1. Engage Everyone Behind a Customer Vision
People want to know that the effort they put into delivering great customer service makes a difference. If they sense that it doesn’t, they will not be engaged with their work.
To show advisors how important their role is, a good place to start is by considering what messages you are putting out there to engage your customers. This might be:
- “We are an ethical and sustainable company”
- “We value your loyalty”
- “We offer unique experiences”
Then, build momentum around this vision, so advisors understand their role in carrying it out. You can base your contact centre culture, incentives and motivational games around your chosen vision to help do this.
To go one step further, add quality assurance (QA) criteria that exemplify your customer vision. This will ensure that advisors know what their purpose is: to deliver on your customer vision.
Add quality assurance (QA) criteria that exemplify your customer vision.
If your company does not have a clear purpose, look at it on a team level and see what you can do to create a team purpose that excites your people.
Remember, people join companies because of their purpose and they stay and are motivated by that very same purpose – so make it stick.
2. Spot Opportunities for Teamwork
Set team targets as well as individual targets. Promote peer-to-peer support. Create positions where little teams are in charge of games, process changes and customer feedback.
What do all of these initiatives have in common? They encourage people to talk to one another.
Initiatives like this are particularly important in the new remote-working environment and are very helpful in removing that sense of isolation – while giving leaders a chance to check in on their team, without it feeling like a “check-up”.
Other ideas to increase teamwork and team engagement include:
- Asking small groups of advisors to create a webinar, vlog or virtual quiz to share best practices
- Creating projects like sharing customer insights, coming up with new training modules or managing change, which can be run by small teams of advisors
- Establishing a team to come up with ways to celebrate special events like Halloween from Home. You could hold dress-up competitions or workspace decoration competitions to show off in your virtual meetings, for example.
This extra responsibility helps advisors to feel more valued by your organization, while you can also run other, more fun, team-based activities to create a greater sense of team cohesion.
In the lockdown, we’ve heard of remote teams coming together for everything from virtual coffee meetings to a virtual magic show. Having a couple of advisors in charge of creating fun activities like these is great, so you are not “prescribing the fun” and the team buy into them more.
3. Question Your Leadership Style
The famous is a cliché is: “People join an organization, but they leave a manager.” But, like most clichés, it is a cliché for a reason.
“Leaders should be more like coaches. They should be there to guide, support and help. They should not be there to tell you what to do,” says Richard.
Leaders are often former advisors, who just carry on doing what their leader did, without questioning things…
Yet, as is often the case in contact centres, not a lot of time is spent coaching team leaders. These leaders are often former advisors, who just carry on doing what their leader did, without questioning things. This is only natural, but it’s not the best approach.
So, what can you do to better prepare advisors for leadership?
For starters, before you appoint a new leader, it is good to assign “pet projects” that go beyond the usual advisor activities – like coaching new hires, organizing events or creating learning materials – to assess their key leadership skills.
Then, once you have decided on who would make a great leader, you can further coach them up by:
- Asking them to shadow one of your best team leaders
- Challenging them to get to know their team’s key motivators
- Coaching them on how to have difficult conversations – e.g. around absenteeism or health concerns
4. Be Flexible With Your Shifts
We want the team to be proactive in sharing ideas, engaging with our customer vision and having great conversations with customers. Advisors will be less likely to do that if they are wishing they were somewhere else.
Remote working has enabled that extra flexibility for many contact centres, but as an industry we can go further in recognizing people’s personal circumstances and building shifts around them.
A good way to do this is to ask the team: if you could have an hour break in your schedule, when would that be?
Then, your workforce planners can think about what they can do to accommodate that – to give advisors a quick break to pick up their children from school or watch their favourite TV programme etc.
This is just one example of how we can be more flexible with our shift patterns, in a way that provides agents with a better work/life balance, so the team can be more engaged at work. Other examples include:
- Creating an annualized hours strategy, in which advisors can bank hours
- Rethinking rotational shifts and presenting new options for advisors (as no one leads a rotational life)
- Make shift-swapping easy, through a page on your intranet or, even better, a desktop/mobile phone app
5. Consider How You Are Disengaging People
Most people go to work wanting to do a good job and wanting to be engaged, but often there are things that a company does that demotivate and disengage their teams.
Let’s call these things “hygiene factors”. These include rules relating to how people are treated, internal politics, egos and hierarchies. HR can be the biggest culprit for setting the rules without really knowing what goes on in the contact centre.
For example, many contact centres will have an employee handbook. Typically, these are just full of rules and words like “you must” or “you need to”.
Have you considered thinking about what message your handbook is sending to your people?
“I go into a lot of contact centres and organizations and I can near enough tell you about their culture, just from reading that handbook,” adds Rich.
When you look at the things that you do within your organization, are those things motivating and engaging your people?
With this example in mind, ask yourself: when you look at the things that you do within your organization, are those things motivating and engaging your people?
For instance, think about:
- Your QA programme
- Your bonus scheme
- Your annual appraisal scheme
- Your employee of the month
Hand on heart, are those actually motivating and engaging people or, actually, are they demotivating?
Those four examples are often a demotivator in companies, rather than a motivator, because they are not executed in the right way.
Take employee of the month schemes. Does it really matter to the people who win it? And does the value of that award outweigh the negative impact on the people that didn’t win but feel like they should have?
6. Ask for Employee Feedback (and Listen to It!)
Giving the team a voice is key to creating a sense of belonging – so employee feedback systems are important. But they must be two-way.
Respond to every piece of feedback, telling the team member what you will do in response to their feedback, as well as giving an empathetic response to advisors when there isn’t much that you can do.
To gather this employee feedback in a remote-working environment, you can:
- Hold virtual team focus groups
- Set up an intranet channel or Slack channel specifically for feedback
- Send out quick online surveys (two minutes max) for advisors to fill in
If you want the team to feel like an important part of the organization, it shouldn’t feel like you are hiding things…
Also, as leaders, you need to be open and transparent with the team about what is going on in the business and what the issues are. If you want the team to feel like an important part of the organization, it shouldn’t feel like you are hiding things from them.
Yet, when agents are working remotely, it can be really hard to get that message out. If, however, you have worked hard to create lots of different communication channels for your team, your task will be much easier.
Really managing these communication channels and keeping them busy is also important, to make sure that the team are connecting with one another. This will help you to avoid that sense of isolation, which really damages team engagement.
7. Introduce the Four Pillars of Team Engagement
We have an engagement committee that is open to the associates to be part of. They are divided into four pillars:
We also provide a list of virtual volunteer opportunities. Each associate has eight volunteer hours they can use, in increments of one, two, three or four hours.
8. Connect Your Team Outside of Work
Yes, this is hard to do at the moment, but we have got advisors to connect virtually – outside of working hours – with a “Recipe Roundup and Cook Off“.
In this bonding activity, team members submit their favourite recipe, and these are compiled into a team cookbook. Or your team could choose to host a cook-off contest!
Cookbooks can be compiled into Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, or whatever platform your team is comfortable with.
While a taste test cook-off may be impossible, team members can share their culinary creations with the group and give their (not-so) secret tips for perfecting their dish.
Teams can host their cook-off, using contact centre software, in a virtual meeting setting and vote with polls or create a survey.
For even further team collaboration you could ask your team members to try another team member’s dish, take a picture of it and share the photo and any tips on preparing the dish with the team.
Thanks to Karen
9. Conduct Stay Interviews
We’ve all heard of “exit interviews”; however, something I’ve picked up is “stay interviews”. This is usually in an informal, virtual setting, where we just have a coffee with the advisor and ask them question like:
- How are you doing?
- What are you enjoying?
- What are you not enjoying so much?
Also use this time to ask for their input and ideas, reminding them that their thoughts are important to the company to help keep them engaged and motivated.
10. Reinforce Learning With Fun
I use virtual Connect Four and Battleships (battlecars as I’m in the vehicle industry) to review what new hires have learned, but also bring some fun into the training.
I also bring in a “phone a friend” option whereby if the trainee is stuck on a question, they can ask a fellow colleague who is fully trained and established in their role, which then helps them feel more part of the team and allows the new advisors to get to know their colleagues.
I find that this also helps the trained team members to feel empowered, knowing they are helping trainees.
11. Start a Virtual Buddy System
We have created a virtual buddy system though video calls and chatrooms that can allow people to just “turn to a colleague” for a question, advice or a chat.
By pairing up buddies, you can ensure that advisors always have someone other than their team leader to turn to when they are in need of a little extra support or guidance.
We have had a great response from the team!
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