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Nine call center initiatives to consider

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The Team at CallMiner

September 16, 2021

call center initiatives

An effective call center initiative can help to inspire and support your agents to do their best in helping customers with their issues. There are numerous ways to go about optimizing agent performance at your call center.

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From directly rewarding great performance to leveraging conversation analytics in novel ways, possibilities for driving lasting improvement abound. However, there are a number of unique call center initiatives worth considering that you may not have heard of before.

These initiatives can help boost team morale and foster a sense of achievement among your call center agents, improve call center efficiency, and more. Read on to discover these initiatives and how they can be implemented within your organization.

1. Focus on a single KPI

It is easy for call center management to measure ever greater numbers of key performance indicators (KPIs) in an effort to improve call center performance metrics. However, toning things down dramatically and focusing on just one salient metric can actually make improvement much easier for your team.

You should continue to measure all the metrics that matter to your business. However, from a management perspective, focusing on a single metric and implementing initiatives designed to improve it allows leaders to effectively communicate goals and objectives to their teams. Once you’ve achieved a satisfactory benchmark, you can shift your focus to a different metric for continuous improvement. At the same time, you can keep tabs on previous focus metrics to identify sudden shifts in performance or pinpoint changes that are having a detrimental impact on specific goals. 

Why it works

A large variety of KPIs can be disorienting. Focusing on one can help highlight what matters most to your company.

Implementing this call center initiative

Choose a KPI that closely aligns with your current organizational goals and use it as a sole benchmark for agent performance. Cutting back on KPIs can also help combat misuse. You may also choose to focus on two KPIs to measure performance and quality separately.

As mentioned above, it’s helpful to continue to measure all relevant metrics, while focusing on a single metric for a month or quarter for targeted improvements. Choosing a different focus metric for each month or quarter allows for effective, focused goal-setting and can be used in combination with gamification initiatives (which we’ll discuss later in this post) to motivate agents and encourage buy-in to your ongoing business performance improvement initiatives.

Give agents real-time feedback with automated scorecards so they know precisely where they stand in terms of meeting their objectives.

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2. Build a buddy system

A buddy system pairs knowledgeable team members with those who would most benefit from their guidance. By building out a robust buddy system, your contact center can improve performance across the board and develop latent abilities among top performers in the process.

Having the opportunity to serve as a mentor for new hires can also help to foster leadership skills among high-performance agents who may be good candidates for management roles in the future. The experience gained working with new hires and being tuned in to common pain points and shortcomings in onboarding and training provide valuable insights for your company’s future leaders.

Why it works

Less confident agents, especially new hires, can lean on the strengths of experienced talent, leading to better caller outcomes and faster improvement across your team. It’s also an excellent way to cultivate future management talent by fostering leadership skills among your experienced call center agents.

Implementing this call center initiative

Emphasize the importance of teamwork and collaboration, while incorporating the practice into your company's wider culture.

3. Gamification

Time flies when you’re having fun. This old axiom holds true even in the most rigorous of contact center environments. Turning tedious tasks into a game can completely change your agents' perspectives regarding their work.

Why it works

Gamification can be used to reward individual or team achievements, and it’s an effective way to encourage healthy competition and cultivate a fun, rewarding work atmosphere.

Whether you're offering recognition for product expertise or presenting top performers with small gifts for going above and beyond on sales calls, making work more enjoyable can only help in maintaining motivation and enthusiasm among your agents.

Implementing this call center initiative

The key to implementing gamification in the call center is to set clear and transparent goals from the start so that agents know exactly what they should be working towards. You may choose to use gamification to improve on a focus KPI (discussed earlier in this post) each month or quarter.

Offer rewards that are meaningful to your call center agents for the best results. While monetary bonuses are often welcomed by agents, some employees may find other rewards more meaningful, such as public recognition for their achievements, workplace perks such as a dedicated parking space for a month, quarter, or year, or even fun off-site team-building activities or celebrations held inside or outside the office.

Do not dismiss offering real rewards for stellar achievements. Even small generosities can make a massive difference in retaining talent over the long haul.

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4. Highlight positive feedback

Praise makes people feel good. Unfortunately, customer thanks and praise can all too often end up pushed under a rug in a busy contact center environment. As mentioned, some call center agents respond best to public recognition of their achievements, but you don’t have to limit the use of that tactic to your gamification initiatives.

Instead, make a point to highlight positive feedback received from team leaders, management, and customers. Encourage leadership to recognize agents who go above and beyond to meet goals, provide exceptional service to customers, or simply get the job done. Being recognized for their efforts gives call center agents a sense of achievement and helps to motivate them to perform at their best every day.

Why it works

Instead of tracking just the negative feedback agents receive, you can log the positive statements as well to motivate them to keep providing the best service they can for callers.

Implementing this call center initiative

Work positive feedback from management into the mix when delivering results to agents as extra incentive to continue doing their best. An estimated 69 percent of employees do their best work when they feel their efforts are being acknowledged.

You might consider installing a public recognition board to highlight agent achievements or implement a praise submission box that allows team members and managers alike to submit positive feedback for other team members. These submissions can even be anonymous to encourage team members to participate.

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5. Offer fixed-term contracts for peak periods

Before peak season, many contact centers bring in new hires to compensate. Offering a fixed-term contract makes expectations clear for both you and prospective hires ahead of time. Of course, for candidates who are looking for long-term employment opportunities, understanding whether there’s a possibility for full-time employment following the fixed-term period can also help to motivate them to put their best foot forward. 

Why it works

When new hires are brought aboard to help with high-pressure seasonal call volume, many may not know what to expect. This can lead to burnout, miscommunication, and lost talent at times when additional agents are most needed.

Implementing this call center initiative

Set clear terms for duration and scope of work in your fixed-term contracts to keep temporary agents from feeling cheated.

If there’s a possibility of being hired on a full-time basis following the fixed-term period, you should make this known during the recruitment process as well. Additionally, benefits such as being given first priority for subsequent hiring rounds can be a motivating factor for temporary call center agents.

6. Encourage reporting of conversation exceptions

Not all conversations proceed along expected avenues. Calls that deviate from the norm can quickly throw new and nervous agents for a loop, leading to lost time and unnecessary transfers. Encouraging agents to document conversations that draw them out beyond the boundaries of their scripts can help in preparing others to handle such situations more effectively.

Why it works

It is difficult to foresee every turn a customer call can take in training sessions. By documenting exceptions to the rules of engagement, you can further enhance your training processes to cover them.

Implementing this call center initiative

Preserving information on difficult or unique calls can be a great way to highlight successes and deficiencies in team members' performance. One effective way to ensure these calls are documented for use in future training or coaching sessions is to implement a conversation analytics solution that offers recorded audio, such as CallMiner Eureka, which also offers features such as agent coaching, omnichannel analysis, and more for complete performance management. 

7. Flexible shifts

Allowing for greater flexibility in shift scheduling can make a major difference in how your team members approach their work. There are many interesting approaches to scheduling that are worth exploring to find what works best for your agents. As an example, essential working hours can help optimize shifts for peak periods, while allowing individuals to allocate hours to mornings and nights as needed.

Why it works

Flexible schedules make it easier for agents to find a fitting work-life balance, particularly as many contact centers shifted to a remote work environment to adapt in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexible scheduling allows call center agents to avoid taking on work at odd hours that they cannot sustain over the long term while also allowing call centers to ensure adequate staffing across all shifts.

Implementing this call center initiative

Incentivizing choosing tough or unpopular shifts can help to ensure you are always adequately staffed during difficult periods.

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8. Try retraining

Onboarding new hires gets them ready to take on live customer calls on their own. However, not all new agents will retain the information they have been taught at first. Consistent training is essential to their success and your callers' collective satisfaction. Retraining helps recent hires and established customer service reps absorb niche details without succumbing to information overload.

Why it works

By retraining agents on subjects they’re familiar with, you can help them truly hone their abilities and continuously improve performance over time.

Additionally, cross-training call center agents on handling different types of calls or skills that enable them to work in multiple teams or departments can help motivate and engage your call center agents. Developing new skills allows call center agents to contribute in different ways, giving them a sense of empowerment and providing opportunities for future job growth.

Implementing this call center initiative

Schedule retraining sessions and workshops for talent around the time in their careers that your center's data shows their enthusiasm begins to wane. Solidifying their skill sets can rekindle your agents' interests in their work.

You can also pair this initiative with the buddy system initiative discussed earlier in this post. By pairing new hires with experienced agents, you can help new agents become more proficient at handling calls effectively while also cultivating future leaders. Another way to approach this is to pair agents with differing skillsets so that they can learn from one another and diversify their skills and abilities.

9. Host team-building events

Bolstering team morale is always a worthy initiative at any call center. Reducing agent churn can help improve the atmosphere within your contact center, thus improving the quality of service your agents are able to deliver to customers calling in. Team-building events such as potlucks, annual parties, and retreats help transform your contact center into a positive part of your team members' lives.

Why it works

Even simple office space games help to break up the monotony of daily work, and the emphasis on teamwork helps agents to see their roles in a more positive light.

Implementing this call center initiative

Having agents engage in activities such as guessing each other's childhood photos can help them get to know each other better. Seek out activities that bring your team members closer together to produce positive change in their daily performance.

These nine call center initiatives are just a few of the many efforts you can undertake to cultivate a positive and productive work culture. By empowering your agents to develop new skills, offering flexibility in scheduling to support work-life balance, and making work fun through gamification and recognition, you’ll create a supportive atmosphere that cultivates high-performing call center agents and future leaders.

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