Agents still at home?! Here’s how to keep them engaged.

Aug 4, 2020 11:00:00 AM

Have you ever succumbed to the temptation to check Instagram, read text messages, or check emails while on a conference call or in a meeting? What did you miss while you were distracted? Perhaps no one noticed...or, you may have suffered the embarrassment of being asked a question while not paying full attention. 

Your work-at-home agents may be struggling to stay engaged, too. Opportunities for distraction abound. Kids, pets, doorbells, laundry -- all compete for attention. Unlike when agents are working in the office, they know their supervisors and managers aren’t going to walk by and glance over their shoulders. 

While some distraction is expected and is likely equivalent to distractions that happen in the office, there is a line when these at-home distractions turn into disengagement...and the costs of disengagement are many. Missed metrics and SLAs (Service Level Agreements), low customer satisfaction, lost opportunities and more. Inattention impacts our customers. How bad is the problem? And, what can we do about it?

Agent Engagement is Critical. Nevertheless, it’s Nosediving.

“Highly engaged employees make the customer experience. Disengaged employees break it,” says LeaderFactor founder and CEO Dr. Timothy Clark, quoted in a recent business blog

Despite the need for engaged employees to create great experiences for customers, studies show employee engagement is on the decline. Here are some startling statistics:

  • CallCentre Helper tells us the latest employee engagement trend report by Quantum Workplace says 30% of the workforce is moderately engaged, at best
  • A recent Gallup survey reveals an astounding 62% of workers are either “not engaged” (49%) or “actively disengaged” (13%). Surprisingly, that’s actually a slight improvement over previous results.
  • When colleagues are separated by distance, cooperative and helping behaviors go down by over 80% according to research by Stony Brook University professor Karen Sobel-Lojesky. 

 

How to Tackle the Engagement Problem

Google the web for “disengaged agents” and you’ll find a plethora of ideas to help you attack the problem. I’ve gleaned the collective wisdom from several of these articles below. 

Tip # 1: Keep the culture. 

Foster camaraderie just as you would if your agents were still sitting in your contact center. In the B2C article Boosting Morale for Your Work at Home Call Center, Laura Krajewski suggests continuing to do the little things you did in the office. She says, “This might include sending funny GIFs over Slack, text or email. Or, having designated places to chat about sports or your family, to share photos of your kids and pets, or anything else you would normally do by the water cooler.”

Tip # 2: Foster a positive mindset.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, I noticed when she talked about her day her focus was on what didn’t go well. To help readjust her perspective, we started a family tradition to begin mealtime conversations with the question, “What was good about your day?”. It didn’t mean we couldn’t share the hard things, but it simply served to reorient our focus toward the positive.

Translate this to your contact center team meetings by going round-robin and asking each agent to share a positive experience or customer interaction with the team. 

Tip # 3: Connect on a personal level.

Often we are so busy that we just jump into each meeting or interaction with nothing more than a quick, “Hi everyone, let’s get started.” Research shows that getting to know about the lives of our coworkers outside of work leads to “a more individuated, humanized perception of the known colleague, which results in increased responsiveness and decreased social undermining.” I find that taking a moment to ask a simple question such as “What do you like to do when you’re not working?” can provide fascinating insights into our colleagues’ lives. Your peer loves hiking? Good to know. Next time you talk you can ask, “Been on any good hikes recently?”

In his book Opening Up, psychologist James Pennebaker finds getting people to talk means they will feel more connected, like you more, and learn more from you. There’s lots to gain here.

Tip # 4: Use video.

You may hear a collective groan from your agents at first, but they (and you) will get used to being on video together. Using video conferencing for group meetings or weekly 1-1 meetings with agents means you’ll reap benefits such as:

  • Everyone feels more professional. Chances are your agents (and you) will pay a bit more attention to dress -- or minimally, everyone will at least comb their hair. That improved mindset and feeling may carry over into agents’ customer interactions for the rest of the day, too.
  • You can garner non-verbal input. Is everyone interested in what’s going on, or yawning? Learn what makes your colleagues smile. What makes them look concerned, even if they’re not voicing it? 
  • Teams will feel more connected. Video isn’t exactly the same as being together in the same room, but it’s the next best thing.  

Tip # 5: Recognize your people - it’s key.

I’m continually amazed by how many managers don’t realize the power of a verbal pat on the back. Feeling appreciated can go a long way toward healing the bumps and bruises of a work day. In the article Boosting Morale for your Work at Home Call Center, author Krajuski cites a study that found as many as 82% of employed Americans don’t feel their supervisors recognize them. Krajewski says, “That lack of recognition takes a terrible toll on morale, productivity, and, ultimately, profitability.”

Learn More About Employee Engagement

Join your peers from companies all over the world in our upcoming roundtable “Give Agents a Remote High-5: How to Engage Your Remote Workforce.” It’s all part of Customer Contact Week, held virtually the week of August 17, 2020. Click here for free registration, add this roundtable to your agenda, and join our discussion. Your agents, your customers, and your business will benefit from what you learn!

Kay Phelps

Written by Kay Phelps

Kay Phelps is Director of Product Marketing at Edify. As a 20+ year veteran in Contact Centers, Kay’s experience spans product development, systems engineering, product management, and product marketing. As a frequent blogger, author, and presenter, Kay uses her expertise in all facets of product development and marketing to help companies deliver excellence in customer experiences. When not in the office, you can find Kay hiking or skiing a mountain, dancing, reading, or traveling.