Invest in Your Human Capital in the Contact Center


Have you noticed how some companies never need to look too far to fill a position? Or, can easily retain talent and thrive in any economy—whether the markets are going up, down or sideways? I won’t mention any of them since you’ve probably listed a few, but what makes people want to get into these companies, stay for as long as they can, and go beyond the call of duty?

One important contributor is the way the best employers treat their people and invest in helping them grow. An article in Forbes stated that companies which rank among the top 20% of companies with the highest engagement rates experience a 59% reduction in employee turnover.

As an on-site supervisor and trainer, I don’t have carte blanche for financial resources, and I’m guessing you may not either, but I do my best to stretch my budget to get the most return on investment. 

How do I calculate return on investment? By smiles, laughter, appreciation and camaraderie—and underlying benefits include better customer service levels, and low turnover and absenteeism, to name a few.

Plan Fun Activities During Winter Months

I work in a mid-sized call center in the Midwest. In the past, we experienced high absenteeism during winter months whenever we had a heavy snow day or freezing temperatures. This resulted in a struggle to meet service level agreements (SLAs) for those months. We had agents out for several reasons, such as school delays, too cold outside, roads not cleared, and so on. Even if the schools opened and the streets were cleared, agents just stayed home. We had an attendance policy in place four or five years ago, and most agents believed there was no reason to come in to work if they received a point.

Just over a year ago, we created a call center activity committee comprised of call center leadership and frontline team members. The committee planned fun activities in the center during those winter months, such as pitch-ins, pizza parties, competitions, food drives and walking tacos—most times, we held two or three events in the same month. The result? Last year and this year, we had some heavy snow days but still met SLAs with ease.

Now when mother nature gives us more snow than we can handle or below-zero temperatures, agents still make it in. Even if they’re a few minutes late for their shift, we don’t hold it against them but appreciate their efforts. I’ve heard agents say, “They didn’t clear the roads in my neighborhood, but I woke up early to shovel the snow off my driveway and drove slowly to get to work.”

Adapting for a Virtual Environment

Sometimes a pizza party or doughnuts are good gestures to show that we, as leaders, care for our team members. But our current situation makes it a bit difficult to have a pizza party at the office when everyone is working from home. I realized that I had to increase engagement and make work fun again, so a few months ago, I sent a survey to my team using Microsoft Forms and asked them the following questions:

  • Do you have the right tools and setup to do your best work?
  • What do you enjoy about working from home?
  • Is there an aspect of your job where you would like more training or coaching? (Even though I’ve asked this question before, I wanted to see if I would receive a different response if asked through a survey.)
  • Are there any habits or hobbies you’ve started as a new routine that you hope to continue?
  • Have you taken on any learning opportunities (such as medical billing, business management and so on) at this present time?

Every month, I like to recognize at least two team members, if not more. Our company has an employee recognition blog called “Big Shout Out” where I publish a blog post about their achievements. I send each team member a snipping of the post and an e-certificate. If the accomplishment is something like best attendance, I’ll send them an e-certificate along with a gift card to his or her favorite store.

A month ago, a team member indicated on the survey that she liked to read e-books as a hobby. I decided to recognize her because she had exceeded all her individual agent goals for six months straight, along with having great attendance. So in addition to the blog post, an e-certificate, snipping off the blog post to send to her and the leadership team, I added a Barnes and Noble gift card. When she received the gift card, she was ecstatic because it was unexpected.

“Human capital will go where it is wanted, and it will stay where it is well treated. It cannot be driven; it can only be attracted.”—Walter Wriston, banker and former chairman & CEO, Citicorp

Forging Stronger Connections

Did you know that 37% of employees consider recognition to be the most important factor in boosting their productivity level (source: Forbes)?

The team survey results helped me to build stronger connections with my team members. For example, I found out that a team member was going to school to get an associate degree in business management. I was able to recommend a few books, videos and articles to help her better understand the subjects that she found challenging.

Another team member mentioned that she enjoyed spending time with her cats. The day I was the closing lead, we talked about her cats, their names, how old they were, what they liked to do, and she even sent me pictures of her cats sprawled out on the couch.

Over time, I’ve noticed that the following has helped me to increase employee engagement:

  • Take time to walk around the floor or, in our current situation, message team members individually to have a deep conversation versus a casual check-in.
  • Be a cheerleader. I’m a strong believer that what gets rewarded gets repeated.
  • Keep an eye on the numbers. Reviewing agent performance on goals such as hold time and average handle time can help to identify coaching opportunities.
  • Use conversations as a means to have casual coaching sessions.
  • Stay consistent with your communication efforts, and repeat more than a few times.
  • Show that you care about personal struggles; empathize and try to uplift spirits whenever possible.
  • Use every opportunity to have fun.
  • Identify what each team member is passionate about.

I enjoy coming up with ideas to help build our team as I know firsthand how feeling disengaged can affect an agent on the phones. And in our current environment, we need more engagement with our team members.