A call center is only as successful as its agents. If you want high tenure at your call center (and everyone with a call center should want that), you have to build a culture that drives growth, productivity and compliance. Here are ten tips to help cultivate the culture of success.
1. Always do what’s in the best interest of the consumer.
At Digital Media Solutions, LLC (DMS), all of our call center agents are trained to act in the best interests of the consumers. Our agents spend the time to understand who they’re talking with and what is important to them, and then they make the right matches between consumers and clients. The reality is the people focus on what you focus on. So to provide a more holistic view of their roles, we help keep the end goal (enrolled students, closed loans, etc.) always in sight. We are trying to change the conversation from a transaction based phone call to the agent understanding that they are making a difference in someone’s life. As a result, our agents are also acting in the best interest of our clients.
2. Keepin’ it 100.
A strong call center is hyper-focused on quality and compliance. Compliance can and should be monitored manually and with technology via automated processes. But it has to be about more than checking the box. We use compliance as a focal point for our team, so we’re talking compliance all day long. And we hold our agents accountable to meeting compliance expectations. In fact, the kickoff meetings at the DMS call centers include shout-outs for employees that are “Keepin’ it 100” on compliance.
3. Perform assessments every two weeks.
Call center employees need to know what is required of them. These expectations need to be well defined and repeated on a daily basis to keep the focus on what is essential to be successful. Regular and formal performance feedback is crucial to keep performance in line with expectations. When assessments are performed regularly (we do so bi-weekly), it provides frequent opportunity to praise success, highlight areas for growth and address concerns.
4. Invest in new hires.
From what I’ve seen throughout my career, two days of training seems to be the norm for call centers. I get it; new hires cost money. The challenge with condensed training periods is that the information is crammed and breezed over to fit it all in. I believe in providing a long training (two weeks for us) you can spread out the knowledge sharing and allow employees to practice one skill before adding a second skill into the mix. Longer training periods also allow for role playing and the repetition of important facts, like compliance points. Our focus is touching on all the learning senses over the training period. Ultimately, this improves the retention of information, reduces mistakes once training is complete, and improves the commitment and tenure of new hires. People invest in you when you invest in them.
5. Build a compensation structure based on where production & compliance meet.
Productivity and compliance are factors within essential key performance indicators for agents at most call centers. But compliance and performance can be competing priorities. It’s easy for agents who are focused on productivity to slack on compliance or for agents who are firm on compliance to slow their productivity. That’s called the yo-yo effect, and overcoming it is a challenge for many call centers. A compensation structure based on the point where productivity and compliance meet rewards agents for finding the balance between these key metrics.
6. Encourage ownership and accountability.
I have met call center employees that spend their lives going from one company to the next, being treated like a number and getting caught in the revolving door of call center expansions and contractions. A strong call center does not treat its agents that way. I don’t hire people for jobs. I develop long-term relationships with employees and help them build their careers. The most productive and satisfied call center agents have well-defined growth plans in which they can elect to learn more, grow more and give more. We encourage ownership and accountability of jobs and careers, and in the process, we are building our next leaders before we need them.
7. Invest in technology.
Any easy-to-use call center system can help improve employee performance. The right technology can help the learning curve, improve compliance and boost speed. When selecting technology, I recommend focusing on integrations to ensure all essential technology can communicate with each other. I find that employees tend to “live with” broken systems. As a result, we will have simple pre-pops broken because agents have learned to correct the error manually and move on. I often find myself auditing our systems and looking for efficiencies by simply spending 20 minutes a week sitting in the call center and observing the flow and process. These are the moments that I improve the technology the most because I either see what is broken or I see new opportunities to integrate systems.
8. Make the voices of your call center representatives matter.
Feedback is important, and it goes both ways. Call center employees have a difficult job, and a lot of things can be “broken” in the process. A strong system for communicating issues quickly (even something simple, like a Google doc) is essential for process refinement. We supply them with a form to communicate problems with end clients, communicate broken processes, and make suggestions. By listening to our employees, we increase ownership and accountability. If you can find ways to help them do their jobs better, everyone wins.
9. Establish a clear escalation path.
Confusion breads contempt. When my employees are confused, they feel as though they are being treated unfairly. But most confusion is easy to resolve. Often agents just want someone to talk to, get clarification, and be redirected back to the end goal. I encourage them to call me directly. In fact, each of my agents has my mobile number and also has direct access to our Human Resource department. Having open lines of communication gives us both an opportunity to understand situations clearly and continue to move our business in the right direction.
10. Keep it fun!
Work is work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Games and contests can encourage forward thinking, augment productivity and boost morale. Be creative, and get everyone involved.
An effective call center culture heightens performance, improves compliance, enhances engagement and increases loyalty. When winning matters (and when does it not), you’ll be glad you implemented a culture that constructed a team of dedicated and dependable people.
If you’d like to learn more about the DMS call center and how we support our clients in the generation of high-intent leads, email email@example.com.
Written By: Naomi Barbeau, EVP Call Center Operations @ DMS
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