Having been field-tested in the fires of call center management and call center leadership, I have learned 6 critical, and truly practicable, things you can do to keep your call center employees engaged, happy and productive.

Some background…

The decade of the ‘90s turned out to be a great 10 years for the service and support industry. Due to a larger number of service offerings and the ability of service providers to meet the consumer’s expectations, the service industry really took off.

But these first two decades of the new millennium are bringing a profound shift in customer expectations, raising the bar for service providers. As a result, call center professionals today find themselves in a challenging economic and business climate, one that adds increasing pressure on companies to deliver high levels of customer satisfaction.

With this pressure on our call centers, how do you keep your employees interested in the job so they don’t burn out quickly? It does not matter whether you are responsible for a high volume, low volume, high complexity or low complexity call center; the likelihood of employee burnout in your organization is inevitable.

The following six techniques will help to reduce burnout.

Encourage Job Diversity

In the call center environment it is sometimes difficult to create diversity when all of the jobs are practically the same. Begin tailoring the activities during off-the-phone time for employees to add things that include their interests. For example:

  • If you find someone who has the interest and the ability for technical writing, have them write technical notes for the center and customers.
  • Employees who show an interest in training might prepare talks for user groups or new employees.

These types of activities act as a constructive alternative to the routine of the call center.

#1 – Create an Atmosphere of Fun

As the manager, you cannot makethem have fun, but you can provide the right atmosphere so that, when having fun begins to happen, the employees will feel comfortable.

To help break the tension, try placing hand toys in the call center (i.e., yo-yos, koosh balls and trash can basketball hoops). The only rule is that the customer can never suffer.

#2 – Keep Employees Involved

We all know how stressful change can be. So, when you put a change of workflow in an already stressful job, you risk increased stress and, consequently, burnout. But you can reduce some of the stress related to internal change by asking employees to help design any new process.

If employees are involved in the decision making process, they’re more likely to buy into the final decision, and the success of the new process is almost guaranteed.

#3 – Be Human

Often as managers we tell our employees it is okay to make a mistake, or to not know an answer; however, we tend not to live that ourselves. Many times, the pressure to be successful is so great that we want to be the perfect managers.

But here’s the reality: If we cannot be open and honest with our own employees, we cannot expect the same from them.

While this is extremely hard for many people, honesty about your own foibles has been one of the most powerful tools I have ever used. Not only does it create a good channel of communication, it also builds a great deal of loyalty.

#4 – Get Your Hands Dirty

Managers’ days are filled with meetings, reports and problems, and many managers do not have a spare minute to do another thing. Everyone knows this, especiallyyour employees.

But you must make time to roll up your sleeves and participate in the handling of calls. It does not have to be daily, or even weekly, but it has to be sincere and frequent enough so that your group remembers it. Be sure to strip yourself of your manager title and role when you participate so that you really experience their world.

#5 – Be Visual and Visible

As managers we tend to talk about doing this or that but, more often than not, our message is not heard. I have found using visual aids in expressing important issues are crucial.

Don’t just limit the visual aids to meetings, but also use them in the call center to help express how well they are doing or how important certain things are. Use an electronic tote board for hold times and call volume. Or use ping-pong balls in a clear tube to represent calls solved on the first call. If you want to drive home an issue, such visual aids enhance the effects of the message.

It is also essential to make yourself known. Let your group know you are there; walk around your area several times a day and have informal conversations with the people you encounter. Meetings and office work are an important part of your management duties; however, being available for your employees is equally as important.

In summary…

These techniques are by no means foolproof, but, executed properly, you’ll see a reduction in burnout and get employees more interested in their jobs.

To execute them well, you need to believe in what you are doing. If you begin in doubt, then your staff will sense it and not respond positively. Take your time; you do not have to try to do the techniques all at once. Try one or two, see how it works. Be patient, and do not be discouraged. There will always be burnout in this industry, but management canmake a positive difference.

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you already tried some of these techniques? Have you tried other techniques that have worked well for you? Please share your results in the comments below, so that other call center leaders and managers can be guided by your experiences.