Customer contact centres and high-volume call centres pose some of the most challenging operational issues facing management today
While technology for the call center has advanced considerably, dealing with the human challenges of high attrition and employee turnover, employee efficiency and productivity, and customer experience still keeps managers up at night and can directly affect a company’s financial performance and brand equity.
To understand—and address–these issues, it’s helpful to put yourself in the employees’ shoes. Aside from dealing almost exclusively with unhappy customers, the agents in a high-volume contact center often receive limited training, low pay, and may have little to look forward to in terms of advancement opportunities or positive feedback (on those rare occasions when their interaction with a customer does go well). It’s not surprising that studies report annual employee turnover of one-third or higher, and that managers are in a constant struggle to keep the employees they do have while attracting new talent.
Likewise, the shift toward automation and self-service issue resolution has dramatically reduced the volume of repetitive, routine and simple interactions that involve live agents – as a result, the calls that do reach the contact center are now more complicated, more unusual, and require a higher level of interaction and even better people skills on the part of the agent to achieve a positive outcome.
The Millennials who are now entering the workforce share some interesting traits. Over the past two decades, they have received constant, near-real-time feedback about their academic and social performance and logged untold hours on Facebook and Xbox Live, waging virtual battles, playing games, and earning badges, points, and respect as they track their own progress and that of their peers (often quite publicly).
This new generation of workers is also typified by an unprecedented ability to multi-task. And though some complain that they can’t focus on a single task for long periods of time, they generally excel in interrupt-driven multi-tasking environments—the exact environment found in a modern contact center, where a single agent may be responding to multiple customer chat sessions while simultaneously researching a response to an email inquiry.
The very nature of the contact center environment makes it an interesting test bed for experiments with incentives, culture changes and other management techniques. As any contact center manager can tell you, the traditional systems of incentives and rewards will change behavior and can improve efficiency and effectiveness, but will do little to create an enjoyable work environment where agents feel excited to come in each day.
Now imagine these same 20-something agents keeping an eye on their real-time ‘leader dashboards,’ which show how many points and badges they have achieved today while interacting with customers, and that rank their performance against their friends in the neighboring cubicles. This highly interactive scenario of rewards and incentives, known in the industry as “gamification,” is being adopted in large, high volume contact centers at leading companies with promising results.
The Microsoft Dynamics CRM team, which provides call center solutions to some of the biggest names in the industry, has found that the same principles that make interactive video games so engaging for the younger generation are also highly effective at incentivizing the right behavior and making it more fun for them go to work every day, and have partners leading the way in this space with CRMGamified and Bunchball. While this is no substitute for fair pay and proper onboarding, it has shown promise in reducing agent attrition as well as in improving customer satisfaction rates, net promoter scores, and the general quality of the customer experience.
And as more Millenials enter the workforce, we believe that gamification could have implications beyond the contact center and sales force automation. We’d like to hear from you: In what scenarios could gamification help engage your employees and drive the right behavior?