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Why Agent Motivation Should Be Your Biggest Performance Goal

Matt Wujciak

agent coaching

From first call resolutions to handover rates to even tone or language, customer service agents are constantly being measured -- and with good reason.

Speech analytics and other KPIs play an imperative role in helping organizations continuously redefine and navigate the customer experience journey. But are HR and CS managers getting the most out of their performance metrics, or are they simply checking traditional boxes?

The ultimate goal of metrics, after all, is not simply to “score” performance but to drive improvement in quality and efficiency. However, according to Gallup, only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to produce quality work.

A mere 21 percent agree that they have performance metrics within their control, and only 14 percent agree that the performance reviews they receive actually inspire them to improve.

So what does this mean? Gallup recently published a research paper, Re-Engineering Performance Management, that is comprised of large-scale meta-analyses from researchers outside Gallup, containing hundreds of studies on goal setting, feedback, engagement, individual differences and competencies. The research concluded that the cost of poor management and lost productivity as a result of disengaged or unmotivated employees in the U.S. is between $960 billion and $1.2 trillion per year. 

Read More: 5 Signs of a Failing Omnichannel Customer Experience

Successful organizations will buck this trend and ensure their metrics actually motivate employees and drive desired outcomes.

Granted, the response should not simply be to introduce “rah rah” cultural initiatives at the workplace. Truly game-changing insights -- the kind that lead to better performance -- come from real customer and employee feedback, as well as inspirational leadership from coaches and trainers.

CCW Digital advisory board member and industry influencer Shep Hyken recently met with Stella Connect, a company devoted to motivating and inspiring customer service teams. Hyken reflected on his experiences in a Forbes article:

“I once talked to the manager of a customer support center. I asked him, ‘What is your most important job?’ He said, ‘To manage the contact center.’ I had hoped for a better answer, and after a bit of prompting, he delivered. He said, ‘I support my people to do their best when taking care of our customers.’"

Exactly. Managers don’t just manage. They coach. And having quick one-on-one conversations with employees in the moment is a powerful way to take the real-time feedback and use it to teach agents to be even better. Stella refers to this as "micro-coaching."

Read More: 4 Ways to Motivate Your Customer Service Team

Leading equine etailer SmartPak is tapping into the idea of combining traditional agent metrics with the human side of CX.

This synergistic approach starts out in the hiring process, as SmartPak recruits  and empowers agents who not only possess knowledge of the company’s products and services but genuinely care about them from an interest perspective. This helps SmartPak’s employees translate the aligned company/employee values into a passionate commitment to customer experience.

They then balance quantitative and qualitative QA metrics with both agents and employees to provide the intel necessary for consistent and quick coaching (similarly to Stella’s micro-coaching method). These strategies allow agents to focus on aspects of the CX journey that really matter, such as personalizing customer interactions.

Traditional annual performance reviews are unpleasant for both the leader and the team member. No one wants to be thought of as a number on a range of poor to great.

Read More: 4 Reasons Why Your Contact Center Agents Aren't Happy

Studies show that the time invested into reporting and the ineffectiveness of annual reviews doesn’t serve the CS agents or boost their performance. As a result, it doesn’t positively impact the company.

However, “empowering your front line,” as Deloitte describes in its case study Customer- centricity Embedding it into your organisation’s DNA, creates an environment where individuals are motivated to perform at their highest level and “feel they have a degree of creativity and empowerment within a structured framework, creating ‘magic moments’ of customer service.”

Aligning company and employee interests and values, and targeting emotional metrics like motivation or agent satisfaction through micro-coaching might just be the overlooked variables your company needs to generate customer satisfaction.

Customer service isn’t just a department in your organization, it’s a philosophy among your employees.