Is there a more dreaded work environment than the modern-day call centre? The stereotypical image is of hundreds of customer service reps crammed into tiny cubicles, working long, tedious shifts and dealing with irate customers for hours on end.
Fostering a culture of engaged, dedicated employees is no easy task in any business, and can be especially difficult for call centre managers given the unique challenges that environment can present:
- Noisy, crowded workspaces
- Multiple shift schedules
- Tedious, repetitive work
- High pressure to meet targets
- Daily interaction with angry or abusive customers
- Language, culture and time zone differences in overseas locations
- Low worker satisfaction rates
- High employee turnover rates
The best managers understand the realities of their business and focus on these three key strategies for success:
1. Motivate and reward
Offering competitive pay, desirable benefits, bonuses and tangible rewards are all proven methods of motivating employees to boost productivity and meet or exceed targets.
Understanding which rewards are most important to your staff is the key to developing an incentive program which really works.
However, incentives alone aren’t enough to reduce turnover rates.
Focus on retaining and developing the staff you have by providing a clear path for employee advancement.
Offer the necessary training, mentoring and support to help your staff grow into supervisory and management roles within the business.
2. Develop a culture of communication
In a call centre-type environment, it’s easy for employees to feel like they’re just a number.
Thoughtful communication is key to developing a culture where employees feel valued, which can lead to increased productivity, engagement, and loyalty to the company.
Face-to-face communication can be a particular challenge when dealing with shift workers or overseas satellite locations, so make it a priority.
Designate a local manager on site at each shift to host regularly scheduled meetings and provide a forum where workers can freely express their thoughts and ideas.
Soliciting employee feedback is not enough. However, managers must be prepared and empowered to act on it where possible, demonstrating to staff that their views are heard and respected.
3. Focus on metrics that matter
All too often, call centre managers and their workers are evaluated based primarily on the volume of calls completed.
There is considerable pressure to conclude calls quickly in order to move on the next one as soon as possible.
Quantity does not necessarily reflect quality, and focusing on the sheer number of calls may contribute to employee and customer frustration.
Focus instead on metrics which really matter – both to your customers and to your bottom line: resolution of issues at first contact, contact quality and customer satisfaction.
When CSRs are encourage to prioritize engagement with customers rather than hitting numerical targets, their engagement with your company’s mission and values will also improve.
Hire right the first time
Staffing is the #1 challenge facing the industry today, with call centre employee attrition rates reported to be 33%, according to a Cornell University study.
Managers struggle with both the recruitment and retention of customer service reps, often investing significant time and resources in training new hires, only to see them walk out the door a few months later.
While better training and incentives can help mitigate high attrition rates, the real solution is to find and hire the recruits who are best suited to call centre work in the first place.
Sometimes the best people sometimes come in unexpected packages or oddball backgrounds.
One call centre client found they had really good luck with actors. They liked the flex hours and every call was a chance to perform.
Another found that when they started to screen for fit first, they found themselves interviewing a very different demographic slice – lots of youngsters who would never have passed through a metal detector (tats and piercings). Hard to look at, maybe, but great on the phone.
Certain personality traits and characteristics may be better predictors of a candidate’s success than their past experience and skill set. Which traits?
Check out this detailed profile of the ideal CSR candidate, developed by TalentSorter to guide call center managers in their recruiting.