4 Best Practices to Retain Top Performers
by Susan Hash
Many contact centers are not aware of the underlying reasons why their top performers choose to leave. Traditional exit interviews don't offer reliable feedback because they only scratch the surface of the causes of attrition. Before getting to the point where a valued agent is leaving, though, managers should focus on creating a climate of trust that will allow their staff to give honest feedback on workplace issues. Getting your agents to provide candid feedback is a process that takes stages. They're likely to be apprehensive about initial conversations about their jobs, but if they see that actions are being taken on their feedback, they'll start to trust the process and open up even more. So what can managers do on a day-to-day basis to build open relationships and retain top performers?

Give Agents a Voice in the Organization
Top performers understand the value that they bring to an organization, and they tend get frustrated when their employers overlook or downplay their role. When agents are treated like statistics, and are told to do it faster, run harder, jump higher, then they'll feel like a number and will focus on the numbers—which, for them, is making 30 cents more an hour at another organization.
Best practice: At Comerica Bank, the contact center is highly visible within the organization and is actively pursued for its voice. When other departments launch a project, they turn to the center's agents to learn about the customer's viewpoint. When agents are called upon for special projects, they feel valued. Comerica's senior execs also try to show agents that they matter on a daily basis by visiting the center regularly to walk the floor and spend time talking with individuals about their performance and contributions.

Promote the Right Skill Sets
While top performers desire opportunities for growth and development, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are cut out to be supervisors or leaders. In most centers, promotions are still based on performance, even though the highest-level performers typically do not make good supervisors or coaches.
Best practice: Putting in place a more stringent selection process for supervisors or team leads can help to identify those top performers who have the right leadership qualities. To be promoted into a leadership role at identity theft protection firm LifeLock, supervisor candidates have to undergo a rigorous hiring process that includes behavioral profiles, and multiple face-to-face interviews. Agents who take on a leadership role are then monitored for their team's retention levels. Managers also conduct skip-level meetings with frontline agents to identify any issues new leaders might be having and to determine whether they are meeting their team's needs.

Remember that Supervisors Are the Glue
Studies have shown that the supervisor-employee relationship is a key contributor to employee retention. Unfortunately, in the contact center industry, most supervisors are not equipped to manage people—and many lack the leadership skills, training and time to focus on developing their team.
Best practice: At Comerica, supervisors play a critical role in agent development and are expected to be on the floor, not at their desks working on reports. Supervisors are required to spend 90% of their floor time actively engaged with the agents, listening to phone calls and coaching agents. Each supervisor oversees 12 to 14 agents so individual attention requires a good deal of their time, but management considers it time well spent with an ROI in higher performance, morale and retention.

Take the Pulse of Your Culture
While most managers say that they have an open-door policy, agents are not likely to come to you with their concerns. Instead, you'll need to proactively solicit their feedback.
Best practice: In Comerica's customer contact center, an agent counsel consisting of top performers meets with management every month to offer the front line's feedback, comments, suggestions and concerns on workplace issues and the center's culture. Agents' feedback is responded to in a timely fashion so that they can see the impact that they have on processes and policies.

Inside View — Ally Bank
by Susan Hash
In the banking industry, consumers have begun to look to the online experience as a key differentiator when deciding with whom they want to do business. Being committed to doing the right thing for their customers is the core of Ally Bank's service vision—and the bank's website has earned high marks for realistically reflecting that vision by being easy to do business with. Visitors to the website will notice a refreshing lack of “bank-ese” or industry jargon that pervades most online banking sites. Instead, information is presented in an honest, uncomplicated manner that portrays Ally's friendly, relaxed service culture. The contact center's toll-free number is visibly displayed on each page, as well as the current call wait time. Live agents are available to customers and prospects on the phone or via chat around the clock. The bank's forecasting strategy is simple: To make sure that enough people are available to answer the phones, 24x7, to maintain a maximum wait time of about a minute.
Read the full story here.


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