The contact center is the beating heart of any great business. It’s the human touch of contact your customers have with your company. Their customer service experience—good or bad—will color their perception of your company forever.
93% of customers are more likely to be repeat customers of companies that offer excellent customer service. Support managers must always strive to elevate the customer experience. Improving agent engagement is one of the most crucial steps in doing so.
What is Agent Engagement?
Agent engagement is a measure of the emotional commitment an employee feels for the organization and its goals. It’s a sense the agent has that what they’re doing matters, motivating them to always perform to the best of their abilities.
Note that agent engagement is markedly different from agent satisfaction. An agent can be happy at their position, satisfied with the remuneration and perks, yet not be engaged in the work. They’ll come to work each day and perform their duties, but they never feel emotionally invested enough to go the extra mile for the company.
It’s also different from agent performance. You can assist most agents in performing better through constant monitoring of their KPIs (key performance indicators) and ongoing coaching, but an engaged agent doesn’t require you to keep checking on them. Engaged agents will always perform at their best because they want to.
Why agent engagement matters for customer service teams
It has a positive impact on agent performance
Several studies have shown a strong correlation between agent engagement and performance. Meta-analysis on the relationship between engagement at work and organizational outcomes found:
- Highly engaged employees show an average 81% reduction in absenteeism
- Business units with highly engaged employees see an average 14% productivity increase
- Companies with highly engaged employees achieve an average 43% higher turnover
- This results in an average 23% increase in profitability
It affects the customer experience
A large part of these incredible results is how engaged agents better interact with your customers than unengaged agents. Improving the customer experience is of paramount importance for repeat business and positive word of mouth.
Companies with highly engaged teams on average achieve 10% higher customer service ratings and a whopping 18% difference in sales.
How to improve agent engagement
Agent engagement is pivotal to business success. Despite all this, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report found that 65% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged. How does one go about building call center agent engagement?
Foster a culture of belonging
The foundation of agent engagement is fostering an environment where people feel they belong. They look forward to coming to work because that’s where they want to be.
Your agents should feel free to be their authentic selves at work, instead of needing to switch into “work mode” when they walk through the doors each day.
Employees should feel confident to speak their minds as a valued part of the work community, connected to all others in the organization through shared goals. Creating this belonging environment isn’t a simple process and requires careful consideration of the different requirements of your diverse workforce.
Agent engagement suffers when agents are forced to perform tasks outside of their primary duties. In most cases, repetitive tasks can be cut from the equation altogether through smart use of automation and better self-service options.
For instance, 91% of shoppers said they would use an online knowledge base before calling a customer support team if it’s available. AI technologies are also a good way to field some of the simplest queries so agents no longer must. This allows agents to concentrate on what they do best, which is to perform the more challenging and meaningful tasks that keep them engaged at work.
Track and incentivize individual agent performance
Customer service performance metrics can be used to gauge where your customer service can improve, particularly when you use AI-powered tools that can help you reduce costs and build efficiency. But it’s just as important to track individual agent performance so you can create individual plans to help each agent.
Having the right information on how an agent can become their very best can be a catalyst for engagement, especially if it’s put to good use in one-to-ones, call coaching, and personal development plans.
A personalized approach also shows the agent they’re working for a company that cares about them as an individual, further boosting their sense of belonging and commitment to the business.
Share customer feedback directly with the agent
Sharing customer feedback with agents is important in improving agent performance, as you’re able to highlight places where the agent may be able to improve.
But beyond this, sharing positive and negative customer feedback can strengthen agent engagement as it demonstrates the importance of their work and how much they’re making a difference in customers’ lives, and how that affects the company. It can have a powerful effect on agent engagement and motivation going forward.
Employ a skills-based routing system
According to research from McKinsey, the no. 1 thing customers want from customer service is a fast resolution to their query. This is why first-call resolution (FCR) and call transfer rate (CTR) are important metrics to monitor, as higher numbers of transfers indicate calls are being routed inefficiently.
A skills-based call routing system automatically routes calls to the agents with the required experience and skills to answer them. This means fewer call transfers between agents are required.
From an agent engagement perspective, agents need to know they have the skills, know-how, and tools available to them to respond to the calls they receive. With a skills-based routing system, you can better realize this by directing calls to the right people.
Gamification is an important tool for keeping agents engaged when performing what can sometimes be monotonous tasks. Gamification brings game mechanics into customer support. These concepts motivate agents by adding an element of fun in their daily work routine.
Use avatars, badges, leaderboards, points etc. to boost and maintain engagement, achieve recognition, and promote collaboration and social sharing. You can also leverage gamification in the processes of hiring, onboarding, and training agents.
Facilitate agent empowerment
Few things kill agent engagement more than agents feeling they’re unable to perform their duties. In a contact center, this can come about from overly restrictive processes that don’t allow an agent the autonomy to act independently. Or you haven’t given agents the tools or training they need to field the calls they’re receiving.
Continually ask your agents about the barriers they feel are restricting them from performing their job. If you can simplify processes or remove them entirely, giving agents the autonomy to make their own choices, they will feel more valued.
A crucial pillar of customer care agent engagement is the knowledge that you appreciate and value their hard work. For an agent to feel their work matters, it’s important to recognize and celebrate it, particularly if they go above and beyond the call of duty.
Be specific about the praise you offer in work meetings, one-to-ones, and company emails. Explicitly calling out the work that each exemplary person performs is more powerful than simply stating they did a good job. It:
- Proves you understood and noted what the agent did
- Demonstrates you care about employee well-being
- Gives other agents ideas for how they too can improve their performance
- Shows the team how another member’s contribution helped all of them
- All these things are excellent for building employee engagement.
Enable Friendly Competition
Customer service work can sometimes become monotonous, so introduce a little friendly competition to increase engagement in work. Competition highly motivated many agents, striving to perform better to work their way up leaderboards, win set prizes, or gain recognition.
Remember that competition can improve agents’ short-term performance and motivation, but our ideal goal is to improve long-term engagement so agents want to work harder without needing such incentives.
Ensure competition remains friendly and doesn’t marginalize anyone. For example, one member of the team may be tasked with handling those longer, tougher calls, and they could feel undervalued if the competition revolves around which agents take the most calls.
If your contact center has multiple teams that work independently, consider team-based competitions that help to foster camaraderie within each team.
Agent engagement, where employees feel emotionally invested in their work towards the company goals, has a strong correlation with agent performance.
Empower your agents with the right tools to perform their job by streamlining their workflow and employing a skills-based routing system so they always get the requests they can handle.
Make work fun by adding gamification and friendly competition into the mix that foster a sense of solidarity among teams. Show agents their work matters by sharing customer feedback directly with them and celebrating excellent agent performance throughout the company.
Above all, you should make every effort to create a workplace where employees feel valued in a place where they belong.