Culture is one of the most nebulous aspects of any company or team—but creating a positive one can make or break your employee experience, your customer service, and your bottom line.
If creating a successful call center is proving challenging, our team has 40+ years of experience managing call centers and creating successful cultures. In this article, we’ll walk you through the key elements of successful call center cultures, the strategies you need to cultivate and key areas to focus on to overcome common challenges.
The Elements of a Successful Call Center Culture
The specific elements of culture vary from company to company, but in general, you should focus on (at least) these five key elements:
- core values
- work environment
- employee engagement and empowerment
- your customer focus
Core Values. Your core values should be at the heart of the mission and vision of your company, and should be expressed both internally and externally. Some common company values are:
Most importantly, your core values should be more than just lip service—they should factor into every other element of your culture. For example, let’s say teamwork is one of your core values. If so, you should have a work environment that’s designed for easy collaboration, regular training and meetings where teams can work together, workflows that support cross-team collaboration, state-of-the-art communication tools so teams can easily communicate, and so on. Core values don’t mean much if they’re not backed by action.
Work environment. A positive work environment is another key aspect of your culture. What exactly your work environment looks like should be determined by your company culture, core values and needs, but it goes without saying that a positive work environment contributes to a great call center culture. This includes both agents’ physical work environments, such as office design and workspaces, as well as emotional work environments, such as how your team interacts and treats one another.
Communication. How your team communicates, shares information, and collaborates makes up a big part of your call center culture. This can include communication channels, frequency, tone, types of communications, and so on. Most importantly, it includes questions of the qualities of the communication at your call center, such as how open, honest, curious or encouraging it is.
Employee engagement and empowerment. Ideally, employees should feel engaged and empowered not just in their work and their roles in the team, but in shaping the culture itself. While call center culture can be led from the top, when it’s supported and shaped by your employees, they’ll be more engaged.
Your customer focus. Finally, your emphasis—or lack thereof—on customer-centricity shapes your call center culture. Should employees go above and beyond to handle customer problems, or should they stick to the script and answer as many calls as possible? Are employees empowered to find creative solutions or do they need to stick to the policy no matter what? Incorporating a customer-centric focus into your culture creates better work and leads your employees to always treat customers in line with your core values.
Strategies for Cultivating a Successful Call Center Culture
You may understand the elements of a call center culture, and even know what you want yours to look like, but how do you actually cultivate a successful call center culture? You can’t simply tell your employees what you want your culture to be and expect it to materialize overnight. As with anything in your call center, you need a dedicated strategy.
Consider these key strategies that we’ve used successfully for 40+ years in creating call center cultures that strengthen employee engagement and retention while improving customer service levels.
Follow the leader. Although you want your employees to have a role in shaping and enforcing call center culture, your leadership does need to pave the way. Call center culture is a great example of “monkey see, monkey do.” If your employees see leadership acting with humility, centering the customer in decisions and empowering employees with trust and autonomy, those values will trickle down into your staff interactions and decisions as well.
Your call center leadership should also lead the way with internal communications, demonstrating through example and their leadership the types, quality and tone of communication you’d like to see throughout your call center. In any case, to develop a successful call center, avoid micromanagement at all costs. Instead, develop a culture of trust and respect, and train and empower employees to work autonomously in line with your company values.
Focus on fit and soft skills. When you’re hiring employees and call center agents, don’t make the mistake of looking only at qualifications. Instead, you should hire for cultural fit and soft skills and be willing to train for the rest. For example, don’t overlook essential soft skills like empathy, caring, compassion and curiosity. As you’re creating cultures of care and trust, hiring employees who already exemplify these characteristics will make it much easier to incorporate them into your culture.
Invest in training and development. The more you can develop a culture of training, learning and growth for your employees, the higher job satisfaction and retention you are likely to have. This is especially true among younger employees. A massive 87% of Millennial workers say that “professional or career growth and development” is an important quality to them in a job—so providing these types of development initiatives and career paths for younger employees is essential in creating a successful culture.
Implement reward and recognition programs. Ultimately, one of the best ways to reinforce call center cultures is to reward the behaviors you want to see. Celebrate and recognize all-star employees with recognition and rewards that make sense, and reward both quantitative metrics and results as well as more soft skills and interactions. For example, teams should be rewarded for working together, collaborating, implementing cross-team collaboration initiatives, and so on.
Rewards and recognition not only reinforce the culture you want to see, but they also create a culture for employees where they can feel valued. This is another strong indicator of job satisfaction and retention as well—according to a worker poll, employees are twice as likely to quit their jobs when they feel unrecognized for their work.
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The Role of Communication in Call Center Culture
One of the biggest elements of creating a successful call center culture is communication:
- how frequently it happens
- the quality behind it
- how open and honest it is
Poor internal communication can make or break your call center culture and lead to bigger problems like internal gossip, micromanagement, poor knowledge transfer and so on. Instead, create a culture of transparent communication, open dialogue and honest feedback—between and within employees and management. Lead by example and be open and honest about company decisions and foster a culture where employees feel open to dialogue and feedback.
In addition, ensure your team has the appropriate tools to foster healthy communication and collaboration, whether that’s messaging tools, knowledge-sharing bases, or other communication tools.
The Impact of Culture on Call Center Performance
Call center culture doesn’t just impact your employees—it also impacts your customers and their experience with your customer service and your brand.
Consider that happier employees with stronger morale will provide better customer service and tend to be friendlier on calls. As friendly customer service agents and effective problem-solving are key aspects of good customer service for today’s customers, ensuring your employee morale stays high is essential to delivering better experiences.
Even more, as customers receive better service, employees will be happier in turn as well—both as the result of a job well-done and resulting from more positive interactions. This strengthens morale and reduces turnover—and all of this stems from your company culture.
Overcoming Challenges to Developing a Positive Call Center Culture
That said, creating a positive call center culture doesn’t happen overnight—and most call centers encounter some challenges along the way, namely:
- addressing high turnover rates
- managing agent stress and burnout
- navigating cultural differences in global call centers
In 2022, the average call center agent turnover rate was 38%, the highest it’s ever been. Clearly, turnover and agent attrition continue to be major challenges—and a great way to combat them is creating a more positive call center culture. However, high turnover rates can also contribute to a negative call center culture, which is why addressing turnover rates from a variety of angles is key.
Speaking of turnover, managing agent stress and burnout is also key to creating a positive call center culture—and reducing turnover. Many agents churn because there’s too great of a workload on their plates, or because there are high levels of stress. Sometimes this can be traced back to the culture itself. Other times, it’s a matter of needing to hire more agents, distribute workload more evenly, or integrate more modern technologies to reduce admin or repetitive work.
In any case, this is why having open and honest communication and feedback channels from employees is so necessary. With consistent and honest feedback from your team, you can understand the biggest reasons for agent burnout, churn and dissatisfaction, and overcome these challenges in creating a more positive call center culture.
The Future of Call Center Culture
As call centers evolve, call center culture will have to evolve as well—and will continue to be shaped by both internal and external forces.
Consider, for example, the role of remote work on call center culture. As remote work becomes more common in call centers, call center culture will need to evolve to meet and integrate the needs of remote workers while still creating a positive culture. As a result, elements of call center culture such as communication, collaboration and training and development will only become more important as teams become more distributed.
Technology is also playing a large role in shaping call center culture, although it’s more passive. You can use technology to either reinforce your culture, or it can undermine your efforts: the key is in finding the right technology, software and tools to support the kind of culture, collaboration and teamwork you want to see upheld.
Conclusion: Building Your Own Successful Call Center Culture
There’s no one right way to build a successful call center culture—and even the idea of a “successful” culture will look different depending on what you are looking for in your call center.
However, all good call center cultures have foundations of:
- honest and transparent communication
- clear and implemented core values
- a positive and encouraging work environment
- balanced workloads and adequate training
- clear paths toward growth and development
- meaningful teamwork and collaboration
At Global Response, we have over 40 years of experience creating and developing call centers with successful cultures. We’ve used a variety of methods over the years—from improving communication tools and best practices, to creating employee recognition awards, designing offices with break rooms where employees can connect and relax on breaks or after their shifts, and so on. There’s no silver bullet—but there are clear rewards that follow from creating call center cultures that employees enjoy.
We’ve helped our clients achieve results like:
- 28% reduction in customer issues
- 130% increase in online sales
- 40% improvement in speed of answer time
- increased customer retention and conversions
- and more!
For a call center outsourcing partner with a built-in culture you can trust, connect with an expert from Global Response so we can show you how our exceptional culture can support your goals.
Call centers with positive cultures perform better and offer stronger customer service levels than those without. Why? Agents who have a positive work experience and are satisfied with their roles tend to be happier, more friendly, and more knowledgeable, thus providing a higher level of customer service.
Communication is a key element in creating a successful call center culture. Transparent communication, open dialogue and honest feedback creates a culture where employees can honestly share feedback, advocating for a better workplace, while also collaborating and sharing knowledge effectively. Consistently negative or ineffective communication can derail an otherwise positive culture.
Three common challenges to developing a positive call center culture include high turnover rates, high levels of agent stress or burnout, and difficulty navigating cultural differences.
As remote work grows and technology continues to advance, call center culture will be shaped by—and will need to address—these cultural changes. For example, as remote work becomes more common within call centers, call center culture will have to adapt to changing needs, heightening focus on communication, increasing remote-access and collaboration tools and finding ways to ensure all team members feel supported and engaged.