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Is it time to let your agents set the goals?

Sound radical? A step too far? It seems to me that most contact centres are using hollow words to describe agent empowerment and paying lip service to the concept of great customer service. I’m sure intentions are good but in reality, the focus on achieving quantitative targets can mean there is less and less focus on agents and customers and the interaction between them.

We all know that most agents want to work hard for their customers and will work hard for a company that invests the time and effort to provide a supportive working environment and a culture of engagement.

It may sound like a risky approach, but the best way to empower your staff is to get them involved and allow them to participate in defining the targets you set for them.

If you really want to empower your staff here are some simple steps you can take:

  1. Help agents to understand why the targets are there - make it clear that targets are not just another way to make them fail. A short-term investment of time to help agents understand this can create a long term gain on improvements
  2. Make coaching a two-way process - We talk about coaching all the time and everyone agrees that this is a big part of the answer. But if it’s not working, then you probably need to do something different. Make the time you spend with your agents interactive and engaging. Let them speak. And listen to what they have to say. You never know, you might learn a thing or two yourself.
  3. Mutually discuss their strengths and identify areas where they can improve – give them a platform to come to you with ideas and suggestions for improving performance. Most of us know where our performance is falling short of ideal, but it takes confidence to discuss these areas with our managers. Be sympathetic with your agents and make it clear you are on their side.
  4. Talk to agents about the customer first. Encourage them to look for opportunities to use their skills to further enhance the customer’s experience. Giving them the skills and knowledge they need to do this is mightily empowering and makes agents feel that they have some control over what happens during the interaction. Quality and First Call Resolution (FCR) targets will almost certainly improve.
  5. Tailor the customer interaction - once your agents understand how to interact with the customer you can then start to introduce ways of tailoring the customer interactions so that targets such as Average Handling Time (AHT) and Customer Satisfactions Scores (CSAT) can be met, simply by tailoring the service they provide rather than focusing on shaving seconds off a seemingly unachievable target.

Getting agents involved isn’t as complicated to do as you might think. Of course, I’m not advocating giving agents total control of their targets; its more about setting them together and then working on them continuously so that agents become responsible for their own improvement.

If they know they have a committed mentor in the form of their coach and realize that their efforts to improve are valued, it can make a huge difference. In almost every case, paying attention to quality interactions means the metrics will take care of themselves.