How to improve the employee experience in contact centers

Sara Yonker

January 31, 2023

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It’s a tough job that not many people enjoy.

Contact center employees report some of the lowest employee satisfaction rates, according to recent studies that found fewer than 1 in 5 said they were “extremely satisfied” with their job.

If you need a reason to focus on creating a prime employee experience, consider this: Research ties positive employee experiences with more than just lower staff turnover. It’s also linked to revenue growth and happier customers.

It’s especially important in the contact center. If a dissatisfied employee intermixes with a frustrated customer, disaster can ensue. Your agents also have the potential to dramatically shape your customer experience for the better. 

Research from McKinsey found that engaged, satisfied customer service agents in call centers were 4x more likely to stay at the company and 3.3x more likely to feel empowered to resolve customer issues.

How can you create a better employee experience for your contact center agents? Here are some ways research has found to make the biggest impact.

Offer growth

When researchers surveyed customer support agents, they ranked their areas that made the biggest difference to them. No one wants to get stuck in a dead-end job, including your contact center agents. 

To keep your agents from feeling trapped, make sure you outline a clear path of growth for everyone on your customer care team, including entry-level agents. Set up clear guidelines, expectations, and timelines so they know what they’re working toward. 

Manage their stress

Customers who reach out to contact centers may sometimes just have a question or need your agents to complete a simple task. But if your agents are ill-equipped to answer those questions or face unrealistic time constraints on phone calls, even those interactions can be as stressful as an irate customer’s rants. 

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Keep out for these hidden stressors for contact center agents:

Not enough agents for call volumes

There are unexpected spikes, and there is chronic understaffing. Call centers handle hundreds or thousands of calls per day, as well as customer interactions over digital channels. Business leaders need to make sure that agents can realistically meet customer demands without getting overwhelmed by the queue of waiting customers. 

Unrealistic expectations

Do you expect your agents to solve most issues in under 5 minutes? That might be fine for some industries, but unrealistic for other types of call centers with complex situations. Make sure you base your KPIs on concrete evidence tied not just to cost, but to customer retention. If an agent knows they’re doomed to fail, they may give up entirely. 

Inability to solve customer problems

Do your agents have the authority, information, and training to solve all the issues your customers face? Make sure you set your agents up for success. This may require training them on both the common customer problems and complex issues so they know how to guide customers through the correct process. Ensure they have the power to fix the common  issues without policies or procedures that block them. 

Performance metrics based on areas beyond agent control

You need to make sure you’re basing performance management metrics on things they can control. 

If your customers are unhappy, that can be because the company didn’t deliver on promises - but the blame for that can’t all fall on your agent. Base your agents’ performance measurements on things like positive language, proactive guidance, and use of probing questions.

Give them a break

Yes, your contact center representatives can go through a set number of calls or chats per hour. However, make sure to allow them the flexibility to devote more time as needed to certain calls, filling out reports, researching issues, and reporting issues to supervisors. 

You also need to factor in the time they may need for a mental break, as well. 

Unify for a common purpose

If you say your company culture is customer-focused (or follows Amazon’s trend of taking it one level up and calling it “customer obsession”) You need to instill that value in your customer-facing teams first. Your agents sit on the front-lines between your customers and your company. No role is more important to your customer image than theirs.

This requires cooperation between agents, managers, supervisors and other stakeholders in order to ensure everyone is working together towards the same goal. With this unified purpose in mind, call center agents can work together more effectively and efficiently in order to create better customer experiences.

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