6 Engagement Strategies to Help Improve Your Call Center Culture

Ariana Walicke
Ariana Walicke

My dad used to tell me this story from his days in law school—how his professor started the first day by telling them, “look to the left of you, now look to the right of you, the people sitting on either side of you won’t be here by the end of this; are you going to make it?”


While law school may seem far off from a call center, the sentiment is still the same. It’s very challenging and not everyone can do it, nor will everyone make it (in fact, many don’t). It takes a certain type of unique individual who can do the job, be good at it, as well as enjoy it, and possibly make it a career. That unique individual has choices—what company to work for, how long to stay, what environment suits them best—and this can all be affected by you, your company culture, how you engage and reward your Reps, and retain them for lasting careers.

In the last call center post, I mentioned the cost of disengaged employees, which can be significant over time. Now, let’s look at ways to minimize those costs while creating a great place to work for your Reps with these six engagement recommendations:

1. IMPROVE RETENTION through tactics that ignite passion.

Mercer’s 2016 U.S. Contact Center Survey results revealed that larger call centers tend to lose a substantial percentage of their new-hires within the first six months. Twenty-five percent (25%) of turnover was voluntary at the median.

Rep turnover—broken out based on time since hire—showed that 6.2% left within the first 30 days; 5% left between 21–60 days on the job; 5.6% quit within 61–90 days; and another 8.2% left within three to six months.

What a vicious cycle! So, what are some tactics to improve these stats and increase retention? Show your Reps they matter! Make an impact early on with onboarding, ongoing communications and training, a mentor to go to with questions, daily team huddles, celebration of successes, and ability for peers and supervisors to give both non-monetary and monetary recognition through an automated platform. Consider having additional focus on certain months such as, “high call volume support month” or “employee health and fitness month.” While the goal is to recognize your employees as often as possible, be sure to call out a specific “employee appreciation day” as well.

2. ENGAGE EMPLOYEES with core values through events and activities.

Your call center should have core values that align with your company’s overall values and goals. If not, think about who you are as a company culturally. What are the top values to recognize? Promote these core values in various ways—through your automated platform, with in-person events, signage to keep the initiatives top of mind in work spaces, ongoing trainings, and the inclusion of both individual and team contests. Consider also promoting innovation awards for thinking out of the box. Immerse your employees in the company culture.

3. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES through recognition and rewards.

When your Reps live your core values, encourage their supervisors and colleagues to recognize them for it. Put the Reps’ names in lights online and at their desk for all to see.

Give them the ability to earn non-monetary and monetary recognition so they can have bragging rights. Also so they can choose awards they’ve always dreamed of, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that motivate them.

This will have a domino effect. Others will want to live in to these core values as well, once they see they can reap the rewards for doing so. Some successes you may want to recognize: milestones to reward for hard work and commitment, retention awards that recognize managers with the highest employee retention month-to-month, and anniversary awards (start early on, prior to year one—you don’t have time to wait).

4. EMPHASIZE TEAM BUILDING with a supportive, positive work environment.

I recently visited a call center that appeared flawless—modern new building, ergonomically correct desks and chairs, a game room, flat screens surrounding the office, pictures of recently graduated training classes—however, once we engaged in a tour, we found that looks can be deceiving. While the building was state-of-the-art, the flat screens were not on because their metrics were so poor—only 1% of their Reps were available to take a call because their cue was so full and the Reps weren’t able to answer questions quickly. This was causing Reps to have decreased attendance at work as it was so discouraging. So, rather than knowing how to fix the issue, the supervisors had turned off the screens. The issue was still at large though! And, to top it off, all of the pictures with the graduating training classes had Reps who were no longer with the company. They had made it through training but then gotten burnt out and left, and so on it went as we toured the building.

It’s not just the office building that makes the environment: it’s the people, the culture, the processes in place to create a positive workplace.

It has to be realistic—if you only have 1% of your Reps available to answer calls, this needs to be addressed; not turned off. We've seen great results by designing motivating and engaging programs, weaving in team-based incentives, surrounding with relevant signage, creating an engaging and social platform, organizing an events calendar including team parties, and recognizing teams as well as individuals instantaneously through technology.

5. EMPOWER EMPLOYEES through improved onboarding and recruitment.

As mentioned earlier, it takes a unique individual to be successful working in a call center environment. It starts early on—even prior to their start date. Look at how you’re recruiting for your Reps. Will they enhance the culture you currently have in place? Is this something they can envision doing longer than a few months?

Once hired, provide them information that they can digest prior to their first day, and start to reward for that behavior. Are you setting them up for success with onboarding processes and training programs?

Make sure to bring new Reps into your company culture quickly with daily 1:1 with their managers.

Provide referral bonuses to employees who refer Reps who stay for a certain amount of time. Show your employees not only will you reward for helping to identify great new hires, but also for their desire to contribute to the overall success of the organization.

6. PROMOTE CONSISTENCY through a unified approach to customer service.

Provide your Reps a consolidated view of initiatives on an automated platform, with office signage, and via frequently updated monitor screens. Promote the core values you want all of your employees to live into with each other as well as with your customers. Among other promotions, include a customer service week to highlight best practices and reward for contests. Gather feedback from customers with surveys, and be open to making adjustments based upon this feedback (none of this—“I have to score a 5 out of 5 to get recognized”).

Real feedback is the only way to make actual improvements and learn from mistakes. Celebrate those who make ongoing improvements, as that recognition will have an impact on your customers. Remember, your employees represent your organization with every interaction they have. If you can consistently recognize for positive behaviors, your Reps will be engaged and your customers will be thankful.

If you’re ready to start building a strong, thriving call center culture, be sure to check out our ebook, How to Scale Employee Motivation Throughout Your Call Center, for great employee engagement ideas.

Ariana Walicke

Ariana Walicke

Ariana has been in the performance improvement industry for nearly 15 years. She thrives on creating and delivering solutions for global clients that help them achieve their corporate initiatives, produce measurable results, and engage the people who impact their success (including employees, channel partners and customers). Never one to subscribe to one-size-fits-all, Ariana is passionate about finding the right strategic blend of products and services within recognition, incentives and events to fit each organization’s unique needs. She is also a fan of Orange Theory, hot yoga, traveling, spa time, and being with family and friends where she resides in Arizona. And, yes, we see the irony of her enjoyment for hot yoga while living in triple digit temps in Arizona.