Call Center FAQ: Motivate Your Agents

Updated: April 30, 2009

Introduction

When it comes to call-center agents, morale and motivation are closely interlinked. Morale is the enthusiasm agents have for their work. When agents feel valued and satisfied, those emotions tend to be reflected in their performance and they become motivated.

Analysis

What's the best way to boost agent motivation?

There is no one "best way" to increase motivation. Morale plays a big role. The three basic areas that affect agent motivation are:

  • Physical Environment: Is the call center located in a safe neighborhood? Is the facility clean and well organized? Is it modern and attractive? Is it sufficiently heated and cooled?
  • Working Environment: Is the furniture and equipment in good working order? Do the fixtures support the agents or work against them?
  • Intellectual Environment: Do the agents have the training and coaching they need to do their job? Are call-center rules logical and well stated, or just a hodgepodge of decrees that have accumulated over the years?
  • Emotional Environment: Are supervisors responsive to agents' questions? Are they supportive in tough times? Do they admit mistakes? Are they flexible enough to bend the rules in extraordinary situations?

How do I know what agents really want?

The best way to know what agents want is to listen to what they have to say. This can be accomplished through surveys and focus groups that enable agents to vent their complaints and express their needs. Be sure to include a cross-section of all agents in your outreach initiatives: new hires, veterans, high-performers, laggards, the disgruntled and the jubilant.

What effect does call-center culture have on agent motivation?

Agents take their cues from call-center bosses. Managers and supervisors who appear tired, distracted, angry or bored are hardly great motivators. Building agent enthusiasm requires a management team that's involved, responsive, and ready to take on projects with energy and enthusiasm. Bosses should exude excitement over small success and acknowledge agents' contributions.

Will better morale automatically lead to lower turnover?

Enhanced morale can reduce staff churn by increasing satisfaction. Few agents will leave a job simply because a competitor pays 25 or 50 cents more per hour. On the other hand, low turnover isn't necessarily indicative of a productive work force. Underachieving agents may feel perfectly happy in their work and not be tempted by greener pastures, particularly if they believe their jobs aren't at risk. Call-center managers must recognize the difference between agent satisfaction and complacency, and be willing to weed out low-scoring agents despite the potential negative impact on staff churn.

What role can incentives play in motivation enhancement?

Incentives can go a long way in making agents feel valued and part of a winning team. Incentives come in many forms:

  • Sales Incentives: Give your agents a commission for closing sales or achieving other business successes.
  • Bonuses: Whether cash, gift cards or prizes, bonuses recognize agents who have reached a performance, attendance, job-anniversary date or other critical milestone.
  • Contests: Sales organizations often use contests to reward individuals who meet specific performance goals. The approach works just as well in a call center.
  • Intangible Rewards: Agents who meet minor performance goals can be rewarded with time for playing computer games, an extended lunch break or a preferred parking space.
  • Promotions: A prestigious job title like "Senior Support Agent" costs nothing yet tells the individual that their experience and performance is valued by the organization.
  • Career Guidance: Besides a better job title, top performers should be rewarded with career track incentives, such as additional training opportunities and work responsibilities. These actions will assure your highfliers that their productivity is leading them toward greater opportunities within the organization.

Incentives aren't the only way of motivating agents, but they're powerful tools that when carefully applied can be used to build a more productive work force.

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