The perfect formula to create a contact center culture lies within leaders’ ability to listen to agents’ needs and balance it with the needs of the business. Although both needs may not always be aligned, the duty to create a positive experience for agents inadvertently produces awesome customer experiences.
In 2012, we started the Education at Work journey to bring together two different worlds: a contact center created on the basis of a non-profit. As our company grew, we identified ways that we could to fine-tune our culture to represent the energetic, tech-savvy, and ambitious agents who brings purpose to our mission to reduce student debt.
Wondering how you can change the atmosphere at your contact center? Here are four thoughts that you can put into motion:
Help agents begin the day with a smile
Each morning shift, our agents are greeted with 90s throwback music (compliments of Pandora!) and high-fives from our senior leadership team. The expression of appreciation helps agents know that their work is valued and creates an opportunity for our contact center leaders and agents on the front lines to connect and build rapport with one another.
Bottom Line: Positivity is contagious. Spread energy and appreciation to help boost morale and build relationships.
Promote structure through teamwork and friendly competition
At the beginning of 2015, we set out to build community and competition among agents and supervisors in our largest retail program. Each supervisor created and decorated their own space on the floor to encourage agents to sit with their team members and be positioned for open communication and updates from their supervisors. Supervisors promoted team-specific incentives to create healthy competition among each team based on customer satisfaction scores. The outcome helped agents reconnect or network with other agents in their cohort and create access to their supervisor while creating an atmosphere of good ole’ fun.
Bottom Line: Structure does not have to equal being strict. The concept of gamification and incentives help push past resistance to change and gives agents a sense of competition that helps them improve their performance.
Change the language to change the atmosphere
Our mission and purpose to exist as a contact center is centralized around our workforce, which is comprised of college students. Instead of bogging agents down with traditional lingo, we incorporate elements of a college campus that remind them of their purpose of being at Education at Work: to gain transferable skills in customer service and reduce student debt through school and work performance. Supervisors are advisors, the break room is a student union, the recruitment office is Educational Outreach and our facility is not just a place of work – it is a campus.
Bottom Line: The power of language creates a difference in a contact center. Design language that reflects the culture, motivation, and goals of your agents.
Create opportunities for agents to hone their passions and talents
Burnout is real. Although most of our agents work within our part-time student model with an average of four hour shifts, taking high call volumes can leave agents desiring something more than their contact center duties. We offer students alternative ways to become involved with our company through our campus ambassador program, event planning and student-run Twitter account and blog. Our contact center is based on a social responsibility of helping reduce student loan debt, and we promote opportunities for teams to get involved in community projects like the Special Olympics auction and walks for the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. These opportunities allow agents to give back to their community and add additional skills to their resumes.
Bottom Line: Engagement is everything. When agents are provided opportunities to become involved outside of their traditional role, it can help change their attitude about work and add value to their experience.
This is only the beginning
Creating a culture in a contact center (especially a start-up) requires the willingness to accept trial and error. It can take months or years to perfect; however, the goal should always be to progress towards an environment that promotes the empowerment of your workforce. We’ve experienced bumps in the road; but, we’ve gained success in our efforts to create a fun, friendly, and engaging atmosphere to work. Despite the hustle and bustle of a contact center, it’s important to ask questions, listen closely, and observe your environment. After all, a contact center culture in progress is a culture moving forward.