Employee Engagement Shaping Call Centers

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Benjamin Franklin never saw a telephone, let alone a call center. Nevertheless, his quote still holds true in today’s constantly-changing customer service world.

We’ve reached the season in which many organizations review their performance and plan for the coming year. Too often, however, this process is bypassed or dismissed as mere paper pushing. The reality is that it offers an excellent chance to investigate opportunities for growth and outline plans for improvement. Given its unique characteristics, the rapidly moving, data-driven contact center may find particular value in this exercise.

At the top of many contact centers’ to-do lists is improving employee engagement. In fact, 87 percent of organizations overall cite culture and engagement as top challenges. It’s on the radar for good reason: A report by Gallup found that employee engagement improves a long list of metrics: customer ratings, profitability, productivity, turnover, shrinkage, absenteeism and quality.

As technology creates increasing opportunities for greater employee engagement, several trends in employee engagement continue to impact the contact center environment. Understanding them as you plan for the New Year can provide a key competitive advantage.

Improvement in employee engagement metrics

Tools and metrics for employee engagement are changing. Data now offers insight into employee behaviors, allowing companies to provide a workplace that is both positive and productive.

Many organizations are also refining surveys or qualitative reviews. As recently as 2015, analysts for the Human Capital Institute found that many businesses measured engagement with surveys that failed to ask employees what they want. As a result, the questionnaires produced few actionable findings and often had limited impact on employees.

The good news is that more managers are learning about employee engagement and refining their methods of both engaging and measuring engagement. New tools allow agents to own their schedules and performance, whether it be by helping them more easily trade shifts or share ideas with their peers.

The spread of gamification

Gamification, which applies video game mechanics in non-game contexts, is taking over the contact center. Its sudden growth can be attributed to the dramatic and measurable benefits of gamification: up to a 25 percent increase in productivity, a 90 percent reduction in training time and a 70 percent reduction in the cost to onboard a new hire. It also substantially enhances employee engagement. When used correctly, gamification links participant goals to company priorities in a way that makes work fun and increases profits. Gamification will continue to spread in the coming year – and missing out could put your organization at a significant disadvantage.

New employee feedback strategies

The formal performance review is tumbling out of favor and being replaced by performance management strategies and coaching. Although the main objective of this shift is performance improvement, many adopters have found increased employee engagement to be a powerful byproduct. In addition to changes in the supervisor-employee review process, many companies are also encouraging peer-to-peer recognition. Everyone likes a compliment, and this on-the-ground insight can point employers toward valuable employees who may not be showing up on other metrics.

The rising influence of millennials

Across industries, businesses are adjusting their practices to accommodate the millennial generation. Today, more than one in three American workers are millennials, and they’ve overtaken the boomer generation in numbers.

This cohort brings with it challenges and advantages. Millennials are tech-savvy and highly motivated, always looking for opportunities for growth. Their commitment to flexible work hours can be both a blessing and a curse. They also expect workplace perks and instant recognition for their work. Contact centers can profit from the strengths and combat the weaknesses by introducing some of the initiative mentioned here, like gamification and peer recognition systems. Millennials are not going anywhere, so expect this to be an ongoing concern.

Data and analytics

The growing impact of data in the employee experience is a recurring theme across these trends. Operationalizing data is a natural fit for an industry that often struggles with turnover and engagement and produces a never-ending river of statistics. Operationalizing big data can both drive and increase employee engagement, for happier, more productive agents.

Turn employee engagement into a competitive advantage

This time, enter the New Year prepared. Understanding the trends affecting your call center’s overall employee engagement can help you better measure and improve the happiness of your agents, providing a key competitive advantage. The need for employee engagement will never go away, but those who fail to enable it might.

Paul Chance is a senior product marketing manager for NICE Workforce Management (WFM), the leading software solution used by contact centers to digest the complexity of their organizations and produce precise forecasts and clear action. For more information, visit www.nice.com/engage/workforce-optimization/workforce-management.