Nearshore Americas

Incentives and Benchmarking Becoming Latest Tactics to Reduce Agent Churn

Money may make the world go round but when it comes to feeling motivated at work it’s not the only factor. It seems we are more inspired to try hard and do well if good work is recognized and contact center staff are no exception.

It’s widely acknowledged that with technological advances and better informed customers that the job has become more challenging. Contact center operators require highly skilled staff to hit their client benchmark standards which means engaged employees keen to make the customer feel good.

Contact center giant, Telvista which employs 7,000 agents worldwide implemented a staff incentive scheme three years ago after noticing their attrition rates were creeping up. Telvista’s senior sales vice president Rick Lawson says an employee survey revealed they needed to rethink how to reward staff. “Out of this came a strategy called Telvista Edge which created an employment development career path. Agents with nine months of high performance can achieve an expert level and with a further nine months of hitting key metrics they can become masters with a dedicated work space, higher salary and shift benefits.”

The company saw error levels per agent reduce to just 1.1% at the master level from a typical 2% average for agents at the basic associate level.  Masters were also gaining top marks of more than 100% on their quality scorecards. Absenteeism also significantly reduced to just 2.6% for masters compared with 4.4% for those at associate level. Attrition levels also plummeted with Telvista now only losing 6% of staff on an annual basis. “This has been tremendously successful for us. We will be implementing this concept of an entry level, expert and master level to our supervisors.”

The company also found it was coming top for customer care in the benchmarking surveys of its key clients. Lawson says the initiative also reaped return on investment with extra client bonuses for excelling benchmarking standards. “Our care has improved, handle times have reduced for call resolution, quality scores are increasing and errors are decreasing.”

Praise Pays Off

Xact Telesolutions employs 350 agents across 20 states in the U.S. and says its attrition rates are well below the industry average. It’s another operator which sets great store by rewarding staff for good performance on an ongoing basis. The company conducts quarterly employee surveys to keep its finger on the pulse about what the workforce think. Business development director Kathy Gray says: “We’re very much into empowering agents with information and training, when you do this and give a quality experience you have long standing customers.”

The company offers sales and help-desk support for a range of clients including those in the hospitality sector, higher education, manufacturing and subscription-based services. She says the company incentivises by skill-sets with bonus awarded for the extra skills staff acquire. “They can increase their pay by mastering accounts. An agent is assigned five to six accounts and this is why there is an incentive to have mastery in these lines. We measure agents in a number of ways. Real time monitoring and post call monitoring and we score agents on the call transaction and there are metrics which are specific to the account.”

Gray says the company offers shadow training where the agent will be coached on a call with suggestions whispered in their ears and more formal classroom training. “We review all their phone calls, monitoring and encouraging them and giving them feedback.” She says the company uses instant messaging posting a positive message in real time on the community bulletin board as well as feedback through weekly scorecards. Xact Telesolutions also uses its weekly company newsletter to publicly congratulate an agent who’s received positive acknowledgement from a customer. “We give constant feedback when something is positive or negative we offer feedback immediately.”

Rewards Can Vary

OnBrand24 employs 350 to 400 agents with clients in retail, computer software and hospital care. Operations vice president Michael Moody says his company has reduced attrition levels and improved punctuality since introducing a new initiative 18 months ago. The company has used a combination of incentives for good performance including paid days off, excursions, financial rewards of between US$1,000 to US$1,500 to reward staff for performance.

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“When people are recognized and have a clear path on what their responsibility they do a much better job.” Moody says staff are trained to understand their own personality and spot that of customers.  “Some people are dominating and direct and others like to talk forever. We do role plays and quality control checks.” However, he’s quick to add his company has tried to get away from a numbers system deducting points in ranking because of minor errors. He says it’s important for staff to feel comfortable and that management is supportive and approachable. “At the end of the day when a customer hangs up the phone were they happy? Was the response clear? Do they want to deal with the company again?”

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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