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TASKE Technology's Call Center Blog

Over the last couple of months, we’ve talked about the effects of staffing cuts on your contact center and how to mitigate them. Unfortunately, the economic reasons that often prompt staff cuts also make it difficult to provide financial incentives for the staff we have left.

In July, Bloomberg BusinessWeek published the article “Employment Costs in the U.S. Increased 0.5% in Second Quarter”, stating that businesses have avoided raising salaries due to high national unemployment figures. With almost 13 million people out of work in the U.S., the article quotes Tim Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets LLC in New York, saying that “wage growth has slowed very sharply. In real terms, we’re actually negative.”

The only upside to this economic situation is that your agents aren’t likely being lured away by competitors offering better salaries. However, just because agents realize there are no financial incentives in moving on doesn’t mean that they’re happily serving your customers in an efficient and productive way. We’ve all dealt with unmotivated or disgruntled agents who (unconsciously or not), damage the reputation of your business with poor customer interactions.

There are some obvious ways to try to motivate agents using non-financial incentives, such as public recognition and opportunities for career advancement. Another good way to motivate your agents is to increase their engagement in the work they do.

There’s no getting around the fact that a certain portion of most calls is tedious. Whether it’s collecting customer contact information, serial numbers, or service licenses, most new hires will quickly tire of this aspect of the work. Over time, experienced agents may have trouble engaging with clients through these processes because of their monotonous and repetitive nature. However, there may be other aspects of calls that agents find provide a higher value in terms of their job satisfaction. Successfully troubleshooting product issues or completing difficult sales can be very rewarding for many agents.

Here are some ideas to help agents focus on higher-value work.

Don’t ask agents to collect information that isn’t necessary.

If a customer’s contact information is already in your company’s database (for example, through warranty registration), consider how much contact information really needs to be collected at the start of each call. Perhaps you only need a name and telephone number, rather than the complete mailing address.

Offload calls about basic issues or frequently asked questions using other resources.

Post FAQs on your company website or offer troubleshooting tips via the IVR while customers wait to talk to agents. An abandoned call is not a bad thing if the IVR provided a solution to the customer’s issue.

Find out whether standard information can be collected from customers before agents pick up calls.

Depending on the technologies available to you, customers may be able to provide telephone or reference numbers in an automated way through the telephone system. Even if agents confirm this information during the call, the process of correcting errors is far less tedious than asking for, and entering it themselves.

Ensure that calls are being directed to agents with appropriate skills, interests, or aptitudes.

Obviously, new hires should be getting the easiest calls and more experienced agents should be getting calls that require a higher level of expertise. However, don’t overlook the fact that there will be differences among agents in terms of interests and aptitudes. Agents may express interest in handling different types of calls, as well as different call tasks. For example, some agents may prefer doing the research to resolve an issue while other agents are more interested in callbacks to work with customers one-on-one to implement the resolution. You may be able to pair up agents such they can share various tasks for calls, with each agent focusing on preferred tasks.

Ideally, contact center agents want to experience some level of job satisfaction. A key factor in providing this is to help agents focus on work they find stimulating or of high value.  The benefits of a contact center with agents who are engaged in their work is two-fold: positive results in your customer service levels and lower staff turnover.

See you next month.

Tags: agent activity, agent productivity, customer satisfaction, economy, incentives, motivation, service levels.

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