Archive | July 2012

4-Steps to Improving Employee Retention

The contact center industry has historically been plagued by high employee turnover. Particularly problematic (and expensive) is early agent attrition – new-hires quitting soon after the contact center has spent time and resources recruiting, assessing, training and preparing them to handle customer calls.

While some early attrition can be attributed to poor candidate selection, often rookie reps exit because they get rushed through orientation and initial training then thrown to the customer wolves. Or, in some cases, they receive plenty of coddling and coaching during orientation/training, and then wonder where all the love suddenly went once they’ve earned their headset.

During my call center management career I’ve seen call center leaders try many ways to reduce attrition including helping ease rookie agents into the challenging and dynamic customer care environment. Many top contact centers have implemented “extended on-boarding” initiatives. Such initiatives spread the transitional phase out over several weeks or months to help foster a strong sense of preparedness and belonging among new staff, resulting in higher levels of engagement and fewer incidents of them vanishing into thin air.

Following are several key components of successful “Extended On-Boarding” initiatives:

1. “Transition” training. After their trainees complete a couple weeks (or more) of classroom training, many contact centers send them to a special phone bay (or “nesting area”) to take basic calls while being closely monitored and carefully coached by a supervisor (or multiple supervisors, if the training class is particularly large). After a week or so in the bay, trainees may head back to the classroom to enhance their skills and to learn how to ignore the urge to punch customers. Following another stint in the nesting area taking live calls, successful trainees are moved to the official phone floor while their less successful peers are moved out or continue in the nesting phase.

“Transition” training, as it has come to be called, not only helps to shorten learning curves by providing plenty of practical experience, it works wonders in raising comfort levels among new hires, who love the extra care and attention they get before taking on much more complex problems on their own.

2. Peer mentoring. Effective agent on-boarding doesn’t end with initial training. Top contact centers continue to show new-hires the love after “graduation” by pairing them up with an experienced agent trained to assist and inspire. Having a peer nearby to help rookies through tough calls, peak periods and panic attacks is a surefire way to fend against early attrition and help new-hires thrive in what can be an overwhelmingly fast-paced environment.

In addition to raising the retention and performance levels of new hires, peer mentoring has the added benefit of enhancing engagement among the center’s frontline veterans (which can be infectious), who enjoy sharing their knowledge, taking on more of a leadership role, and having somebody to help.

3. Social events. Even with peer mentoring in place, feelings of isolation and alienation are common among agents, who must spend most of their time tucked inside a cubicle handling (or waiting to handle) customer contacts. Smart contact centers recognize this, and thus organize frequent events and gatherings aimed at strengthening relationships, elevating morale, and motivating agents to accept weekend shifts. Examples of such practical social activities include team luncheons, bowling outings and barbeques. During these events, managers and supervisors should introduce and encourage interaction with the center’s newer team members.

4. Specialized satisfaction surveys for new employees. Just because this isn’t a common practice doesn’t mean it’s not a good one. Administering an “on-boarding satisfaction” survey to agents after 60 or 90 days on the job enables the contact center to gauge the level of engagement among newbies and act quickly on feedback to help prevent early attrition and aggravated assault on supervisors. Agents’ input and suggestions also help the center to improve the overall on-boarding process to ensure high levels of retention. Many managers say that the very act of soliciting such feedback from new-hires helps to increase morale and retention, as it shows them that the organization truly values their opinion and is committed to improving hiring, training, brainwashing and other processes aimed at setting them up for success.

If your call center is struggling with retention, employee engagement, or creating customer loyalty, then contact Dave.Gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com or Lee.Pemberton@inspiredperformancesolutions.com to discuss how we might be able to help you achieve your goals.

Inspired Performance Solutions, Inc. believes call centers improve results when they apply the success formula: 

Alignment of Strategic Vision is critical to creating Employee & Customer Loyalty

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What does baseball have to do with your success?

As you may be aware, tomorrow is Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game. As some of the best players gather to play this “exhibition” game for the fans, I am reminded of all the ways baseball is similar to business. How are you playing the game? Would you have been selected to your industry’s All-Star Game this year?

While it seems like the Cardinals, my favorite team, just won the World Series, the reality is we are over half way through another baseball season. The Cardinals are 46-40 heading into the All-Star break. They are 2.5 games behind in the Division race and sitting in third place in the Division. If the play-offs started today, my beloved Cardinals would not defend their World Series title. Just like in business, what you did last year means little to this year’s results. Would you make your play-offs based upon this year’s results?

Who is your favorite baseball team? Ever ask yourself why you’re so loyal to them, even though they may not be winners? I wonder if your customers are as loyal to you as you are to your favorite team. Are your customers your fans? Baseball uses attendance, licensed apparel sales, television viewing data, just to a name a few to measure their success. What data are you using to measure your customer loyalty?

Here are the lessons in baseball you can apply to your business once you understand the importance and impact:

The baseball team is made up of individual players who know how to play together. Their individual skills contribute to the team’s success. They cannot win alone. The best team wins. Each player contributes based upon their individual strengths and natural talents. Are you positioning your players to achieve maximum success? Do you even know the strengths and natural talents of your players?

• Every great ball player was once a beginner. They started at a young age because they loved to play. They were encouraged by their parents and coaches. Most spent hours and hours practicing, playing, and working to develop their natural talents. They attended camps, played on select teams, watched video of themselves, studied the game and baseball situations. They practiced, practiced, and practiced some more. How often are you and your team practicing? What preparation does your team complete to maximize effectiveness? If you want to be the best, then wishing it so won’t be enough. Just like an All-Star baseball player, you must create a development plan and work the plan to become an All-Star.

• Nearly every Major League player starts in the minor leagues. In baseball, like business, there are no shortcuts. One step at a time is required for success. Before they got to the minors, it’s probable they had already been playing some form of organized ball for 15 years. Most spend years in the minor leagues learning the game and sharpening their skills. How prepared are your sales people, your service team, or anyone with customer relationship responsibilities to handle your customer interactions? Have you properly prepared?

Ballplayers are coached. Being coached and listening to coaches are key factors in a ballplayer’s success. Many great coaches were once players. Some of the best managers were not the best players. Take the former Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, he was mainly a minor league player during his playing career, yet he led teams to three World Series titles and six appearances in the Fall Classic. Tony coached his players. He understood each person’s abilities and is credited with creating the specialization of the bullpen for relief pitchers. Just like in business, every player needs to know their role and the expectations for performance. Are you promoting the best players to managers or looking for the best managers within the players? Have you measured their abilities?

Ballplayers warm up and practice before every game. They get ready. Even if they’ve been playing for years, they practice before EVERY game. Does your team practice the skills needed to succeed in your business? Whether its role playing for a sales or service contact or preparing for a presentation, does your team practice?

Ballplayers learn the fundamentals of the game until they’re automatic. Then they practice them every day. Fundamentals like: Keep your eye on the ball. Know the rules. Know the strategies. Execute the plays. They understand that defense is just as important as offense. Have you communicated and taught your team the basics to success in business?

All ballplayers, even great ballplayers, get into a slump. Coaching, watching films, and practice gets them out of the slump. Read that last sentence again. When your team is in a slump, how are you reacting to them? Are you supporting them or complaining about them? Are you telling them to improve or showing them how to improve?

• All ballplayers make errors. Sometimes an error can cost you the game. Take errors seriously, NOT personally. Learn from them and don’t repeat them. The secret to error free play: More practice. Have you noticed the trend? Practice, practice, and more practice is the key to success.

Ballplayers love the game. They love what they do, and they play to win. Passion is the driver for the most successful people, but passion is personal. A passionate leader may inspire others to behave in particular ways. A passionate leader may even get others to share in the passion. When leaders communicate “WHY” they play the game, they are more likely to inspire others to find their own WHY.

There are the unspoken rules of the game – both in baseball and business. You must believe in your team and teammates. You must believe your team will win. You must believe in your coach, your leader.

Millions have played the game. Maybe even you. Thousands have played in the major leagues. But there are only 295 players in the Hall of Fame. It’s all about their ability, their devotion, their dedication, and their practice. As you watch the All-Star Game this week, ask yourself:

Why are you playing?
What are your goals?
How much do you practice every day?
Who are you giving your loyalty to? Who is loyal to you?

Measuring strengths, natural talents, obtaining data to indicate strategic alignment and helping you create behaviorally focused goals are our areas of expertise. Let us help you become an All-Star in your industry. Start the process by contacting me at:

Dave.Gregory@inspiredperformancesolutions.com or 402 707-4868.

 

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