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Latest 03 Oct 2018 | Customer Service | 6 min read

The Five Keys to Confident-Sounding Support Agents

“Take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers,” the late J. Willard Marriott, founder of Marriott International, often advised his staff.

True words. But today, very few people are as happy as they could be at work, and it has serious implications for your customer support.

A Gallup study found that only 7 percent of people have the job they want and globally, only 13 percent of people feel fully engaged. By those odds, many of your employees are disengaged, and their apathy is tangible to customers, especially in the digital era, where agents double as brand ambassadors.

To get at improving the core of your service, start with your employee engagement.

The five keys to a better work environment:

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1. Set inspiring goals

The first key is setting goals that motivate agents to work hard. What types of goals inspire people to achieve? Wharton Professor Jonah Berger and author of the business psychology book Invisible Influence analyzed over 20,000 NBA games to find out.

Berger examined teams that were down by halftime and discovered something interesting: Teams that were down by a lot at halftime tended to lose. But those down by just a few points at halftime were 8 percent more likely to win. Why? According to Berger, it ends up that “being just behind our ideal trajectory can motivate us to work harder.”

The implication for managers in call centers is that the best goals for metrics like AHT and FRT are neither too easy nor hard; they’re attainable, but just out of reach. And managers, like good coaches, should constantly cheer on agents and remind them that they’re capable.

2. Arm agents with the right tools 

Support managers need to arm teams with the right tools they need to be successful. One of the biggest factors behind Gallup’s observations around poor worker motivation is that employees often feel like they aren’t in control of their own destiny.

For support agents, these feelings arise in moments when customers demand things the agents can’t offer or they get mired in excessive administrative work. Support leaders should conduct a study and interview front-line managers and agents to find out:

  • What are the low points in an agent’s day?
  • What are the high points?
  • What unenjoyable tasks demand a lot of agents’ time?

By eliminating low points, say, by altering break policies or implementing software such as a digital support platform to consolidate agents’ systems, managers can often boost morale and engagement.

3. Make employees’ health a priority

What if you learned that there was a drug that increased every employee’s creativity, helped them better process emotions, lose weight, and resist Alzheimers, dementia, and cancer? It exists and it’s free – it’s called sleep.

Over the past decade, scientific studies have shed light on the stranger than fiction rejuvenating power of getting a full eight hours of shut-eye. “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life,” wrote Matthew Walker, Ph.D., in his book Why We Sleep. “The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations such as obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.”

More and more enterprises, from IBM to the Huffington Post are making rest mandatory. For support teams that want to get the most out of their agents and help their agents get the most out of life, consider sleep education, group health benefits programs, and friendlier scheduling.

More and more enterprises, from IBM to the Huffington Post are making rest mandatory.

4. Provide continuous feedback

A whopping 95 percent of managers in America dislike performance reviews, and only 14 percent of employees surveyed by Gallup believe that performance reviews inspire them to try harder. Much of this is due to how reviews are administered.

"Three in four employees receive feedback just once or twice per year," said Deborah Holstein, chief marketing officer at BetterWorks, an HR software for continuous performance management. "When managers 'save up' their feedback and coaching it doesn't help to improve team member performance and it actually hurts their engagement." Far better to provide employees with continuous, ongoing feedback.


5. Make sure performance management is fair

The other big reason performance reviews often don’t work is because employees don’t perceive them as fair. Without objective criteria and frequent check-ins, they can come to feel that any poor marks they receive are due to their manager’s lack of involvement. If employees reject their own reviews, they grow disengaged and may look elsewhere for work.

But according to McKinsey, simply increasing the perception of program fairness can lead to 3x higher outcomes. Teams can achieve that by simplifying programs, having managers and employees jointly set goals, and separating performance reviews from talks about compensation.

Are your agents taking care of your customers? Give them the tools they need to thrive with  Conversocial .

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