Employee ExperienceLeadershipStrategy

Creating highly engaged teams in call centers; Is it mission IMPOSSIBLE?

Crossroads of possible and impossible

Creating teams that are engaged in call centers often seems like mission impossible.

To be fair, it is not easy to engage people when the work is standardised, there is little to no autonomy and your time is controlled down to the second.  

With those conditions how do you succeed in:

  • Developing your reputation as an employer,
  • Attracting the best candidates,
  • Keep your talent

Thankfully, human resource teams have a powerful tool to leverage that they did not have before.

It’s a powerful tool that can make a huge difference, whether it’s in attracting, engaging and retaining their talent or to increase the organisations performance.

The evolution of call centers

To really understand this, it is important to be clear on the context that exists in call centers, and their origins.

The first call centers appeared at the end of the XX century, created on the same model that factories were based on with similar objectives; Answer the most amount of calls possible for as little cost as possible. It was the industrialization of the service industry in mass production.   

Factories have evolved since the time of Ford where their approach was to offer one single color of car and reduced the creation of the automobile with the Taylor principles to standardize and divide the workflow. The approach of the Japanese companies to factories revolutionized the industry and put the priority on the client satisfaction and the participation of the employees to create continuous improvements.

Call centers are living similar changes with the focus being put on the creation of streamlined and effortless interactions across multiple channels and empowerment of the workforce. (To learn more on this topic, check out our article here )

They are more than they used to be, and in fact no longer correspond to the image we recall and that the public continues to imagine. The work is much more rich and complex then you would have imagined.

Creating engaged teams in call centers; Completely Possible

In the past, engagement activities and efforts for call center employees were focused on making up for the nature of the work. Standard and very routine tasks, no autonomy and a culture of control that set the tone.

The human resource teams needed to be creative and use all the resources available to them to succeed in attracting, engaging, and retaining those employees despite the reality of the call center. They now have an extra tool at their disposition; creating an environment of responsabilisation and mobilizing the employees.

The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results

It is no longer a question of compensation. Instead, those teams now help the leaders of the call centers to discover and open the potential in their teams to develop customer relationships that are sustainable and profitable.

It is often surprising the effect that giving responsibility and encouraging participation in continuous improvement projects can have on the agents who work in the call centers. The quality of the interactions goes up, engagement goes up, teamwork develops, changes are adopted much faster and communication and collaboration across channels and departments improves.

Engaging employees in call centers in today’s world is possible. More than that though, it is a rite of passage that every company who wants to deliver on their customer promise and their employee promise must go through.

Controlling every second, standardization of every word an agent says, the separation between those that think and those that do no longer have their place today. When they continue, they are no longer serving the interests of the organization; they are instead the relics of the past practices and decisions that perpetuate in an endless circle around with the saying “But….We’ve always done things that way.”

Strategy’s and tactics to engage call center employees

The tactics to realize this change are not entirely new, though they do need to be adapted for the particular reality of the call center environment.

What you find in these tactics are:

  • Daily team huddles and regular team meetings,
  • Continuous improvement activities in customer relationships, processes and systems,
  • Co-Development and mentoring between the employees,  
  • More autonomy and higher latitudes for employees,
  • New ways of measuring performance,
  • Coaching and employee development processes and plans,
  • New abilities and techniques for frontline managers.

It always seems impossible, until it’s done

We should not minimize the impact that this change represents.

To succeed, it will be important to design a strategy to manage the change plans to progressively develop the potential of the teams and the organization to succeed and deliver the expected benefits.  

When it is organized and executed successfully, the first small successful changes lay the foundations and create excitement to bring the next ones, and the next ones in an overall process…all while the organization is transforming.

It’s an important change in the way things are done that will bring a sustainable improvement to the financial and human results:

  • Higher employee engagement
  • Improved retention rates
  • Ease of finding quality candidates
  • Improved business results (costs and revenues)
  • Improved brand and employer reputation

Does this approach speak to and inspire you?

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