There’s a lot of discussion about employee empowerment today, but call center agents are a unique type of employee with unique roles and needs.
What does empowerment look like when it comes to their role?
Agent empowerment is key for increasing retention and job satisfaction, but it also plays a large role in effective customer service and customer satisfaction. So, how do you create empowered call center agents who can deliver great service day-in and day-out?
We’ll show you how in this article.
Understanding Agent Empowerment
Empowering agents ultimately comes down to providing agents with ownership over their work and responsibilities, giving agents a voice in the overall operations and decisions of the call center (as possible), and supporting agents in creating a work-life balance that provides for both business and personal needs.
Empowerment also means creating a company culture that rewards and prioritizes continuous improvement, learning from one another and creating development and growth opportunities for all team members.
When you prioritize agent empowerment, you reap significant benefits for your company and team, including:
- more knowledgeable and supportive agents
- stronger, faster and often friendlier customer service interactions, leading to increased customer satisfaction
- increased job satisfaction for agents, resulting in less turnover and more knowledgeable and friendly agents for customers
Considering that 80% of consumers cite speed, convenience, knowledgeable help and friendly service as the core elements of good customer service, developing empowered agents is a key factor in creating excellent customer service experiences. The more empowered your agents feel, the faster and better they will be able to support customers, and the friendlier they will tend to be.
Strategies for Empowering Call Center Agents
However, empowering agents is easier said than done. At Global Response, we focus significant time and energy on ensuring our agents are knowledgeable, empowered and supported, so they can provide the best service for your customers. Here are some of the key strategies we use to support and empower our agents.
Provide the right call center agent training and development opportunities. Empowering agents to handle calls independently, make key decisions and implement the best solutions for each customer will improve your service—but only if you support your agents with the right training and development.
Before you set them free to make decisions and take ownership of their work, make sure that you support them with the necessary training, coaching and mentoring to feel confident in their abilities to do so. For example, having ongoing training sessions, individualized call center agent training based on key areas of development needed, and individual or group mentorship or coaching can be valuable.
For many call centers, team-led or mentorship-based training can be a great way for agents to develop their skills and share them with others on the team, strengthening your team’s knowledge and reliance on one another, while providing your employees with an opportunity to contribute to the team and develop their leadership skills.
Encourage autonomy and decision-making. It’s tough to create an empowered workspace for agents if you are micromanaging your employees, workflow and processes, or monitoring employees’ every move. Instead, hire the right people, train them well, and then trust your employees to make the best decision for each situation. When agents know they will be trusted and supported—coached when things go wrong, and rewarded when things go well—you get better results and your whole team is encouraged to share and learn from failures.
Giving your agents autonomy to make decisions based on the unique customer situation also allows you to deliver more effective, personalized and memorable customer service. Instead of employees having to stick to a robotic script and work within tightly-confined policies, they are free to find a solution that really satisfies the customer, allowing you to deliver exceptional experiences, every time.
Create a feedback-driven culture. When the entire team is encouraged to share and learn from feedback together, it becomes easier to grow, improve and strengthen your service—and results. You can provide and solicit all kinds of feedback, for example:
- create a QA program to regularly evaluate and provide feedback on customer interactions
- solicit feedback from agents on workflows, processes and quality
- have experienced agents share feedback with newer employees
- implement regular periods of both individual and team feedback
- use software that allows agents to see real-time metrics and feedback on their own work
- share customer feedback from CSAT, NPS surveys or other online reviews
Ready to perfect your CX?
The Role of Leadership in Call Center Agent EmpowermentWhen it comes to agent empowerment, the most effective strategy of all is the lead by example. Implement your new culture from the top down. In short:
- Be the kind of leader you want to see on your teams.
- Exemplify the openness, attitude and behavior you want your agents to demonstrate.
- Work through decisions and mistakes in public, with an attitude of humility and learning.
- Create a culture of learning and improvement that rewards openness and honesty others can learn from.
- Inspire confidence and trust by being open and supportive of your team.
Using Technology to Empower Call Center AgentsIn today’s call center, technology can also play a role in empowering your call center agents. Without the right tools to do their jobs, agents will be held back from the ownership and development they might like to have because they are working with limited tools or outdated technology. On the other hand, the right kinds of software can empower agents to do their jobs well and effectively. For example, consider implementing:
- omnichannel support solutions
- modern telephony systems with IVR and call routing
- call recording and metrics tracking software
- virtual agent assistants
- sentiment analysis and knowledge base software
Measuring the Impact of EmpowermentEven though empowering agents is a somewhat subjective and ongoing process, there are still ways you can monitor your own success and improvement in this area. Tracking these core KPIs can help you quantitatively measure the impact of your empowerment efforts:
- AHT (Average Handle Time)
- Average after-call work time
- Occupancy Rate
- Agent Turnover Rate
- Agent Satisfaction