In the last instalment, we discussed the 3 environments that make up the employee experience: physical space, cultural attitude and technological provisions. Often, organisations will offer one or two of these environments. An organisation which provides an encouraging and progressive culture teamed with access to the latest technology is described as an empowered organisation. Staff are able to achieve and are encouraged to do so.
An engaged workplace would provide a supportive and inspiring culture and invest in its physical space, perhaps it has an onsite gym or modern office design, but the technology is not meeting the requirements of the employees. The company is engaging with their staff by offering them support and providing them with physical perks, but they are not empowering them to be the best that they can be.
A company that provides an enabled environment facilitates their employees to carry out their jobs by providing the correct technology and a productive working space, but their lack of motivating office culture results in employees not being able to progress either personally or professionally.
Where would you rank your organisation? Unfortunately, ‘enabled’ is where most of us would rank our current workplace, illustrating that culture is the most valued aspect of work. So how can we, as employers or team leaders, address these issues to provide the best possible working environments, within the contact centre?
Jacob Morgan identifies 7 principles of the future employee, as illustrated below (credit to forbes.com).
Let’s explore what each of these principles means to your employees and how we can achieve them in the contact centre environment.
- A flexible working environment means different things to different people. It could mean needing to start after the school run, working from home or having varying shift patterns. This is actually very attainable in the contact centre. Strategies to enable flexibility in the work place can even enhance your operation. For instance, if a number of your advisors would benefit from a night shift, why not take elements of your services 24/7? After all, customers expect to be able to make contact at any time of the day or night now, even if it is just via one medium. If flexible working is not already available, is it time you had a rethink?
- Customising one’s own work can be quite tricky in the contact centre as keeping communication on brand and professional is essential. However, if you are using scripting tools, you could involve advisors in update meetings. As regular users they would encounter all aspects that could be improved. Social media advisors could use their own personalities to customise response and engage with customers on a personal level as long as they are clear on the general standards they should be following.
- Sharing information is an essential practice in the contact centre. Advisors need to be aware of any changes to the information they are delivering (for example if a website they are directing customers to is down, or if a number of advisors are receiving complaints about a particular product). We can facilitate this through advisor messaging, script version implementation and message boards. Knowledge is power, as they say, so make sure your advisors can see news and information – and post it.
- As mentioned above, there are tools that enable in-house messaging designed especially for contact centres, but there are also platforms such as skype for business, Teams by Microsoft and Groups by Outlook which enable clear communication between departments and new ways of sharing information.
- Not everyone in this world is made for leadership nor does everyone who does have the skills, have the desire to lead a team. But it is essential that the opportunities are available for those that wish to. Even employees who don’t want to progress in their career like to know that the process is there for their peers that do. The contact centre structure can provide excellent career opportunities. Responsibilities can be designated in stages and advisors can move their way up the career ladder as they gain experience. Ensuring that advisors are given the chance to put themselves forward for progressions and that they are fully supported on their journey will ensure that you have a fully competent team that are respected by their colleagues.
- As tools, software and technology changes at what feels like the speed of light, what you know is no longer your winning quality, but rather how you can apply what you know, your ability and willingness to learn and how well you adapt to changes. The key to facilitating this in the contact centre is the constant training of your employees. Ensure they are up to date and comfortable with emerging technologies and coach them in workshops and one-to-one sessions on different techniques to help them adapt and improve.
- Following on from principle 6, the future employee will also expect to learn in different formats. The freedom of information enables us to post and view tutorials and walkthroughs, so why not utilise them to leverage your training programme. You could even get your advisors to create their own tutorials on completion of modules!
These principles largely relate to cultural issues and are easily achieved by changing the attitude at a senior level and communicating this through the business.
Updating technology and the physical environment can often present more barriers, but as essential elements of the employee experience, should still be evaluated and improved where possible. A contact centre does not have to consist of stark lighting and anonymous cubicles. OK modelling ourselves on Airbnb’s Portland contact centre may be a tad ambitious, but a few small changes can really transform the workspace. As we discussed in part two, it can be the smallest things that create a good experience. Ditch the strip lighting, provide decent facilities in the loos, comfortable chairs and up to date PCs and headsets. This really should be basic requirements in a workplace. Employees should feel comfortable, clean and safe as a minimum.
Where organisations can start creating exceptional experiences is providing lifestyle benefits such as subsidised gym membership or free shuttles from town centres to remote offices. Simple gestures such as free beverages and healthy snacks also go a long way to improve time at work.
Don’t forget, the most essential way you can offer great employee experiences is to ask for feedback, actually listen and implement where viable. And if something doesn’t work out? Try something else! Think of your organisation as a laboratory, not a factory.
So often, contact centres are dismissed as a stop-gap job or a job with no real opportunities. How can we change this perception? It’s easy, treat advisors with the same respect as any of your back office staff. Offer real progression, training and reward programmes and new ways to communicate and share ideas. Providing a comfortable workspace or the most up to date technology may not be instantly achievable, but it should be written into a longer term business plan and taken into consideration when updates are being made. Aspire to offer an excellent employee experience and you will find yourself with an engaged, effective workforce delivering excellent customer experiences. A lot of contact centres claim to provide ‘exceptional customer experiences’, but how can advisors really do this if they are not having great experiences themselves? Your advisors are on the front line of the customer journey and their attitude towards the organisation will shine through. Making your employees advocates of your business will in turn make advocates of your customers, which is the ultimate goal for any business.