Happy call center agents = happy customers

UPDATE: This article was also published in the ICMI blog

If we accept the premise that happy call center agents make for happy customers, we have to agree on at least one of our definitions. We pretty much know what makes for happy customers, because they either tell us in so many words, or show us by their behavior – negative or positive.

However, the definition of happy we need to agree on is the one we apply to our call center agents. A happy call center agent, to be effective, would be one who typically lives up to all the positive expectations we have of a well-trained, customer-oriented employee, who likes the job because the tools are there to do it well.

So both accepting our definition of a happy call center agent and further agreeing that a happy call center agent promotes the best customer experience, combine into somewhat of a self-evident axiom that sounds great, but may not be so easy to achieve.

On the other hand, sometimes things are easier than they might seem. You simply have to home in on and apply other less obvious, but nevertheless axiomatic principles in influencing human behavior. One of those principles goes like this: People will do what you want them to do—rather than what they want to do—if you make it easy for them.

The foregoing may sound somewhat overly self-evident, but if you’re going to staff your call center with the best agents you need to make them happy and give them the tools to make your customers happy. The ingredients to that happy mixture include:

  • a call center scheduling process that puts your top talent on scene during times of highest customer activity
  • a reliable customer database support system that prompts the call center agent with the customer’s buying habits and makes the customer feel valued
  • a call center analytics program that automatically monitors and tracks agents’ group and individual performance without excessive supervision (i.e., the agents know that accountability is an inherent and irrefutable part of the system)

At the beginning of this discussion we had to accept somewhat differing definitions of the term “happy” on either side of the equation. But a happy agent does have one thing in common with a happy customer: it is the feeling of satisfaction that the customer’s experience no longer includes obstacles of long waits and an agent’s unfamiliarity with the customer. The agent and the customer both have an experience that make each happy.

Finally, the analytics and monitoring make for a stronger team of call center agents. Top performance is recorded and recognized, and the call center where the lifeblood of customer contacts flows takes its place at the heart of the business.

On this same subject, please check out the archived webinar How Can Emerging Channels be Leveraged to Improve the Customer Experience? featuring Ian Hunter (the author of this post) and Sarah Stealey Reed from ICMI.