How to Improve Agent Productivity


How to Improve Agent Productivity

If you work in a call or contact center, you know that agent productivity is essential to your center’s success.

You can do a few key things to help improve your team’s productivity.

  • First, ensure you have the right tools, including good CRM and telephone systems.
  • Second, focus on training your agents with comprehensive initial and then ongoing training. Make sure they know how to use the tools you have in place and that they understand your company’s procedures.
  • Third, set clear expectations.
  • Fourth, create a user-friendly knowledge management system (KMS) that is updated frequently.
  • Fifth, provide incentives for good performance, from bonuses to gift cards.

Finally, ensure you monitor your team’s performance and give feedback regularly.

Technology, Bad Management

The above advice has come through my training, research, and learning the hard way, both the steps to productivity and, equally critically, the pratfalls that can trip it up. Like adding cludgy technology and poor leadership together.

Here is one example from earlier in my contact center career.

I recall volunteering to assist with calls for another call center in the healthcare field in 2012. Even though my training class was cut short from two weeks to three days because the trainer got sick, it seems that I had bitten off more than I could chew when it came to learning their CRM system, which looked and functioned like Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS).

I understood the Medicaid enrollment programs and could efficiently complete the questions regarding a person’s health, such as do they use tobacco products, and health needs surveys (HNS) when more than one person had to be enrolled in a medical health plan. As well as how to process an enrollment through the Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS).

Now, remember, I was taking calls for two call centers, which means I could have a call or two from one call center project, which required a different set of systems, and the next set of calls could be from the other project, which required me to use another set of systems.

Switching between systems felt like using Doc Brown’s DeLorean to travel between times. For that other call center I felt I was going back in time.

What slowed me down was the MS-DOS system, where I had to enter all the details for my call, such as registering the call to the caller, entering notes, and HNS completion, to name a few. Moreover, I couldn’t use my mouse, which made me feel like I was in the 1980s and early 1990s. I was compelled to use the Tab key to move to a subsequent field or Shift + Tab to go to a previous field.

…when organizations leave in or install unnecessary productivity-harming steps to the customer journey or fail to invest in proven tools to help, they annoy customers and frustrate agents who hear that when the customers reach them.

Many of my colleagues in my training class started dropping off this project once they found out what it all involved. Then that call center’s leadership prevented folks from dropping off since they took the training, which caused folks to resign, and this caused management to concede and allow agents to leave the project. When I volunteered, there were 12 agents; three months later, it was down to five.

The project that used the MS-DOS CRM started doing QA on the remaining agents two months later.

But, when we began getting marked off for not completing all the fields on the CRM due to a saving issue or not completing all the questions on the HNS, those QA scores started impacting bonuses. Consequently, the number of agents on it dropped from five to three.

Then the leadership decided to stop the project due to the limited number of agents available to support it. Those they approached to join heard from their colleagues and never ventured into the class, even though the incentive was time off the phones.

Added Steps to the Customer Journey

At times, centers can make it easier on both the customer and the agent by looking at the customer journey and removing duplication of steps or passing information from their IVR system to the agent, such as caller authentication. Resulting in both higher customer satisfaction and improved agent productivity.

But when organizations leave in or install unnecessary productivity-harming steps to the customer journey or fail to invest in proven tools to help, they annoy customers and frustrate agents who hear that when the customers reach them.

My ordeal by fire started when I had to call my internet service provider (ISP) a week ago because my internet router wasn’t turning on.

I already performed the steps listed on the company’s website, so I called the 1-800 number. The IVR asked me for my account number, date of birth, phone number, name, and passcode before it tried to identify the issue with my router. No surprise, it detected that it was offline, and provided me a few troubleshooting steps, basically the exact steps I performed through their website.

However, I was at the mercy of the IVR until the completion of these steps before transferring me to an agent.

When the agent picked up, I was relieved to speak to a human being until she asked me to authenticate the call and proceed with the same troubleshooting steps.

To summarize, I’ve authenticated twice, and it’s my third round of troubleshooting steps. After 37 minutes on the call with the agent, it was determined that I needed a new router.

Further, if the call center used a CTI system, it would have allowed the agent to automatically receive my information, saving time and allowing the agent to quickly answer my questions and dive into the root of the problem. In addition, CTI systems can also help agents make outbound calls more efficiently, saving time and energy.

We live in the age of evolving technology, and using tools such as automation can help relieve agents from executing repetitive tasks.

If an agent needs to process a payment from a caller, enter the amount into SharePoint for the finance team to process it and enter details about the payment in the CRM.

An automation process could be implemented where the agent completes specific fields on an input window and then runs the process to enter the data into the finance SharePoint and CRM, allowing the agent to concentrate on the caller and reduce average handle time (AHT).

Helping Agents Fall in Love With Their Work

We live in a world filled with distractions from social media, text messages, advertisements, and so on. And we can all agree that at some point during the workday, the common one being meetings, we’ve been on our phones watching short clips of squirrels on jet skis, well, not all of us, but you get the idea.

…are there more ways to help keep agents productive? Have you thought about the agent’s workspace?

So, if that happens to you, what about our agents? Why can’t we help them fall in love with work and reward them when they put in the effort in real time versus after a few months or a year?

I recall reading a case study done by zizo, a company that links employees’ goals to rewards, also known as gamification.

The study is about a floor manager struggling with employee engagement, leading to high turnover. However, after implementing gamification to the monotonous and repetitive tasks, they could retain agents and increase headcount while increasing revenue.

So, other than training, software, incentives, and the like, are there more ways to help keep agents productive? Have you thought about the agent’s workspace? Does it boost productivity or create a nuisance? Here are a few additional factors to consider:

  • In-House Communication Systems. Using a group chat monitored by leadership and experienced agents that help new and other agents identify recent call trends and system issues, or resolve caller’s concerns, is crucial to boost productivity as it creates a sense of community to help each other.
  • Headsets. Taking calls with an uncomfortable headset feels like sitting on a metal chair for eight hours, but in this case, it leaves you with a sore ear or two. For more headset information, please read my article, Headsets: The Call Floor Perspective.
  • Computers and Monitors. Computers and monitors are critical office equipment for call center agents. With the right computer and monitor(s), call center agents can work more quickly, accurately, and efficiently.
  • I remember having a coaching conversation with two team members whose AHT was not meeting the call center’s standards. Both of them complained about lagging systems, so I started asking around and found out there were more agents experiencing the same issue.
  • I asked our IT folks and discovered that an update was made to our CRM and the client’s website and that adding additional Random Access Memory (RAM) to their computers would resolve the issue, and it did.
  • Other Office Equipment. Many office equipment pieces can benefit call center agents. For example, an agent on my team reached out to Briljent about an ergonomic chair, and within less than a week, my colleague Desiree Edwards, our HR Manager, had it ready for the agent.
  • I understand most call centers have either remote or hybrid agents, and maybe you can determine what office equipment could be provided to agents to use at home, such as paper tray organizers or binders.

Productivity Depends on Quality Leadership

Many organizations fail to realize that call center agent productivity is directly correlated to the quality of the leadership team.

Why? Because the leadership team is ultimately responsible for setting the tone and creating the environment for success within the call center. They develop strategies and policies and set the tone that can ultimately determine the productivity and performance of the agents.

A robust and well-informed leadership team committed to providing the best customer service experience will result in excellent agent performance.

When leaders are adept at establishing a clear vision and objectives, communicating them is essential for agents to understand their roles and be motivated to perform their best.

  • Leaders who strive to create a positive working environment that encourages collaboration and innovation create a positive environment that can foster a sense of trust and teamwork among agents. High levels of trust and cooperation also foster better customer relationships, which can result in improved customer satisfaction.
  • Leaders who strive to maintain a sense of fairness in the workplace ensure that agents are treated fairly, creating a feeling that everyone is held accountable for their performance and themselves. I’ve known times that I’ve apologized to an agent for various reasons, and those moments of vulnerability have taught me to be a better leader.

The leadership team is responsible for ensuring that the right resources and processes are in place to ensure those call center agents can optimize their performance, which includes providing agents with the right technology, training, and support to do their job effectively.

The quality of the leadership team is ultimately a reflection of the organization’s commitment to customer service.

When the leadership team is actively engaged in the call center, they are more likely to be able to provide the guidance and support that agents need.

On the other hand, if the leadership team is weak and not as engaged, it can lead to a lack of resources and support for call center agents, leading to low morale, poor performance, and turnover. If it continues, the leadership will have no one left to lead.

When agents see the signs that leaders don’t care, this is when they don’t care about your customer, which makes customers frustrated and leave your company. Therefore, organizations need to invest in a solid and engaged leadership team if they want to optimize the productivity of their call center agents.

The quality of the leadership team is ultimately a reflection of the organization’s commitment to customer service. Therefore, when organizations invest in a quality leadership team, they invest in the success of their call center agents and, ultimately, the entire organization’s success.

In conclusion, call and contact centers have many tools to help agents increase productivity. Still, the results can be even more outstanding when leaders take the time to understand their agents and look for ways to add value to their lives. By fostering a supportive, productive environment, leaders can ensure that their team can reach their goals and succeed.

Enabling Excellent UI/UX

I’m a student of good user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) practices, which are critical to enabling productivity.

So, any time I create training or a new MS SharePoint page or site, I have the trainee or user in mind, and I’m always looking at the following:

  1. Intuitive design. Is the UI design intuitive or confusing? Is the design consistent throughout pages, adding emphasis to important content?
  2. Responsiveness. Can the training or page adapt to different devices and screen sizes? Which ensures that all users can access the same great experience regardless of their device or screen size.
  3. Visually appealing. Is the design attractive and easy on the eyes, not causing fatigue to the user? Is there sufficient white space and breaks to let the user know that one section ends and the other starts?
  4. Accessibility. Is it accessible to all users? Everyone can use the interface or training regardless of physical or mental challenges.
  5. Brand consistency. Ensure that the interface is consistent with your brand. Creating a cohesive experience makes it easier for users to recognize when they have moved from one website to another or from one page within your application to another.
  6. Straightforward navigation. Good navigation is essential for a good UI and UX. Always ensure that your navigation is straightforward to use.