agent experience

How to Motivate Your Agents for the Final Push

Keeping your call center agents motivated around the silly season is an art in itself. Here are our top tips for improving your agent experience.

We’ve covered the importance of the agent experience (AX) in the call center and armed you with tools like personas and journey maps to get your agents performing at their best.

But having a great-performing agent is one thing. Keeping that agent motivated, especially towards the end of the year when all anyone wants to do is go on holiday and watch Love Actually for the thousandth time, is tricky.

Not to worry. We’ve got some ideas that might come in handy.

Fine-tune your KPIs

As you’re well aware, key performance indicators give you a detailed view of your company’s, well, performance. But KPIs have another important function – they can reveal your agent satisfaction levels.

Many forward-thinking businesses already recognize the importance of including agent satisfaction in their KPIs. It makes sense. Performance levels and agent satisfaction go hand in hand (as do, ahem, lower attrition and absentee rates).

And remember, this is the time of year when agents need positive feedback the most – like you, they’re tired and ready for a holiday.

So when you’re setting up your KPIs, by all means focus them around identifying and resolving problems, but also ensure you’re showing your agents that you’ve been paying attention to their needs and the great job they’re doing.

Metrics for agent satisfaction can include:

  • agent surveys
  • self-assessment forms
  • QA forms
  • absenteeism, attendance and attrition (According to the International Finance Corporation, the global benchmark for absenteeism in the call center is 5%, while attrition is 15%)
  • customer surveys
  • call monitoring
  • feedback from coaches and trainers

To agents, companies that use KPIs to measure performance without regarding their experience are the equivalent of getting a lump of coal for Christmas. Don’t be a Scrooge when it comes to your staff.

Kick it old school

The simplest and most effective way to improve your agent experience and motivate them at the same time is to ask them one simple question: What do you need?

Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from school? No? Don’t worry. That’s what we’re here for.

In a nutshell, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow published a paper that identified the key needs for human motivation. These are as relevant today as they were in 1943.

You can adopt Maslow’s findings in your contact center. Use a survey to pinpoint exactly where you should be focusing your efforts and target your activities accordingly.

For example:

Need: self-actualization/esteem
Implement a rewards or recognition programme to give kudos to your highest performers. These can be in the form of certificates, a financial bonus or an incentive programme.

Need: love/belonging
Round up your agents to do something enjoyable together, or for a team lunch. Around December, an end-of-year party is never a bad idea. If it’s fun and promotes team spirit, you’re probably on the right track.

Need: safety/physiological
Do something to show your agents that you care about their health and wellbeing. Take steps to improve the workplace environment or provide healthy lunches, let them go home early over the festive season (and organise lifts after staff parties), or just take an interest in how they’re doing.

This leads us to our next tip.

Show some empathy

There are plenty of resources out there that sing the praises of using empathy statements to improve customer service.

I understand your frustration.
What can I do to help?
I’m sorry to hear that.

But have you ever considered using empathy statements with your own agents? It’s an unbelievably simple concept – and one supported by research. (Take this white paper on Empathy in the Workplace by The Centre for Creative Leadership.) When having a one-on-one with an agent, express genuine sympathy and don’t underestimate the simple act of listening. Sometimes all anyone wants is to be heard.

Another call center hack that helps diffuse difficult situations is positive scripting. In other words, rephrasing something positively, often with an action attached, to reduce frustration.

Let me see what I can do.
This is how we’re going to address this.
Let’s make this happen.

In fact, the benefits of empathy statements and positive scripting are so profuse we don’t have enough space to include them all. They’re encouraging, you’re making an immediate commitment, you’re dealing with issues constructively. And – this is our favorite reason of all – it reminds both parties that they’re dealing with a human being.

We’re feeling motivated already.

So however you choose to motivate your agents this December, don’t forget that it’s not about you. If the customer experience is important to you, your call center agent experience should be too.