Recognition is one of the most important factors in delivering excellent customer service, and one of the most often overlooked.
Put simply, whatever systems and technology you have in place, your agents are on the frontline, and their performance is what makes the difference between service that is merely adequate and an experience that drives positive feedback and long-term loyalty.
Essentially, a good employee experience is central to delivering a good customer experience. Also, given the high turnover rates in the contact centre industry, recognition can be a powerful weapon in keeping your best staff and ensuring they remain happy and motivated.
That’s why most contact centres have a recognition program of some sort in place. The key point here is how it is measured. It must be clear and transparent so that agents know what they must do to win, ensuring it is viewed as fair and open to all.
More importantly, you need to pick the right metrics to reward success to encourage the right behaviours. For example, if you simply base winning on the number of completed calls or emails, or Average Handling Time (AHT), agents could be tempted to cherry-pick easier/faster queries above more complex ones. You also need to adopt a mixture of metrics to get a balanced scorecard to avoid inadvertently favouring one type of agent (such as telephone) over another.
The key to success is to look at the metrics that matter to your customers, other agents, and the business. These could include:
- Courtesy and politeness, contributing to building empathy with customers
- Helpfulness to other staff and customers
- Following guidelines and using templates, particularly in regulated industries
- Quality of answers, especially those on digital channels. Are they grammatically correct and without spelling mistakes?
- Contributions to the business in terms of feedback on customer concerns and areas where customer service answers can improve.
Here are some recognition ideas that really increase morale, not just of the winner but of the entire team:
1. Employee of the Month and Year
Nearly all contact centres have an Employee of the Month award, with the winner’s picture prominently displayed at the entrance to the building. Many take it further with an annual award that recognizes sustained excellence too. Where companies can differentiate is in the additional rewards they provide, either as part of these programs or on a more constant basis. For example, in one contact centre, the employee of the month was awarded one of the very few spaces in the company car park – and what’s more, it was right next to the CEO’s car, providing the chance to chat to him on the way into the office. Another company gave an extra week’s paid holiday to its employee of the year, treating them as if they were one of its top salespeople.
2. Recognize and support
It is fair to say that the job of customer service agents is hard, with hours that are often antisocial and relatively low pay. So recognize this and put in place the support that agents need. From nurseries so that parents can bring their babies into work or simply offering free food and drinks in the break rooms. All of this goes into making your business a great place to work and recognizes the efforts that agents put in every day.
3. Show senior management cares
In addition to the employee of the month, and there are plenty of other ways that senior management can recognize the importance of agents. For example, make sure that it is part of every manager’s induction to visit the contact centre, and arrange for the CEO and other directors to work a shift regularly in a customer-facing role.
4. Give people responsibility
While there are options for promotion in the contact centre, this may not be a key motivation for every employee. So, look to other ways that you can show high performers that you value their work and knowledge. For example, buddy them up with new joiners so that they can help train and get them up to speed or use them as brand ambassadors across the entire company. This recognizes their strengths and increases everyone’s motivation.
Highlighting the efforts of contact centre staff clearly needs to be an ongoing, year-round process. Only by consistently showing that you recognize and value the work your agents do will you deliver the high levels of customer service you need to differentiate against competitors, retain customers and drive growth.
A version of this post first appeared in on the Eptica, An Enghouse Company blog here.