Contact center agents have a lot in common with the Rolling Stones — not because they trash hotel rooms, experiment with drugs, or perform for thousands of screaming fans — but because, like the legendary rockers, they can’t get no satisfaction. Employee satisfaction (ESAT) in the contact center is approaching an all-time low. A recent survey found that only 19% of contact center employees “strongly agree” that they’re satisfied with their roles.
If you manage a contact center, it’s essential that you increase employee satisfaction — otherwise, your agents won’t hesitate to flee for greener pastures. The most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average call center turnover rate is as high as 45% — at least twice the average turnover in other departments. And a recent report from Invoca showed that 60% of agents plan to leave their jobs in the next 6 months. This high level of agent turnover is extremely expensive. A recent study found that it can cost $12,000 to replace and retrain a single entry-level contact center employee who makes $36,000 per year.
So, how can you retain your employees for the long haul? Read on to learn our top 7 tips for improving employee satisfaction (ESAT) in the contact center.
Employee satisfaction, or ESAT, is how satisfied employees are with their job and the way they’re treated by the company. You can improve your ESAT score by creating a strong company culture, providing opportunities for growth, prioritizing work-life balance, and fairly compensating employees for their efforts.
There is no single recipe for success when it comes to improving employee satisfaction in the contact center — every organization will require its own unique blend of ingredients. Below are some of the signature herbs and spices contact center teams use most frequently. Stir them into the pot and taste as you go.
The term “company culture” is a bit of a nebulous concept, but most can agree that it includes an organization’s shared set of goals, attitudes, and values. When you create a strong company culture, your contact center agents will feel a sense of belonging. Regardless of their background or experience level, they will feel that their efforts are valued and that they’re contributing to the success of your organization.
So, how can you go about building a great company culture? It all starts from the top down. Your leaders need to create guiding values for your organization, such as: “accountability,” “collaboration,” “innovation,” “continuous improvement,” and “transparency.” But simply putting these on paper isn’t enough. If you don’t lead by your values every day, it will detract from your culture, as this can be seen as hypocritical.
In addition, your recruiting practices are a major contributor to your culture. In addition to screening for competence at each position, you should ensure the candidates live by the values you preach. If you’re not hiring people who can uphold your principles, it can erode your culture over time.
The pandemic changed the way contact center agents work, with many switching to remote and hybrid models. Now that lockdowns and social distance measures have eased, some organizations are pressuring agents to return to the office full time. This presents an issue, as agents have become accustomed to the flexibility of remote and hybrid work and they don’t want to give up this new convenience.
If you force your contact center agents back into the office, you’ll create a morale problem. You also may drive high turnover rates because, according to a new study by Robert Half, 50% of US workers would rather resign than be forced back to the office full-time. This will undoubtedly harm your ESAT score and, with the current labor shortage, may leave you short-staffed for the foreseeable future.
The best solution to improve employee satisfaction is to allow your contact center agents to work however they choose — in-person or hybrid. To support a flexible work environment, you need to give employees the right technology to thrive. Old on-prem solutions are costly to maintain and aren’t scalable for remote employees — you should consider using cloud-based platforms instead. Not only are cloud-based tools more flexible, they also tend to be more intuitive and user-friendly, particularly for younger workers who are accustomed to modern cloud software.
You should also brainstorm some ways to maintain a strong company culture when employees aren’t physically together all the time. You could create workplace groups such as book clubs, put on virtual happy hours, or host offsite events to give employees a chance to interact in person.
In a recent survey, 87% of contact center employees reported high stress levels at their job. This kind of working environment isn’t conducive to long-term employment — it can often lead to burnout and turnover. One of the best ways to keep your agents invested in their jobs is to give them opportunities to progress in their careers.
You should make sure that career paths at your organization are standardized and that every agent has the same opportunity to rise up the ranks. You should also create measurable goals for achieving a promotion — do they need to hold a position for a certain amount of time, generate a certain number of sales, or resolve a certain number of customer complaints? This gives them a goal to work toward and assures them that their hard work and perseverance will be rewarded. It also removes any illusion of favoritism, as employees all have the same opportunities ahead of them.
Hate to break it to you, but your agents aren’t answering dozens of calls a day for the love of the game — the digits on the paycheck have something to do with it. Perhaps the most effective way to improve employee satisfaction is to make sure your agents are fairly compensated for the hard work they put in every day. This means evaluating your salary structure against the market and making sure you’re competitive.
You should also ensure that your benefits measure up. Just tossing a ping pong table in the breakroom won’t cut it — instead of gimmicky perks, ensure that you have solid fundamental benefits like 401k matching, quality healthcare coverage, wellness subsidies, and career development opportunities. It’s important to gather feedback from your team to learn what kinds of perks and benefits appeal to them so you can continue to improve.
In addition to base salary and benefits, you should consider offering performance-based bonuses. This will ensure your employees are working toward a goal every day, rather than phoning it in (pun intended!) But beware the pitfalls that come with bonus programs — you need to ensure that you’re fairly evaluating your employees’ performance. This can be difficult to do, since you can’t exactly listen to every phone call that comes in to your contact center (more on this in the next section.)
One of the best ways to improve agent retention is to ensure that every team member’s performance is fairly measured — and that they’re fairly compensated for their efforts. This starts with implementing a strong quality assurance (QA) program.
Some companies choose to listen to a small sample of their calls to perform quality assurance and score agent performance. However, this method is flawed — your quality assurance is only scratching the surface of the calls you receive. It’s probably not an accurate sample size to truly assess agent performance — you could be catching your best agents on their worst days or vice versa. Not to mention, listening to hundreds of calls and manually scoring them is tedious and extremely time-consuming.
To solve this problem and get visibility into every phone conversation, cutting-edge call centers use conversation intelligence to automate call QA. Invoca’s cloud-based solution uses AI to automatically QA every call. Call scores are based on your unique criteria, and you can set separate scorecards based on agent function — for example, you can create an AI scorecard for sales and a separate one for customer care.
Invoca’s automated QA gives you a complete picture of agent performance which can greatly improve morale. Your agents can rest assured that the scoring process is completely fair, unbiased, and transparent. This removes the noise from the process and allows them to focus on doing their jobs and performing at their best. It also helps them to rest assured that they’re receiving the correct bonus payouts and being fairly compensated for their work.
In many organizations, contact center agents don’t get regular feedback. In fact, in a recent study, only 17% of contact center agents said they receive feedback on their performance as frequently as once a week — the most common response was once per month. This lag in feedback can allow issues to fester and can slow down agent progress. With more regular performance assessments, agents can correct issues before they become habits and continuously grow their skills.
Invoca solves this problem by giving agents real-time feedback on their performance. After each call ends, Invoca gives your agents instant access to their AI-generated call scores. This gives them the autonomy to learn from their mistakes and self-coach. They’ll no longer have to wait until their next one-on-one with you to get coaching insights — they can continually improve their skills, and provide top-notch experiences that earn customer loyalty.
To help agents grow and advance in their careers, you need to give each of them personalized coaching to reinforce their strengths and help them overcome their weaknesses. This process can be time-consuming, especially if you have dozens or even hundreds of agents reporting to you.
Invoca improves the coaching process by making it easy to identify coaching opportunities within your call recordings and transcriptions. This saves you countless hours of listening to calls and allows you to focus on what’s most important — actually giving your agents feedback.
Another challenging part of the coaching process is that, as I mentioned earlier, more companies have adopted remote or hybrid working methods. This can make it harder to quickly and effectively give your agents feedback on their performance. But with Invoca, you can virtually coach your agents directly in the platform. You can highlight specific moments in the call transcriptions and @mention agents to give them feedback in real time. This allows them to see exactly where their pain points are and to easily correct issues on the fly.
Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you improve employee morale in the contact center? Check out these resources: