Why Leadership Matters
ATTRITION-PROOF: WHY FLOOR LEADERSHIP AND AN
EMPOWERMENT CULTURE MATTER
Eight actions to create a stable environment and engaged staff.
Pipeline Special Series Part 4/5
In the course of my business, I work with many contact centers with varying contact types, numbers of agents, compensation ranges and industries. I conduct employee satisfaction surveys to identify the real issues within the call center or wider organization, and the results surprise many of my clients.
Although attrition can be attributed to numerous causes, compensation typically falls in the middle of the list of reasons for the departure of talent. Do you what No. 1 is? If you guessed that employees’ primary reason for leaving is connected to how they are treated by their supervisor, you would be correct.
What cn you do to improve the supervisor-agent connection and create an environment in which your top talent want to stay and grow? The following are eight actions to ensure that you are your way to a more stable workplace, more engaged employees and less stress for you and your executive team.
DON’T CREATE A CAREER PATH TO FAILURE
Contact centers often seek to decrease turnover by offering employees a ‘career path”. Usually this career path is designed to take the best agents and promote them to supervisors. Sadly, this method sometimes results in the best agents becoming the worst supervisors. Why would that be? Because the personality traits of a successful agent do not typically match those of the best supervisors.
Do you conduct assessments to hire your agents? Most contact centers do. Do you conduct assessments before you promote an agent to a supervisor? Very few contact centers do. This is a problem. Contact centers screen out people who will fail as agents but neglect to set a screening process for leadership—a situation that, in many cases, sets up a new supervisor to fail.
Instead of randomly taking the stars in hour contact cent and putting them into positions that they’re not suited for, I recommend assessing their personality traits and promoting them to roles with the right responsibilities and/or opportunities for their abilities. A path to training, to quality assurance, or ever to a subject-matter expert (SME) or a senior agent role in which they work with new employees and lower performers to bring them up in quality—these might be better options for your top performers.
AVOID SUPERVISOR TRAINING FAILURE
What is your training plan for a new supervisor? According to a study be Benchmark Portal, 33% of new supervisors receive no training when promoted. Only 24% have a formal training program developed with their training departments and just 13% utilize a third-party learning program or education. Sadly, fast-food supervisors probably receive more training than your average contact center supervisor.
There are many training programs available. Benchmark Portal, the Call Center School and International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) have certification courses for frontline supervisors. The cost for most of these classes is less than $3000, a modest investment for a company once it’s understood that a poorly trained supervisor will cost them tens of thousands in attrition costs. Once complete, management can rest assured that their new supervisors are knowledgeable in leadership, quality, metrics management, project planning, forecasting and scheduling, technology, contact center structure, and many other key areas for success.
EMPOWERING YOUR AGENTS: WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT
According to a study from Customer Experience Management, 71% of agents do not have the authority to satisfy a customer. OUCH! With high attrition comes the need to limit the authority of agents—whereas experience generates knowledge and judgment as well as an understanding of what is best for the customer and organization. If allowed the opportunity to provide exceptional service. Most agents would do whatever is needed to exceed a customer’s needs.
LESS SCRIPTING, MORE SATISFYING
Are you scripted? Maybe even over-scripted? Too often, contact centers work vigilantly on their scripture trees, attempting to come up with every conceivable solution that could occur. Unfortunately, our customers do not follow a script and too often receive subpar service or solutions because their conversations deviate from the script. My recommendation is tot invest in developing a searchable knowledgeable base. There are many out-of-the-box knowledge bases available, or if you have the resources, they can be custom created by your IT department. By giving your agents the knowledge tools they need to provide service and removing the limitations of a script, agents can better listen to the issues, search for a solution, and provide a few options to the customer thus empowering agents to actually provide service!
RECOGNIZE AND REWARD
Earlier in this series, I talked about the importance of setting and understanding your top priorities as a business and a contact center. Do your current recognition programs motivate and incentivize success in meeting your goals and priorities?
Employees who are rewarded for doing a good job and who feel valued by the leadership of their organization stay longer. If you are giving random incentives for activities that do not add value to the organizational goals, your employees likely will not see them as valuable. They become a cost with no benefit.
PRIORITIES DRIVE REWARDS, NOT VICE VERSA
Setting up a recognition program starts by understanding what must be achieved for success, then developing the reward program around those achievements. If your priorities change, so should your reward and recognition programs, as well.
For example, if your top priority is customer satisfaction, then a reward program based on the number of contacts handled or the average handle time is irrelevant to your overall goals. This will quickly be obvious to your agents. Instead, put the weight of your reward program behind your top priority—in this case, customer satisfaction—and will to that end until success is achieved. Then, determine your next priority and modify and adjust your reward programs to achieve the new results.
Look at your current reward programs—have they changed recently—or ever? Do they match your current priorities? If not, it’s time to review your tools for motivation and align them toward achieving your goals. If your employees are recognized for adding value to this overall organization’s success, they will feel more empowered and have greater satisfaction in their jobs.
AGENTS HAVE A VOICE: MANAGE CHANGE BY LISTENING
I work with many companies look to decrease attrition, and the same three problems show up again and again in the initial employee engagement surveys.
1. Lack of empowerment
2. Lack of information, and
3. Lack of the basic knowledge needed to provide service.
Your agents are the ones in the trenches everyday talking to your customers. They understand better than anyone what should be changed to provide a better experience for the customer.
Do you listen to them? I have seen it at my clients’ centers and in my own contact centers. Something new happens and the contact center must change to meet the new demand, product need, call type, issue or situation that is now a priority. Leadership makes the change based on what they think is best from a big picture standpoint, usually forgetting that it affects how service can be provided by the agent population.
Employees are inherently resistant to change. It makes them feel like they’ve lost control, increases their uncertainty, makes them second-guess their competence, and almost always increases the workload to some extent.
GET YOUR AGENTS ENGAGED AND TURNOVER DECREASES
By incorporating agents in the decision process, you will see more involvement, more ideas and a passion for the change, which you typically don’t see when you simply “push out” the change.
A recent Gallup poll on employee engagement showed that employees with the highest levels of engagement are likely to remain with the organization and the highest performers. To drive high engagement, Gallup recommended that employees be empowered to make decisions, be provided with the knowledge needed to perform their duties, be provided the information needed to produce results. And be rewarded for achievement.