With almost 30 years in the customer experience profession, Annette Franz, CCXP is founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, keynote speaker, and author of Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business). In this book, she outlines the importance of customer understanding to developing a customer-centric culture. She is also an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council.
As you know, when the pandemic hit last year, businesses were forced to close their doors and send employees home. The impact on contact centers was great; asking agents to work from home and managing that type of a situation and workforce was new to the industry.
While the concern about how to keep agents engaged was greater than it had ever been, it was already – and still is – a constant concern for contact center managers, especially as it relates to agent turnover, agent performance, and ultimately, the customer experience.
Let’s start with a look at engagement.
What is it? How do agents become engaged? What can you, as a supervisor or manager, do to ensure your agents are engaged? How does engagement impact agent performance?
For starters, no one can make an agent engaged. Engagement comes from within the individual, and yet the company has a role in it, as well. Agent engagement is the result of some confluence of: (1) emotions, commitment, passion, sense of ownership, etc. on the part of the employee about the brand and (2) what the organization does (mission, vision, purpose, values, brand promise, etc.) to facilitate and enhance those emotions or that commitment.
Engagement is an outcome. (And it’s not the same as happiness or satisfaction.)
Essentially, agent engagement involves both parties, the agent and the employer. What’s the employer’s role? It’s all about creating the right conditions to allow agents to become engaged. Those conditions include:
- Clearly communicating the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization
- Hiring the right people for the right roles, including those aligned with all of those statements
- Communicating openly and being transparent about company goals and performance and how agents’ contributions matter
- Setting expectations and providing the right tools and resources for agents to meet those expectations
- Creating a culture where agents come first
- Ensuring agents are well taken care of, which includes tools, training, coaching, development, feedback, recognition, respect, appreciation, trust, balance, and more
Agents, on the other hand, also have ownership in this thing called engagement; it comes from within them. Their role in becoming engaged includes:
- Understanding the mission, vision, purpose, and values of the organization and ensuring they align with all of them
- Accepting a position for the right role in the right company
- Being passionate about what they do and for whom they do it
- Taking ownership, thinking and acting like they own the business
- Providing feedback to drive business success
- Working day in and day out toward the goals of the business
- Understanding how their work ties to business outcomes
It’s not as complex as it sounds.
It can be boiled down to this: passion, enthusiasm, ownership, and discretionary effort on the part of the agent who believes in the brand, the purpose, and the vision of the employer.
When agents experience this level of connection, this engagement, there are huge benefits: they are more focused; they want the business to succeed; and they will do anything to ensure it does. Other benefits include:
- Proud of the work and the brand
- Sense of ownership
- Discretionary effort to achieve individual and company goals
- Increased productivity
- Less likely to leave
- More likely to recommend the company, which attracts new talent and customers
- Willing to defend the company and its reputation
- More apt to make suggestions to improve the business
Gallup conducts the world’s largest ongoing study of employee engagement and performance, and they cited in their latest report from 2020 that high engagement results in fewer negative outcomes (absenteeism, turnover, theft, accidents, etc.), more positive outcomes (loyalty and productivity), and greater success for the business (profitability, wellbeing, and organizational citizenship/participation).
So engagement affects both individual agent performance and business performance.
Ken Blanchard once said, “Remember, people who feel good about themselves produce good results, and people who produce good results feel good about themselves.” Given all of the benefits listed above, combined with Ken’s thoughts, there’s a clear connection between engagement and the agent’s performance.
When people feel good about themselves, their roles, and who the work for, they want to operate at peak performance.
I always say that no one comes to work wanting to do a crappy job. We all want to bring our best selves to work and give our best.
But in order to do that, in order to unleash our potential and do great work, we’ve got to experience that confluence of circumstances that lead to engagement.
When agents are engaged, they are comfortable with where they are and what they are doing, and they are less likely to leave. These tenured agents have more experience and tribal knowledge to bring to their work, which benefits their co-workers, their customers, and the business.
Interestingly enough, the relationship between engagement and performance can be bidirectional. In order for that to happen, agents must receive feedback about, and recognition for, the work that they are doing. Again, when they do good things, they feel that ownership, passion, and sense of pride about the work and for whom they are doing it and want to give more – they want to keep doing good things. But there must be recognition for what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.
The connection between engagement and performance is real. Know your part. Do your part.