How to Increase Call Center Agent Productivity
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Enhancing call center agent productivity can seem like an overwhelming task. However, there are actually a few very basic changes that you can make that will have a huge impact on how your call center agents engage with their work, address customer issues and collaborate with co-workers. The 10 tips suggested below can all result in more productive agents – and a more productive call center!
1. Enhance agent autonomy
Allowing call center agents a certain degree of autonomy can have a big impact on agent and call center productivity. Research has found that more autonomous agents are often more capable of effectively addressing customers’ needs by being flexible, responsive and personal (Oldham, 1996). This decreases the likelihood that the agent will have to transfer the call to another department or request managerial input. This can have a huge impact on streamlining call center workflow and will free up managers to attend to more pressing issues. Additionally, allowing competent agents the freedom to be flexible in their response style and resolve issues creatively can bolster their morale, work engagement and productivity.
2. Increase agent participation
Many call center managers have observed that agents that feel as if they are a valuable member of the team are more motivated, engaged with their work and effective – and as a result more productive. A recent study confirms this. This study found that increasing employee involvement in company decision making enhances workplace productivity (Wolf and Zwick, 2002).
Many companies are aware of this relationship and are including their call center agents in the decision making process alongside higher ups. For example, Andrew Harvey, Operational Solutions Architect at RESPONSE stated that increasing call center agent participation in team meetings “has created a very positive environment in which our people understand their vital role in the success of our business. As a result, we have benefited from enhanced productivity in terms of schedule adherence, conformance and other productivity metrics as well as improvements in employee engagement and customer satisfaction.” Make sure your agents feel as if they are a vital member of your team by increasing their participation in decision making and you will benefit from a huge boost in productivity.
3. Leverage idle time
A recent survey conducted by Knowlagent revealed that call center agents are idle an average of 49 minutes per day and 76 percent of survey respondents felt it was important for agents to make the best use of this idle time. Knowlagent CEO Matt McConnell recommends that managers allocate unproductive idle time to deploy “off-phone activities” to improve profitability and productivity. Importantly, these “off-phone tasks” should be completed in less than 3 minutes as that is the average duration of idle time. As a manager, break down larger tasks into smaller pieces so that agents can tackle them one at a time and watch as your agent and team productivity skyrockets!
4. Allow agents to take frequent short breaks
Stress within the call center can have a significant impact on the agent and call center. When stressors within the call center become significant, they result in decreased productivity, job satisfaction and health – all of which have a major impact on the call center. It is therefore important to allow agents to take frequent short breaks when their stress levels increase, when they need to get some air, eat a snack or use the restroom. Providing them with this flexibility will empower them with a greater of a sense of control over their experience of stress and increase productivity.
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5. Provide agents with access to real-time metrics
Agents that have access to real-time information like how many callers are in the queue, the status of other agents, longest waiting time in the queue, average abandonment time and average waiting time can better adapt to the call center’s needs and make more informed decisions based on this information. For example, Scotts Company provides their call center agents with real-time metrics so they can see how well they are doing in comparison to their coworkers. “If we present this information to them, the vast majority want to do better,” says Ed Billmaier, director of consumer services. “It’s a natural incentive we found to get them motivated to say, ‘Here’s where I am. Look how much better everybody else is doing.’ And they take action to boost their own performance.” Knowledge is power and when you provide agents with the right information, their motivation and performance will improve as a result.
6. Provide agents with comprehensive information about the caller
One of the biggest factors influencing handle time is how long it takes the agent to find relevant information to help the caller. Call center software that integrates with business tools and provides comprehensive information about the caller in a unified workspace can significantly decrease average handle time and increase agent productivity. When agents have all the information they need popup in the browser in front of them as the phone rings, long gone will be the days of searching through multiple systems looking for the information they need to resolve the customer’s issue.
7. Enhance the call center work environment
The work environment of a call center can significantly impact agent productivity. Loop Customer Management claims that their call center floor layout directly impacts productivity. “There are no individual offices within Loop’s sites and all staff, including the management and director teams, work within an open-plan environment. The benefits are clear, with Loop enjoying high retention, motivation, and empowerment resulting in performance improvements in our teams.” So the next time you have the opportunity to change your call center layout, consider the impact that it can have on agent and team productivity.
8. Have a “Genius Hour”
One way to increase employee productivity is to make them more involved in creating improvements in processes and new workflow solutions. This will make agents feel their work has greater purpose. Software Advice, a company that evaluates call center software, suggests creating a “genius hour” every week has a positive impact on agent and call center productivity as agents are more invested in their work and feel as though they are an integral member of the team.
9. Increase awareness of agent’s impact on end-customers
Another strategy for enhancing agent productivity is to raise their awareness of their impact on end-customers. Dr. Adam Grant, a management professor at Wharton conducted a series of studies to evaluate call center agent productivity. He found that agents exposed to the end-customer face-to-face increased their weekly phone time by an average of 142 percent and they raised 171 percent more money whereas agent who did not meet the end-customer had no change in results. Dr. Grant suggests connecting agents directly with end-customers, showcasing customer photos, sharing customer stories and having agents describe their own positive experiences with customers as all can increase productivity.
10. Provide incentives and rewards
The goals of incentives and rewards program should be to motivate employees to perform optimally, foster personal growth and development, increase employee satisfaction with their work and keep talented employees from leaving. If successful, all of these will have an impact on productivity within the call center. If you are interested in starting or revamping your employee rewards program check out these blog posts for helpful information.
- What You Should Know About Employee Recognition and Rewards
- 20 Ways to Increase Employee Motivation Using Rewards
- How to (and Not to) Shape Employee Behavior Using Rewards
- The Top 8 Reasons Why Rewards Fail to Motivate
Increasing agent productivity isn’t as simple as asking them to work longer hours, take fewer breaks, or work on the weekends. It requires enhancing their engagement with their work, their perception of being a valuable member of the team, rewarding performance, encouraging them to take appropriate breaks, optimizing the software they use and streamlining business processes. If you can take a careful approach to tackling these focus areas, you can reap huge rewards in employee productivity.