Contact center leaders must prioritize culture in order to motivate agents, increase customer satisfaction, and decrease turnover while contributing to the overall success of a business, according to Mandisa Makubalo, Founder & Managing Director at Unlimited Experiences SA.
Contact centers deliver tremendous value to a business, but that’s only obvious if you’re actually involved in the day-to-day operations of one. Outside of the contact center, executives often struggle to realize the true purpose of agents’ responsibilities. This debate goes back to my days as the Head of Contact Center more than a decade ago.
I always found that leading teams in a full-fledged contact center was much different than leading teams where the contact center existed as an offshoot of another department within the corporate structure. In the latter, the contact center is viewed as a cost first and foremost. You’re subject to controlling that cost and keeping it low. But when you do this, you’re inevitably causing the contact center’s performance and culture to suffer. Contact centers need to run as an independent-yet-connected operation in order to achieve success for the entire organization.
What does performance have to do with culture, you ask? Agents are the lifeblood of the contact center, so everything from their workflow to their level of motivation is connected to the outcomes they achieve for your customers. As a leader, you want to create a culture that drives high performance and ultimately earns results. Customer satisfaction will increase, and agent turnover will decrease — impacting both the top and bottom lines.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the existing behaviors that prevent a contact center from unlocking its true value, then find out how to create a high-performance contact center culture.
Culture may never feel perfect with total bliss, but that shouldn’t stop you from resolving issues within the contact center.
Here’s why the culture of your contact center may be leading to poor performance.
Poor Communication: Contact center agents are bombarded with performance measurements that have not been explained adequately, in terms of business value and customer value. Above all else, agents need to know how their contributions drive the organization closer to its goals. Communication between senior management, middle management, and lower management should reach agents on the front lines to maintain clarity and consistency. If agents only find out about goals too late, it applies a significant amount of pressure on them and may lead to disengagement, burnout, and turnover.
Separating Performance: Contact centers shouldn’t be controlled by other departments, but the performance of a contact center and any other departments should be connected. Looking at a contact center’s performance on its own doesn’t offer much insight for the rest of the organization. You need to paint a full picture by understanding the effectiveness of sales efforts, marketing campaigns, and more — this reveals why customers reached the contact center for help, and how effective your agents were in providing service. As you analyze your contact center’s performance, share data with other departments and ask that they do the same.
Ambiguous Measurements: Get granular! Let your agents know which metrics are critical to the contact center, ensuring transparency and avoiding friction.
Know what’s broken with your contact center’s culture? Now it’s time to overhaul it and inspire agents to perform at a high level, make customers happy with every service interaction, and deliver value for the entire organization to recognize.
Here are four ways to fix your contact center’s culture and establish a team of experts on the front lines.
Training in a contact center begins with leaders and managers equipping agents with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to effectively communicate with customers. In addition, this means that agents need to be aware of objectives and goals held by the organization so they understand how to contribute toward achieving them.
Encouraging leader-to-agent collaboration, agent-to-agent collaboration, and department-to-department collaboration is a recipe for success. It’s a level of cooperation that creates cohesiveness between business units, allowing individuals to share knowledge and ideas. Agents (and employees in other departments) who feel heard and engaged are more motivated to align with strategic goals and executive objectives.
Open and consistent communication is always best. Communicate during 1:1s, team meetings, and cross-department huddles to provide direct feedback with agents and key stakeholders elsewhere within the organization. But, of course, your focus should be primarily on agents in the contact center. Agents must be made aware of how they, the contact center, and the organization as a whole is performing and what success looks like. In turn, agents feel aware of what they can do to contribute to success and advance in their career paths.
As supervisors and managers, it’s crucial that agents are provided with the necessary resources, guidance, and tools they need to be effective on the front lines. It will build confidence that management cares about their success. Full support doesn’t only mean training and coaching to grow skill sets, though — draw attention to mental health as well. In a workplace that acknowledges an individual’s well-being, employees trust that they’re actually supported while taking on professional and personal stress day in and day out.
Everything about the success (and failure) of a contact center hinges on the culture, which is why you need to remove the bad behaviors and install the good behaviors described above. Agents know they’re an integral part of the organization, but it’s up to you to make agents feel just how impactful their efforts are.
By engaging with and motivating agents, leadership outside of the contact center will never view the contact center as an unnecessary cost again.
Ready to ignite agent performance? Check out Medallia’s guide, 4 Steps to Supercharge Contact Center Agent Performance, to learn how leading contact centers are putting the right systems and processes in place to achieve success.