Why don’t more companies listen to their front line employees?
Most contact centre operations have performance data coming out of their ears, tracking an array of metrics to drive effectiveness. Many also capture customer feedback and analyse this insight to enhance service levels. But what many organisations forget is that there is a huge untapped resource of intelligence just waiting to be asked the question: ‘what’s going on and how can we do things better’?
Call centres are people businesses, with 90% of costs going on salaries and the bulk of managerial effort focused on keeping people working to an optimum level. But those people you have trusted to answer your phones and act as brand guardians are also a valuable source of business intelligence. In some ways they probably have a better working knowledge of systems, day-to-day process and what customers are saying than even you.
So why don’t the majority of contact centres tap into this resource? We all preach about the value of customer feedback and how much we can transform our business if we use it correctly, so why aren’t we also putting equal stock in finding out what our people think? And let me be clear, I’m not talking about a generic corporate wellbeing survey that is a capture all for the business. I’m talking about truly listening to our front-facing people and understanding what is helping or hindering them to do the best job they can for our customers.
There are a few progressive organisations I have come across who regularly survey their colleagues to dip test employee engagement, but sadly these are few and far between. The reality is most organisations pull together an annual corporate survey which adds in the contact centre as one of the many departments within the business. The questions asked are too general and suggestions and comments are rarely acted upon. The process becomes painful for both employees and managers alike and fails to deliver any meaningful insight.
So how can organisations do things differently?
How positively and proactively involved your people are has a direct impact on the success of your business. Not only do engaged employees believe that they can influence most areas of the business including costs, revenue and quality, but they can also affect customer satisfaction, retention and therefore profitability.
Monitoring and measuring employee engagement and, just as importantly, what drives it, allows you to deploy the most relevant management approach to teams and individuals to get the most out of them.
Putting together an employee engagement survey is actually very straightforward. By utilising a similar methodology to your customer survey process, you can measure engagement month-on-month and year-on-year against previous scores. If you can benchmark this insight against your peers and across industry even better.
Monitoring achievement, recognition and development (the three key drivers of motivation) means that you can then drive the right behaviours to deliver business success.
It’s important to avoid survey fatigue, so I’d encourage companies to look at the following areas as a starting point:
- General satisfaction
By surveying staff on a regular basis with a series of 3-4 questions behind each area, the volume of data enables correlations and trends to be identified. What’s more, asking staff to leave comments allows you to pull out great ideas, understand common challenges and map out focus areas for development.
Insight doesn’t have to be collected using traditional means. One contact centre I came across has started using a fixed based tablet at the entrance to the centre to anonymously dip test the frame of mind of agents at the start and end of each shift. Naturally this won’t tell you everything, but it’s certainly a novel way to understand the mood on the floor. Other companies have used focus groups, employee forums and idea competitions to great effect.
Insight to action: how to capitalise on the feedback?
Imagine seeing the below results in your contact centre. 62% of employees tell you that the technology in place is hindering them providing a helpful level of service. Do you think – well our people always moan about the systems, nothing new there; or do you use this intelligence to start building a plan to start reviewing how you can start fixing the problem?
This insight will provide a manager with an indicator of where their priority and focus should be. Is there truly a problem with the systems or is there a training issue that needs to be addressed? If we find out that the technology is not up to scratch how do we use this insight to build a business case for further IT investment? The person who holds the purse strings will value the fact you have quantified the feedback and investigated the issue.
Once you are collecting feedback on a regular basis, you may also want to consider linking this insight to some of the other parts of the operation. There is a clear link between employee engagement and both operational productivity and C-SAT. But how do you find correlations and meaning that will help you make informed business decisions?
The below example demonstrates how those managers who recognise and celebrate the success of their agents regularly score higher on customer satisfaction scores relating to engagement.
By measuring employee survey scores in parallel with CSAT and KPI data you will for example see teams where your advisors have scored manager recognition low that will also score low on NPS.
You can then use this feedback to work with team leaders on how they can better manage their teams and your C-SAT and NPS scores will improve.
A step further
Like all insight programmes, if you don’t act on the feedback you run the risk of disengaging your employees further and the whole exercise will be a huge waste of time. However, if you can create visibility that the insight collected has value to the business you will quickly create a level of employee confidence that their voices have been heard.
At I mentioned, some contact centres are already ahead of the curve and the merits of listening to employees are there for all to see. These companies have capitalised and found significant business value in the following areas:
- Increase in customer satisfaction scores
- Reduced agent churn rates
- More involvement in team building activities, such as charity events
- Improved training effectiveness
- Operational cost reduction
With staff engagement driving both CSAT and productivity, improving employee engagement has continued to climb the business agenda. Being able to effectively measure it and manage it to improve business performance can help you become more competitive in customer service, efficiency and recruiting staff.
Sales & Marketing Manager