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Motivate Contact Center Agents

Learning Objectives

After completing this module, you’ll be able to:

  • Describe low-cost or no-cost ways you can motivate customer service agents.
  • Tailor motivation to individual agents.
  • Coach agents using the Know, Feel, Do approach.

Contact Center Coaching

Finding the right agents to employ in your contact center is just one step on the path to success. Just as important is the ability to keep your team focused and motivated. In this unit, you learn expert coaching tips to help you make sure your agents stay engaged and interested in the success of the contact center.

What Matters Most to Agents

Simply offering financial incentives isn’t necessarily going to get you the performance you want from your agents. What employees want usually falls into one of the following five categories.

  1. Appreciation. Your job is to care for your agents. Showing appreciation can stem attrition and encourage people to stay.
  2. Empowerment. Give agents the authority to make decisions when dealing with challenging situations, even if it means bending some rules to keep customers happy.
  3. Work/Life Balance. Allow your agents the flexibility they need to be successful in all areas of their lives.
  4. Personal Growth and Development. Give top agents the opportunity to work on challenging new assignments.
  5. Transparent Communication. Be honest about what’s going on with the company and your agents’ place in it.

Everybody is different, so tailoring motivation to individual agents is important. Try using different methods in small doses, like gamification, bonuses, and public recognition in the form of milestone awards.

Five Low-Cost Ways to Motivate Your Agents

Remember that money isn’t always the most motivating factor for agents. The following are five budget-friendly ways to keep them motivated.

  1. Ensure that employees work on cases for only 80 percent of their workday. Use 20 percent of the day for follow-up, research, and other channels to ensure employees get a break from their caseload.
  2. Encourage replenishing breaks. Remind employees to step out for fresh air, meditate, or read for a few minutes.
  3. Take timeouts for team building. Weave things like high fives and team huddles into a daily culture of appreciation.
  4. Think of training as a daily practice. Training helps energize your people. It delivers new skills. And relationships form quickly when employees interact away from work, which improves customer experience.
  5. Share food. Provide healthy snacks, organize a potluck, or bring in a homemade treat.

How to Coach Your Agents Successfully

Improving performance depends on the right conversations. Our experienced trainers have put together a nine-step strategy to coach contact center agents.

  1. Randomly record two to three calls per agent.
  2. Review the calls (alone), making notes.
  3. Play the first call, and let your agent respond.
  4. Have an employee respond to the call.
  5. Coach the call.
  6. Get a commitment for improvement.
  7. Repeat the steps above, if necessary.
  8. Follow up between coaching sessions.
  9. Discuss progress at the top of the next coaching session.

Getting your agents to take ownership of performance improvement can be a challenge. Try coaching through questions.

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Let the employee respond.
  3. Repeat the first two steps.
  4. Offer ideas as needed.

An example of a conversation using coaching through questions can look like this:

Coach: “What did you think of that call?”

Employee: “It was fine.”

Coach: “Why do you describe it as ‘fine’? Why not fantastic’ or ‘bad’?”

Employee: “I did what I was supposed to do. I just wouldn’t say I wowed the customer.”

Coach: “What might you have done to get to a ‘wow’ reaction?”

Employee: “I could have used the customer’s name, maybe thanked her for asking about my day.”

Know, Feel, Do

In order to prepare for constructive feedback discussions with employees, try the Know, Feel, Do principle. Here's how it works: let's say Akousa is struggling with calls and passing too many calls on to supervisors. Before you meet with her, you could write a Know, Feel, Do this way:

Know

I want her to know that:

  • Her escalation rate is 81 percent higher than the norm for our team.
  • I think she’s capable of doing better.
  • Some tactics can be used to help her speak with confidence, knowledge, and to establish control.
  • She can apply the three tactics Myra taught in the training. (Play an actual call where the tactics are used successfully.)

Feel

I want her to feel that:

  • I support her.
  • She can control calls more effectively.
  • She is able to pre-empt escalations and control conversations.

Do

What I want her to do is:

  • Control calls from the start by displaying knowledge, confidence, and avoiding inflammatory words.
  • Say things like, “I realize this is frustrating for you. What we can do is______.”
  • Come to me if she continues to struggle so I can help.
  • Reach out to coworkers for ideas and strategies.

Use Know, Feel, Do to help prepare for talks with employees. This approach helps you think about how you want your employee to feel and the results you want to achieve. This method will enable you to walk into meetings fully prepared and confident.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Myra Golden and Debi Mongan who lent their expertise to the creation of this Trailhead module.

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