7 Engagement Strategies to Help Improve Your Call Center Culture

ITA Group
ITA Group

Engaged call center reps talking to customers

Call centers are one of the industries most affected by high turnover rates. On average, call centers in the US have turnover of 30–45% according to the Quality Assurance and Training Connection (QATC).This is well above what is considered to be a normal turnover rate. 

Call centers in particular suffer from poor employee retention as a result of employee disengagement. While turnover may be a persistent issue for any company in every industry, there are also many ways to effectively address and improve employee retention.

Related: In another call center post, we wrote about 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 call center representatives with these seven engagement recommendations:

1. IMPROVE RETENTION through tactics that ignite passion.

Mercer’s 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 call center 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, activities and gamification.

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.

If low employee engagement comes from a lack of personal investment in daily activities, gamification may be a uniquely effective way to address this issue. According to the 2018 TalentLMS Gamification at Work Survey, gamification makes employees feel more productive (87%), more engaged (84%) and happier (82%) at work. Furthermore, 85% of employees say they would spend more time on gamified software.

Consider also promoting innovation awards for thinking out the box. Immerse your employees in the company culture.

3. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES through recognition and rewards.

Appreciation is fundamental—yet it’s largely ignored in the workplace. According to Gallup polls, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. The same study shows that employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year.

When your call center representatives 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. Recognition confirms your employee’s presence—and work—is valued by others. As a result, recognition keeps your employees motivated and engaged, which elevates productivity.

Give them the ability to earn non-monetary and monetary reward so they can have bragging rights. Also so they can choose awards they’ve always dreamed of—a once-in-a-lifetime experience that truly resonates with and motivates them.

This will have a domino effect. Others will want to live 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.

It may be common knowledge, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. And you can’t judge a culture by its environment. Even if a call center boasts a modern new building featuring ergonomically correct desks and chairs, a game room, flat screens surrounding the office, pictures of recent training classes—it’s important to remember looks can be deceiving.

For example, while the building was state-of-the-art, the flat screens were not on because their metrics were so poor—only 1% of their call center representatives 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 call center representatives to have decreased attendance at work as it was so discouraging. Rather than knowing how to fix the issue, the supervisors simply 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 call center reps who were no longer with the company. They had made it through training but then gotten burnt out and left. And 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 call center representatives 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. CULTIVATE FLEXIBILITY AND CREATIVITY that inspires a service-focused mindset.

One of the challenges is that call center reps usually feel isolated even when in a room with tens (even hundreds) of people. There is little interaction within the workplace. This is even made worse by rigid structures that limit the amount of power and decision-making they have. This usually creates negative engagement, increasing the rep turnover that call centers experience.

Thus, call center representatives should be encouraged to be creative in their everyday tasks. Rather than forcing them to “stick to the script,” allow them to have flexibility in handling their customers. You should aim to enable them to do their tasks with a personal touch, without compromising quality. When they do, they get a personal connection to their task and they are drawn to the customer service they are providing. Enlighten them to develop a service-focused mindset.

6. 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 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 one-on-ones with their managers.

Provide referral bonuses to employees who refer call center 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.

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

Provide your call center representatives 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”).

Institute Open Communication

Real feedback is the only way to make actual improvements and learn from mistakes. According to Gallup, “Routine feedback is better than none, but meaningful feedback—the kind that helps individuals learn, grow, and do their jobs better—is how you improve productivity and performance.” 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 call center reps will be engaged and your customers will be thankful.