Customer experience (CX) is the last sustainable source of differentiation, according to Gartner. Having frontline employees who are engaged and motivated is essential to deliver on your CX goals – but why do call centers find it so difficult to do?

Call centers have traditionally been seen as a necessary overhead – any efforts to optimize them focused on efficiency gains around key metrics like average handling time (AHT) or resolution rates. But this approach of ‘score chasing’ is inherently bad for customers – as Goodhart’s Law states, ‘when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure’.

These kinds of targets result in unwanted behaviors from agents and have unintended consequences for customers too as agents rush through calls to ‘game’ their AHT or cherry-pick just the easiest of support issues to improve their resolution rate.

If you’re a customer with a complicated or difficult issue, forget about it – you’re at at the back of the queue because you won’t help agents meet their targets.

These call center targets have traditionally focused on the wrong kind of data – operational data. This data tells you what’s happened in the past, such as how many calls were resolved or how long the average customer spent on the phone with an agent.

So you know that your customers spent an average 3 minutes rather than 5 minutes on the phone with an agent – so what? Do you know how they felt? Were they happy with the service? Will they buy from you again?

Operational data is simply not enough to understand the emotions, sentiment and beliefs of your customers, nor can it help you identify improvements that will drive CX outcomes like customer loyalty and spend.

That’s where Experience Data is essential in any call center strategy. By incentivizing employees based on customer experience outcomes such as CSAT or NPS, you can move your call center from simply being a necessary overhead chasing meaningless operational metrics to being a key pillar in delivering on the customer experience.

Done right, it can improve the relationship you have with customers, turn customers into promoters and drive employee engagement improvements across the organization.

Motivating service employees to deliver on your CX goals

Moving towards a more customer-centric approach that puts customer outcomes at the forefront of your agents’ targets requires buy-in from the whole organization and a concerted effort with agents themselves to embed the new approach.

In recent years many organizations have focussed on gamification as a way to do that. However, research has shown that this approach only has short-term benefits1. It all comes down to different types of motivation – of which there are two main types:

  • Autonomous motivation – what we might think of as true Engagement, this involves internalizing goals and integrating company values into work
  • Controlled motivation – this is motivation created through external factors like rewards or influences such as gamification

Research has found that in jobs with so-called ‘low motivating potential’ like call center work, controlled motivation through gamification can indeed lead to performance improvements. But, its impact can wear off in as little as a week compared to autonomous motivation, which tends to sustain its positive impact for longer.

Autonomous motivation has also been shown to lead to higher initiative amongst staff, something that has been directly linked to call center staff performance1.

So to really have an impact over the long term, organizations need to look further than just gamification (though it can still play a role) in order to embed and operationalize the kind of customer-centric behaviors that will impact their bottom line.

Here’s how to promote and embed your customer-centric values throughout the organization:

So to really have an impact over the long term, organizations need to look further than just gamification (though it can still play a role) in order to embed and operationalize the kind of customer-centric behaviors that will impact their bottom line.

Here’s how to promote and embed your customer-centric values throughout the organization:

  • Help employees understand how they contribute to your CX objectives through targeted communications and alignment from the leadership team to the frontline
  • Be transparent in your metrics to show progress on your CX metrics to everyone in the organization through public dashboards and regular reporting
  • Understand what drives engagement in your employees – this will be different for every organization, so it’s important to have an employee experience program in place alongside your CX program to really understand the key drivers of the experience for your staff

Engaged, motivated call center staff that understand the customer-centric behaviors the organization expects and how they can deliver on them – that is the ultimate goal of any call center.

Getting there requires a CX Management program to measure, baseline and optimize your core CX metrics as well as an employee experience program that helps you to identify the key drivers of motivation and performance amongst your frontline staff.

There are plenty of tools you can use too, from the traditional annual employee engagement survey to regular pulse surveys and even single-question pop-ups on your company intranet allowing staff to endorse each other.

Done right, you can drive motivation, retention and performance amongst your staff and, when combined with your CX program, you can understand which improvements in the employee experience will impact the experience for your customers too. An easy place to start improving your call center experience is to start measuring the experience you are delivering customers, we made it easy to set up a survey with a customer service survey for call centers template.

 

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References:
Gagné, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational Behaviour, 26(6), 331–362.