Do Your Call Center Agents Think They Have a Good Job?

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Who applies for a job, hoping it's a bad one? No one reports to work looking for a hassle every day, but sometimes that's what agents in your contact center get.

Research shows that only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers complain. Assuming, then, that 96 percent of displeased customers have dropped out of the game, the 4 percent who press on obviously feel motivated to voice their complaint. Potentially, every caller phoning your contact center could be someone having a "moment," so what if your job consisted of taking calls from people having theirs? It can wear down your self-esteem and cause you to second-guess your own abilities. If that's the job, it probably doesn't feel like a great one.

A call center is only as good as the people in it; no process or technology can overcome disengaged employees. You can have a good idea, an effective system, or great technology in place, but if employees don't see how their efforts affect the success of the operation, it's difficult for them to be engaged.

These days, you hear the buzzword "engagement" a lot. What does it mean? How does engagement affect your workplace culture?

As the Gallup Organization defines it, engaged employees are "involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace." Research by Evolve Performance Group shows that fully engaged employees are 40 times more likely than disengaged employees to recommend their company, 15.5 times more likely to spend their career there, and 4.5 times more likely to recommend the company's products and services.

Among the strongest drivers of employee engagement are (1) recognition for high performers, (2) a clear understanding of how one's job contributes to company strategy, and (3) a path linking one's performance to greater pay or opportunity. According to Gallup, only 31.5 percent of U.S. employees are engaged. That's nearly 70 percent who don't feel they're valued and don't see how their effort is tied to company goals.

It's difficult to try to do a good job every day if you don't believe what you're doing is connected to overall corporate strategy. Call center agents in particular might wonder how their conversations with customers feed into company goals. Though the answer might not be obvious, the connection exists and contact center managers should not undervalue or overlook it.

Customer satisfaction does not create loyalty; you can give customers exactly what they say they want and they might still choose a different direction. It's the experience they have that creates loyalty. How does a customer feel when dealing with people in your contact center? Creating that positive engagement with customers is the agent's job, but your agents will struggle to do the job well if they don't feel engaged by management.

So, leaders and managers, time for some hard questions: Do you know how it feels to work in your call center, or deal with you as a boss? Employees who don't believe their supervisor cares about them can be so emotionally checked out they lose awareness of customer needs. After all, it's difficult to care about others if you believe no one cares about you.

In short, people who think they don't have a very good job don't do a very good job.

Unless you engage employees, you really can't expect them to engage customers in a way that makes those customers like what's happening. Remember, no caller is overjoyed to need help or repairs. Especially if they're having "a moment," they'll need to feel heard and valued. That is how a rep's conversations are intrinsically tied to company goals. If the people who directly interact with customers are engaged in their jobs, they can create the customer experience you want.

To create engagement, start with actions that address the three engagement drivers mentioned earlier. In particular, be sure to

1. recognize people for their achievements;

2. provide them with a clear picture of how their efforts create company success; and

3. give them clear goals that are linked to better pay or opportunity.

With those three things in place, even a job fraught with daily complaints looks like a good job in your employees' eyes.

Garrison Wynn is the author of The REAL Truth About Success and The Cow Bell Principle. He has been a contributor for the Washington Post and speaks on personal influence at conventions worldwide. Visit his Web site, www.Garrisonwynn.com.

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