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Tips for ensuring high quality and productivity without burning out call center agents

Expert Donna Fluss gives tips for achieving high productivity from call center agents while keeping them satisfied and motivated.

Can you provide me with tips and techniques for achieving top utilization of my call center staff without burning them out?

There are two best practices for achieving high quality and productivity while keeping call center agents satisfied and motivated – setting realistic and attainable goals, and using rewards and recognition. High productivity is an important goal for all call center managers; it is of particular concern for outsourcers, where profit margins are very low. Call centers require skilled, patient and dedicated agents who can efficiently and effectively resolve customer concerns, while providing an outstanding and differentiated service experience.

Call center managers must establish realistic and attainable goals and targets for all key performance indicators (KPIs) used to measure call center agents. These goals must be clearly communicated and explained to the staff so that they understand how they are being measured and evaluated. Agent performance should be based on a balanced scorecard approach that addresses productivity, quality, customer satisfaction survey scores (if applicable and available), sales and revenue metrics (if applicable), reliability factors (attendance and punctuality) and work habits (cooperation, attitude, interpersonal skills). An exclusive emphasis on productivity, by contrast, can cost you customers. Experience has proven that when call center agents are evaluated solely on measures like number of calls handled and average handle time (AHT), they will be highly productive at the expense of quality and customer satisfaction.

Call center agents should have a strong understanding of all agent performance expectations and why these goals are important. They should also be given easy access to their performance results so they can self-manage and self-motivate (Agents are often tougher on themselves then their supervisors are.) The staff should also be given ongoing training and frequent, consistent and targeted coaching, so that they know that management supports them and is committed to their development. Call center agents, like most employees, are highly motivated by positive feedback. So when agents do meet or exceed their goals, it's imperative to recognize their achievements and communicate their success.

Highly motivated call center agents are likely to want to do a good job and are often extremely productive. Agents are motivated by respect, recognition, work variety, fair compensation and growth opportunities. For both tactical and strategic recommendations on motivating call center agents, please refer to DMG Consulting's Motivating Agents: Respect and Rewards Make a Big Difference.

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