Using Gamification to Motivate Your Contact Center Staff

Are the rewards you offer your Communicators sufficiently motivating and engaging that they translate into benefits for your customers? That is, are rewards—from employee recognition to paid time off to wages—enough to overcome job stressors in the heightened customer service environment of today’s contact center?

Appropriate motivation becomes ever more relevant as Communicator responsibilities continue to extend beyond simply reading from a screen. Today, these customer care associates are expected to empathize with customers, use initiative to solve problems and remain focused on conveying a professional demeanor during each and every interaction.

The methods used by contact centers to motivate and engage Communicators to perform these duties were analyzed recently by ContactBabel, with results published in a new study, “The US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide 2016.”

The study shows that the 221 contact center managers and directors who responded to the ContactBabel questionnaire believe that their reward systems for Communicators are generally effective. Yet, ContactBabel found this to be true only when the reward was monetary, which approach was only used by 68 percent of respondents (compared to the 86 percent who use employee recognition).

In fact, cash bonuses were the least used reward.

For the most part then, contact center leaders think they are motivating and engaging Communicators in an appropriate and effective manner. Yet, by using attrition and absence rates, ContactBabel discovered a strong correlation between low salary levels and high staff attrition. The picture was a little different for absence rates, however, with those contact centers that ranked their reward programs “very effective” having fewer absences.

Overall, the findings present contact center leaders, who are not in a position to give significant wage increases to their customer care staff, with the need to find another reliable motivator. Enter gamification.

Gamification

Gamification is an approach for improving Communicator engagement, and aligning behaviors and characteristics with those of the contact center and wider enterprise. Basically, it involves turning work tasks into games. The opportunity for reward and recognition is presented at an individual level, with team-based successes also quantified. Achieving company-set goals is rewarded with points and badges.

Gamification increases Communicator engagement in a handful of ways:

  • Rewards those behaviors and characteristics that most closely align with contact center and company goals
  • Provides immediate feedback on performance to employees
  • Improves group performance through the pooling of knowledge and collaboration
  • Reduces ramp-up time for new Communicators, as it provides real-time feedback that encourages positive behaviors
  • Cuts down on time that managers must spend running incentive programs, and delivers them more objectively

Gamification requires company leaders to carefully set goals to avoid the risk of negative repercussions. For example, rewarding Communicators based on average handling time could cause them to drop difficult calls or not address customer concerns fully. Also, prepare for the novelty of the technique to wear off over time. This means that managers need to keep games fresh and goals relevant. It’s also quite possible that rewards will need to increase to maintain motivation levels.

Make Strategic Thinking Communicators’ Top Priority

“What makes a good Communicator?” This is the most critical question that’s on many contact center leaders’ minds, as customer care becomes increasingly important to their company’s viability.

While being a superb conversationalist and possessing a pleasant disposition are both very important characteristics, these traits aren’t what separate a good Communicator from an outstanding Communicator.

The one characteristic that makes a Communicator truly stand apart from the rest is strategic thinking. Strategic thinking focuses on finding and developing opportunities to create value for the customer and the company.

A trait often found in great leaders and business owners, strategic thinkers are able to act on their feet during dire situations, thinking both with the left and right sides of their brains.

What’s more, these individuals are extremely aware and perceptive, using external and internal clues to help guide their decision-making. And finally, strategic thinkers are great problem solvers, always conceptualizing solutions that benefit both the customer and the business.

When it comes to the customer care realm, being a strategic thinker is critical. One has to be able to effectively serve the customer’s needs, while also keeping in line with the business’ vision and goals.

While strategic thinking isn’t easy to teach—as many individuals are often born with this trait—it’s not entirely impossible.  Below are various ways you can help your Communicators become better strategic thinkers.

  • Create teaching moments: Chances are you already record your Communicators interactions with customers. Take those interactions and turn them into valuable teaching moments. For example, discuss ways in which a Communicator could have thought more strategically in a certain situation with a customer. Pointing out these “moments” will help them identify areas in which they can think more strategically next time they’re interacting with a customer.
  • Always ask questions: During your evaluations with your Communicators, choose one particular call they had with a customer. Walk through the call with them, asking questions as to why they went a particular route. Was there an opportunity where they could have thought more strategically? Oftentimes, Communicators will come up with the conclusion on their own without you even having to point it out.
  • Encourage thinking outside the box: In the customer care industry, Communicators will often stick to the script. However, there are certain situations that aren’t so black and white. Encourage your Communicators to think outside the box. While it’s important to adhere to certain protocol, there are situations that call for a little creativity. Reward those who are truly thinking, rather than simply reacting to a customer. Praising such behavior will promote strategic thinking.

The more Communicators you have that think strategically, the more improved your quality of customer care will become. While not every single one of your Communicators will embody this trait, there are things that you can do to help them become more proactive. Use the tips and tricks above to help your Communicators think more strategically and become more well-rounded individuals.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Maybe they’re born with it…Maybe It’s Excellent Professional Development

No two Communicators are the same. Some Communicators were simply born with social intuitiveness and an aptitude for customer care, while others need a bit more TLC to reveal their inner greatness. Don’t give up on a Communicator just because he or she has had a few hiccups along the way. After all, you want to make sure you give all of your employees a fair shot success. That being said, you must provide continuous professional development to ensure that all Communicators within your organization are achieving performance standards. Below are just a few of the qualities and skills you want to instill in your Communicators:

  • Positivity: It’s often difficult to stay positive with a challenging customer on the other end of the line.  Coaching your Communicators to use positive communication techniques will help them take control of a negative conversation and achieve timely resolution for the customer.
  • Attentiveness: To provide great service, Communicators must have the ability to really listen. Listening doesn’t just mean paying attention to what the individual is saying, but it also means reading in between the lines. For example, when a consumer says that he or she is having trouble finding a particular feature within your businesses product, what he or she is really saying is “please improve your user interface.”
  • Product knowledge: One of the most important skills Communicators need to have is product knowledge.  After all, how can Communicators help customers resolve their problems if they don’t know the product like the back of their hand?

By providing dedicated training for Communicators, you’ll be able to coach and develop skills in individual employees, which ultimately helps the entire team achieve its potential.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Dedication: The Differentiating Factor in Contact Center Success

World-class athletes don’t just make it to the Olympics over night. And no matter how well they train or how intrinsically talented they may be, the driving factor of their ultimate success is their unrelenting dedication to the sport.

And while there certainly aren’t any pole vaults or diving boards to be seen in your average contact center, there is a striking similarity between the demeanor of an athlete and a high-quality Communicator or supervisor. That is, the dedication that is put forth each and every day to improve and deliver only superior results.

If a supervisor is not dedicated to providing strong support for his or her Communicators then that particular contact center may not realize the degree of success they desire. And therein lies the issue; in order to act upon the desire for success contact center supervisors must be diligent in implementing an air-tight customer care strategy.

First off, supervisors must be dedicated to offering words of encouragement to their staff. For instance, they could make office-wide acknowledgements of Communicator achievements, showing employees that their supervisors possess compassion and recognize their hard work.

Additionally, supervisors must provide constructive criticism so that Communicators can continue to grow and improve in their roles, rather than reaching a plateau and simply providing satisfactory quality of customer care. Instead, every Communicator should be training to reach the level of expertise exuded by the most experienced team member. To that end, even the most talented Communicator must receive constructive criticism so they can become an outstanding employee and perhaps become a leader or mentor for other colleagues.

So it’s time to stop wishing for results, like higher contact center services ROI, and actively make the changes you want to achieve. Whether you’re an international track star or a contact center supervisor from Akron, Ohio—dedication is the name of the game.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Five Steps to Becoming a First-Class Customer Service Organization

As a business executive you are probably well aware by now that customer service is a top competitive differentiator. In fact, according to a recent report from research firm Walker, quality of customer service will overtake price and product as the single most important differentiator by 2020.

While that is certainly useful information, it’s doesn’t do a lot of good for businesses that don’t know how to improve their customer service practices. For those organizations, it’s a little like being told by a personal trainer to “get in shape” and getting no further instruction about how to do it. Of course on this blog, we are here to help provide perspective into creating great customer experiences. So here are some of the most effective strategies your company can employ to become a customer service superstar:

Embrace the Omni channel environment

The time when customers accepted a phone call as the only means of reaching out to a company is long gone. We live in a multi-channel world; if your customers feel limited in their options for a service request, they may not stick around.

Focus on Communicator development

Your contact center Communicators are often the first point of direct contact for customers and the determining factor in the impression they form about your company. With that in mind, you need to feel confident that every inquiry that comes in is handled by an experienced Communicator that has received robust training and understands the image you want to project.

Invest in a multichannel marketing partner

If training Communicators and refining contact center best practices are not part of your core competencies, it might seem like an overwhelming challenge. If that is the case, you can get the help you need by partnering with a multichannel marketing organization that focuses on nothing except providing excellent customer service. A full service partner provides your company with Communicators company-specific training before they interact with customers, meaning they are fully prepared to tackle any situation.

Adopt business intelligence

You might be tired of hearing about data analytics by now, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Every customer interaction, and every piece of information you extract from that interaction, helps your company improve customer service for the future—but only ifyou have the tools to make sense of it all. Great customer service is about personalizing the experience for the customer. You can’t do that effectively without data analytics.

Be transparent and honest

Nothing puts customers at ease like transparency—and nothing frustrates them more than dishonesty.  Think about your experiences with delayed flights. Wouldn’t you rather be given an honest estimate of your wait time rather than an unrealistic promise that gets broken every 20 minutes when departure is pushed back again? Everyone appreciates timely communication to help manage expectations.

Putting all of these plans in place at once may be overwhelming, so consider taking baby steps and implementing one at a time instead. Even if you don’t turn your customer service around 100 percent immediately, your customers will notice you are making strides—and they’ll appreciate the effort.