With all the talk about the future of the workplace it’s easy to forget why we’re here in the first place. “It’s about the customer, always” and at no time has that expression been more apt than in today’s turbulent economic times. Forget to put the customer at the heart of what you do and there’ll be a thousand and one competitors keen to take their business away from you.
So what can we do to make sure customers get the best possible service each and every time they make contact? For starters, we can look after our people better as there’s plenty of evidence to show that there is a direct and strong correlation between employee and customer satisfaction.
A 2017 Aberdeen Research report, for example, concluded “businesses that understand the importance of employee engagement and manage it through a formal program to align to their customer experience goals, achieve far superior results” while a 2013 Demand Metric Employee Engagement Survey found that organisations with more than 50% employee engagement retained more than 80% of their customers. As Richard Branson once famously said “take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers”.
Many of the common techniques used to improve employee engagement in contact centres are well known and well used. They are still worth repeating though. Leading consultant Carolyn Blunt offers 8 tips for success. Namely to ensure that:
- Your teams are properly trained, supported and coached
- Your teams are properly and competitively rewarded
- Your working environment is clean and pleasant
- Coaches and team leaders are motivated, of high quality, and take ownership of driving forward the strategic performance of your centre
- Your centre promotes from within, growing talent from frontline agents into people managers
- Planning/resourcing is professionally run in a way that is as fair as possible to everyone
- New recruits understand what is expected of them and your organisation recruits primarily for attitude, aptitude and energy in the first instance
- Managers talk to people both as individuals and as teams. Giving someone the impression that their efforts are ignored will impact motivation, retention, and absence.
While not exhaustive, this list is a great starting point. However, I’d add an extra tip – in many respects one that has emerged because of our experiences during lockdown – and that is to recognise employees’ emotional requirements, and in particular their desire to have more control over their working days.
For most contact centre people, lockdown has meant transitioning from the office to work-from-home. And while this new method of working hasn’t suited everybody, for others it’s been a revelation. No travel to work, no travel costs, spending more time with the family, more time to indulge in sports and hobbies, etc. For many people, moving them back to the office in 2021 will be forcing them back to the office. To a world of sitting in traffic jams on motorways, endless office meetings, and sometimes stressful colleague relationships. And it won’t necessarily be for reasons of productivity. Many people have proven to be just as – if not more – productive working from home.
Stats from the 2020 HomeAgent survey conducted pre lockdown and covering over 200 UK homeworkers paints a particularly interesting picture about employee engagement. 65% of long term UK homeworkers say that they are ‘proud to tell people where they work’, 88% say ‘I want to perform well for the sake of my team’ and only 20% say ‘I miss the emotional support of my co-workers’. 74% say that they enjoy a better work life balance as a result of homeworking.
I’m not advocating work-from-home as the answer to all employee engagement and motivation issues, that would be wrong. What I’m saying is that work-from-home can be a key part of the long term mix and especially for those that are suited to homeworking, have a suitable home office working space, and can prove that they are efficient working from home.
The rest is down to their employers to make sure that homeworking is effective. In some respects running a homeworking contact centre is simpler than running a bricks and mortar operation. In other respects it is much harder, calling for a virtual mindset and suitable systems and processes across everything from recruitment & onboarding to training, scheduling, communications, management, infosecurity….. and of course procedures and systems that look out for the health and well being of all employees working remotely.
By Mark Walton, CEO, Sensée