Behind every memorable customer experience is an engaged employee. It sounds obvious, yet we are amid an ongoing workplace exodus that is continuing despite talk of a possible economic recession. That means it’s no longer a trend with a catchy nickname; it’s something far deeper, perhaps systemic and potentially long-lasting. It speaks to how individuals connect to their jobs and to the concept of work itself. And it raises questions about what employers can do about it.
The quality of life is often determined by the little things. Increasingly, the same metric applies to work. Pay and benefits are always part of the equation, but there is a ceiling; salaries can only go so high for most jobs. Increasingly, people are asking more profound questions of their employers – do staff members believe they have a voice? Are the organization’s goals parallel to the individual’s? Are employees set up for success or are they cogs in the machine? When only one in four people report being engaged at work, the answers to the previous questions are self-evident, and this prompts the obvious follow-up: what can organizations do to create positive feedback loops that enhance productivity and improve morale?
Employee as Customer
You already know the value of the customer experience. You already know that connecting with product users at every touchpoint in the continuum promotes customer retention and loyalty. But do you realize that this approach ignores half of the equation? It is not the customer who is held responsible for facilitating connections and delivering memorable experiences; it’s the employee. Just as companies develop customer personas, they should have employee personas, using the data points that define their top performers as the baseline for hiring future talent.
Recruiting is at least partially sales and good prospects have questions about what they can expect – what the workplace culture looks like, what opportunities for advancement exist, what the typical day looks like, and so forth. As with your paying customers, this group of “customers” also requires after-the-sale nurturing if they are to remain with the organization. Just like consumers, employees are an invaluable source of feedback, providing the organization is willing to them and then to act, where possible, on what is learned.
First Echelon Maintenance
Perhaps more than anything else, employees want to be heard when they have something to say. This includes a means of sharing customer feedback, an open door or even cracked door policy that welcomes input, and an atmosphere that encourages collaboration among peers. If you are going to refer to associates as “teams,” then that must include some group activity, whether it’s training or camaraderie-building.
People generally aspire to a sense of belonging, whether to a community, a family, a fan base, or a workforce. Activities that may seem outwardly silly, such as “talk like a pirate day” or theme days where employees dress in a particular fashion, serve as icebreakers among colleagues. These things break barriers and help employees see each other not as colleagues but as human beings who are not afraid to laugh at themselves or be creative. As much time as we spend around our co-workers, most of us tend to be more productive and more cooperative with people whose company we enjoy.
In keeping with the time element, the workplace itself is part of the discussion. While remote or hybrid work is increasingly common, that is not possible in every country that houses contact centers. This is more than sufficient workspace and adequate lighting, it’s also reasonable amenities.
Our new location in the Dominican Republic is on the top floor of a shopping mall and has both game rooms and quiet spaces where agents can recharge, along with a cafeteria for refueling.
In the Philippines, teams work in a high-rise in a bustling part of Pasig City with two floors of commons space plus photo and podcast rooms to satisfy any creative urges.
Upping the Ante
How do you make the concept of a bonus better and more visible? By making performance into a game. Competition exists in a workplace whether it’s recognized or not; our experience is that recognizing it and capitalizing on it has a way of elevating the performance of entire teams. If, for instance, high achievers are eligible for a raffle that includes gift cards and prizes of a specific monetary value, everyone else sees that and envisions themselves in the winner’s circle. Another client program puts its top agents of the week into a bowling or cornhole contest. While both participants win something, there is also the psychological effect on others – if (this person) can do that, why can’t I?
A fundamental aspect of human behavior is that you always, always, always get more of what is encouraged or rewarded. Some of your people will have the self-motivation to be top people no matter the circumstances, but even they understand incentives. When an entire team has a tangible reason to be more productive and a goal to aim for, the customer experience can only improve. And even if you do not use games or contests, whatever reward system exists must have a public element – the entire shop needs to see that the organization not only rewards performance, it also recognizes it.
Playing the Long Game
Once an organization finds good people, it has to keep them, and one way is by providing them with a path of progression. Going back to an earlier point, any prospect worth interviewing will ask about opportunities for advancement. Having a demonstrable process with real-world examples which can testify to a promote-from-within mentality carries a lot of weight. It’s also highly effective from a business perspective. Not only is the cost of recruiting and hiring reduced because of less turnover, program and business continuity is enhanced because the institutional knowledge is not walking out the door. However……
A path has to make sense for the individual and the company. Not everyone who is a great agent will make a great supervisor. Managing other people, especially one’s former peers, can be difficult, and promoting someone to a role that he/she is not suited for and will not enjoy does no one any favors. So, what other paths of mobility exist in your organization? Nothing says that an agent cannot transition into another department if the person has an aptitude and interest for such work. Agents often move to training, tech specialists can find a home in IT, and problem-solvers in general are worth the effort to retain. Finding the appropriate landing spot may require a bit of imagination.
Striking a Balance
Our industry talks a good deal about alignment: between contact center practices and client business goals and between organizations, so it makes sense to align the company’s aims to the individual’s skills and goals. Tech people and salespeople are different species, but training that takes the strengths of one discipline and applies them to another goes a long way. Add in tools such as AI, bots that assist live agents, and other technological innovations, and the result is confident people whose poise makes a positive customer interaction far more likely.
Optimizing the work environment, adding an element of fun and competition, and rewarding exceptionalism go a long way to creating a culture of agent engagement.
Tending to these things eliminates an agent’s reasons for wanting to leave. There is only so much that an organization can do about compensation, but there is a great deal that it can do about almost everything else. And if the customer experience is integral to your organization’s success, then the agent experience has to be treated as a subset of that.
GlowTouch is a privately held and WBENC-certified, woman-owned enterprise, founded in 2002. We provide personalized contact center, business processing, and technology outsourcing solutions to clients around the world. Our 2,300+ employees deliver operational excellence with high-touch engagement garnering recognition by independent bodies such as Everest Group, International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP), and a six-time honoree on the Inc. 5000. GlowTouch is headquartered in Louisville, KY, with onshore contact centers in Louisville, KY, and Miami, FL; a nearshore presence in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and offshore locations in Mangalore, Bangalore, and Mysore India. To learn more about GlowTouch, visit www.GlowTouch.com