Agent Motivation

Driving Agent Motivation: Insights and Learnings from the Customer Response Summit

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to host a roundtable session with a cross-section of service leaders at the Customer Response Summit in Las Vegas. The roundtable focused on the hot button topic of front-line team motivation.

Motivating front-line teams is a theme that was touched on during a number of presentations at the event, so the roundtable was a great opportunity for us to dive more deeply into the topic with service pros from across a range of industries.

The first priority during the session was to reach consensus on the drivers that most impact team motivation. As a group, we boiled it down to these six:

  • Leveraging customer feedback
  • Contact center environment
  • Agent empowerment
  • Career pathing
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Coaching and training

Once we’d identified these six drivers, we spent the rest of the session fleshing out why each of the themes is so important and identifying some best practices. Here’s where we landed:

Leveraging customer feedback

Customer feedback is too often collected at a company level rather than an agent level, and this is a missed opportunity.

Customer feedback should focus on individual agent performance and there should be systems in place for sharing the feedback directly with agents in real-time. Positive customer feedback, delivered in-the-moment to agents, can be transformational and a powerful motivator. Additionally, leveraging customer feedback on agent performance can free up QA teams to focus more on training and coaching (more on this below).

Contact center environment

Environment relates as much to the contact center design itself as it does to the work culture that you create. Key for both contact center design and culture development is creating close alignment with the core values of your brand. Contact centers are often detached from the beating heart of an organization both in terms of physical location and overall brand values. Ensuring that you create a culture of trust that is connected to the overall purpose of your company will help ensure your front-line team feels like what they’re doing really makes a difference.

Agent empowerment

Creating rules around policies and process that are too restrictive can be one of the quickest ways to build a disengaged front-line team, resulting in high levels of agent churn. As an alternative, developing guiding principles that provide more flexibility will make agents feel more empowered and this will result in increased productivity and performance. Related to the discussion around collecting agent-level customer feedback, your team should ’own’ the feedback that relates to their performance. This will give them a real sense of ownership over their own performance and will create a virtuous cycle of service improvements.

Career pathing

Contact centers can sometimes feel like they don’t offer the same opportunities for career progression as other departments around the company, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There was a lot of smart discussion at the roundtable around how to approach career pathing and how getting it right gives agents something to work towards. Key to success is creating a set of clearly defined roles and making it clear how agents can move between the roles and what their expectations should be from a timing perspective.

Rewards and recognition

Rewards and recognition should come in two distinct flavors: private (delivered via 1:1 meetings) and public. Both are as important as each other for driving team motivation. A mistake that contact center leaders often make is to not put programs in place because there’s no budget available. One of the key themes that emerged through our discussion was that recognition can be as valuable as physical rewards, particularly when you publicly recognize success. Public recognition has the added benefit of creating friendly competition across your contact center, creating a win-win for you and your team.

Coaching and training

An almost universal theme during the session was the resource constraints that contact center leaders are under when it comes to QA, training and coaching. Resources are stretched thin and it’s hard to truly understand performance at an individual agent level. Too often, as a result, training programs become one-size-fits-all, which doesn’t provide an opportunity to nurture top talent and turn around bottom performers.

Using customer feedback on individual agents emerged as an important way to get a real-time pulse on performance. Leveraging these insights can free up QA teams from the burden of call monitoring and instead enable them to focus on the development of more customized training and development programs.

Execs in the Know always puts on great events and this Customer Response Summit was no exception. There was a wealth of great discussion and the insights above are just the tip of the iceberg from our roundtable. We’d welcome the opportunity of digging in further with you.