contact center needs to facilitate productivity, efficiency, and to drive engagement. These tools give employees ways to communicate and interact beyond emails and phone calls — especially if you want to engage remote call center agents.
With the right technology, your agents can resolve problems faster and ensure greater customer satisfaction across all communication channels.
5. Make it a game. Explore employee engagement activities like gamification, which continue to grow in popularity. With gamification, your agents know what’s expected of them and how they’re performing against KPIs. Agents are incentivized to be their best and are rewarded for performance improvement.
Related Article: How to Drive Engagement with Gamification in Your Contact Center
6. Foster team collaboration. When employees share knowledge and collaborate, it feeds the company culture. Make it easy for your people to share best practices. According to a white paper by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, when collaboration permeates the entire organization, there are huge benefits to your bottom-line, including talent attraction and retention, increased velocity, and profitability. Widespread collaboration leads to fully engaged workers eager to take on new projects. They embrace change as a challenge that will take them to the next level.
5 Areas of Impact
Research shows that feelings of disengagement span time zones, boundaries, and industries.
- 61% of the UK working population admits to being disengaged, “…With no enthusiasm, passion, or emotional commitment to their company.”
- Research about US workers mirrors that of their UK counterparts. Only 25% of non-management-level US employees feel engaged in their jobs.
But having engaged employees isn’t just a “nice to have.” It has the potential to directly impact five important areas of your business:
- Profit. A Gallup report found that engaged employees make a point to show up to work and do more work. On average, highly engaged business units see a 17% increase in productivity.
- Expenses. A disengaged employee costs employers between £3,400 and £10,000 in wasted salary each year. Simply put: Disengaged employees are expensive.
- Customer experience. It’s not rocket science to connect the impact of low agent engagement on customer service. If an employee doesn’t take pride in their work, isn’t an advocate of the brand, and is generally demotivated, customers are more likely to have a poor experience.
- Agent retention. High-turnover organizations in highly engaged business units have 24% less turnover. Low-turnover organizations with highly engaged business units have 59% less turnover. It’s clear: Engaged agents stick around — even if it’s a high-turnover environment.
- Absenteeism. Engaged employees take fewer sick days than their disengaged counterparts, which has a direct impact on your company’s financial health. A 2019 study found that absenteeism cost British businesses and the economy an estimated £91.9bn in 2019, more than a £10bn increase compared to 2018.
The role of a contact center agent has never been more important. These employees have the potential to instantly shape a customer’s view of your brand and organization.
When you invest in your team’s engagement, you spark key benefits and attributes such as productivity, communication, trust, empowerment, appreciation, transparency, collaboration, and loyalty.
But perhaps more importantly, when you nurture employee engagement, you equip your agents with the support, tools, and feedback they need to deliver an exceptional customer experience — every time.
Want to learn more about how a Workforce Engagement Management solution can empower your contact center team? Schedule a demo and see the impact engaged agents can have across your entire organization.