Gary Chapman became a relationship guru with his 1995 book, “The Five Love Languages.” In it, the experienced marriage counselor outlines five ways to express and experience love, which he calls “love languages”: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion) and physical touch.
Chapman uses the analogy of language for his theory because a breakdown in communication happens when a couple’s love languages are mismatched—one partner simply can’t understand what the other partner is saying.
A wife whose love language is quality time sets aside quiet time with her husband every day. Her husband, however, has acts of service as his love language, so he doesn’t view this quality time as an expression of his wife’s love. If, however, his wife were to mow the lawn for him, he would perceive it in his love language and understand the message of appreciation she was sending.
It’s natural for people to give love in the way they prefer to receive it (their own love language), but Chapman theorizes that better communication occurs when a person demonstrates caring to their partner in the love language the recipient understands.
These five ways people speak and understand emotional love actually apply to any type of relationship—between parents and children, friends, co-workers, managers and employees, etc. And they apply to your relationships with your contact center agents, too.
Here’s how to use each of the love languages to make sure your agents know you love them.
1. Receiving Gifts
This love language is usually the easiest one to understand. Gifts, as visible symbols of love or appreciation, tell the recipient someone was thinking of them and values them.
For your contact center agents, gift giving can take the form of rewards, incentives or contests that recognize top performance. Gifts don’t necessarily have to be expensive—sometimes lower-cost, creative and more frequent gifts are more memorable. You could:
- Give each month’s top performer a reserved parking spot or additional time off;
- Have a manager cover the phone while the agent takes a coffee break; or
- Give agents more schedule flexibility or perhaps even the option to work from home.
2. Quality Time
In the love language world, quality time means giving the other person your undivided attention—not just spending time together.
When it comes to contact centers, quality time with your agents easily can be had as long as you’re willing to carve out the time for it. Some ways to do it:
- Connect one-on-one with each contact center agent—find out what motivates them and what’s the most interesting thing about them
- Provide ongoing and one-on-one coaching, hard and soft skills development, and feedback to each agent to enhance their strengths and overcome their weaknesses
- Help each agent map a path to their ideal career
- Help each agent understand how to apply their professional interests to their current or desired role
3. Words of Affirmation
Words of affirmation as a love language refers to “words that build up.”
These verbal compliments—or words of appreciation—go a long way when it comes to motivating and keeping your contact center agents engaged. The key is to keep it specific and straightforward. A few ideas:
- Privately compliment agents on specific tasks or situations they handled well
- Verbally acknowledge agents for superior work in front of their peers, the executive leadership team or the entire company
- Praise specific agents via social media, and in corporate and customer enewsletters
4. Acts of Service
When it comes to love languages, acts of service refers to doing things you know your partner would like you to do—things that require thought, planning, time, effort and energy.
To your contact center agents, acts of service could be those things you can do to make their jobs easier. For instance:
- Find and remove obstacles that over-complicate their processes or prevent swift contact resolution
- Simplify their workflows
- Find ways to let them stop doing what’s no longer necessary, meaningful or relevant
5. Physical Touch
Physical touch as a love language is fairly straightforward.
It can, however, be a dicey topic in the corporate and contact center world. Done right, research shows physical contact—such as high fives, fist bumps and back pats—is part of a healthy workplace, and can make employees happier and more productive.
But no matter how well-intentioned, some agents may not be receptive to it. You’ll have to judge for yourself. (And see these articles for recommendations on how to handle: Touch The People You Work With (Not in a Creepy Way)and The Dilemma of Physical Touch & Appreciation in the Workplace.)
At this point, you might wonder how you can possibly determine the right love language for each of your contact center agents (for future reference, you do it by observing the way they express appreciation to others, and by analyzing what they complain about and what they request from their manager most often).
But the good news is—you don’t have to. By actively and consistently communicating your “love” via all five love languages, you can show appreciation to each of your contact center agents in a way they understand.