Eight strategies to improve contact centre productivity

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From individual employee development plans to improving employee engagement through gamification, this blog examines eight ways that organisations can raise productivity and improve efficiency.

1. Devise an employee engagement strategy

According to Gallup’s 2012 international workplace study of 1.4 million workers, employee engagement and productivity are inextricably linked.  Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperform bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. 

These findings support the widely-held theory that the top three drivers of employee engagement are:

  • Achievement: Do employees feel they are contributing?
  • Recognition: Is their contribution and feedback seen?
  • Development: Are they learning new things and growing?

So increase the amount of time and money you invest in your employees.  By creating a positive environment where people understand the vital roles they perform, and where success is recognised and rewarded, your organisation can create more engaged and productive employees. 

If the benefits of good Employee Engagement are obvious, so too are the costs of poor Employee Engagement. More than 70 percent of U.S. employees are actively disengaged according to a 2011 study by the CEB, resulting in $370 billion a year in lost productivity to the economy.

2. Create individual development plans

Induction training is key to giving agents the basic skills required to do the job.  To get the best out of your people, however, they need to be developed on an on-going basis.

Implement a structured agent coaching process to build new skills and behaviours as well as to celebrate success and build confidence.  By reviewing and evaluating call centre agent performance, knowledge and behaviour on a regular basis, you’ll discover the best areas in which to focus future efforts.

3. Use Gamification to Improve Employee Engagement 

Most contact centres today use incentives and fun techniques to motivate, train and reward their people.  These can take the form of fancy dress days, role plays (within group training), team competitions to win retail vouchers, and more.  Gamification takes the use of such techniques to the next level by using game mechanics to influence people's behaviours and activities. Often, this takes the physical form of an agent desktop environment where individuals can monitor their and their team’s performance, receive rewards for good outcomes and positive behaviours and play simple online games.  

One company recently introduced Gamification for its 20,000 frontline contact centre agents.  It reported that 80% of people used Gamification to complete their training, with 72% volunteering to complete skills courses that weren’t even required.  Customer satisfaction rose 10 points as a result with average handling time dropping 15% in three months.  By addressing key elements of how employees interact with their workplace - competition, collaboration and commitment - Gamification can also drive improved employee engagement.

4. Give individuals more control over their working days

Allows agents to self-determine elements of their work schedule - such as shifts, holidays, breaks etc. - to fit in around their other work and home priorities.  This can be achieved using simple spreadsheets but in larger contact centres, advanced workforce management software is usually required.

Also empower agents by giving them the opportunity to develop their skills in specific areas for future career progression using eLearning and continuous learning tools.  And provide access to team and personal performance information, enabling them to self-evaluate and create strategies to improve their own performance.  

As well as reaping benefits in terms of enhanced employee engagement and motivation, self-management can also be used to increase team sizes (by increasing agent to team leader ratios) so cutting operational costs.

5. Focus team leaders on coaching, not compliance

The role of the team leader is crucial in driving improved performance.  Ensure that team leaders aren’t bogged down in paperwork and quality assessments.  Where possible, delegate quality and compliance tasks to specialist quality teams, leaving team leaders free to focus on coaching and floor-walking.  Increased one-on-one support will have a positive influence on agent learning. leading to improved quality and first contact resolution.

6. Optimise agent scheduling, especially during quiet periods

It’s easy to take your eye off the ball during periods when contact volumes are low.  So ensure that your interaction routing engine and workforce management solution maintains high agent occupancy at ALL times. Agents can get quickly demotivated if they are performing the same activity all the time so use quiet calling periods as an opportunity to build peoples’ skills in web chat, SMS, email and correspondence handling or in performing other back-office tasks.

7. Constantly measure agent performance, recognise success

Frequently review calls and written responses and give agents feedback from all angles.  Suggest areas for coaching new skills and knowledge.  Also, when measuring and rewarding agents for service excellence, ensure that reward schemes are structured so that ALL agents have an opportunity to win.

8. Use technology tools more intelligently

Some technology has an immediate and direct effect on productivity.  Outbound diallers, for example, can increase agent productivity by as much as 400% by automating the dialling process and only passing connected calls through to agents. 

Other technology has a more subtle and indirect impact on productivity.  By automating service requests, for example, phone and web-based self-service applications can enhance productivity by cutting costs and freeing agents to deal with more pressing customer needs.  And by enabling agents to access a variety of applications and databases from a single screen, Unified Desktops can improve productivity by reducing contact handling times and increasing first contact resolution rates. 

Contact centre technology should remove complexity not add to it.  The key role of the agent desktop, for example, should be to give agents the information they need, when they need it, and in the form that’s most convenient - in order to deliver the right customer outcomes every time.

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