The traditional British workplace is very different from what it used to be. The industrial revolution saw people use new technology to increase productivity and automate routine tasks, but they never lost the mindset of making things and then taking pride in what they had achieved – and if they outdid their colleagues, even better! People felt like they had control over their work, and how they performed came down to how they governed themselves.

However we now live in the digital age, where a lot of us are based in offices, either talking on phones or sat in front of a computer, sometimes it can be hard to instill that old style mentality. Performance management needs to come back to the forefront of service and we need to get staff excited about work again.

In the contact centre in particular, it’s harder now for agents to govern their own performances. Typically, information from the call switch and key performance indicators (KPIs) goes straight through to the senior staff. Only then do they decide whether the agent is performing well enough, meaning that all the agent can do is continue to perform the way that they are told until someone tells them otherwise.

A 2014 BDO report – Return on Service – written by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), found that 84 per cent of business leaders surveyed believe that customer service is very, or at least moderately important to their financial performance. These figures highlight that the contact centre’s role in the business is slowly being recognised as a board room issue, so making sure your staff are performing, both in terms of delivering the quality standards expected and also working productively, is crucial.

An agent’s primary goal is to help customers as quickly as possible, while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. If the agents feel they are unable to do this, it can translate into a poor performance and impact the quality of service that they deliver to customers, leading to complaints and customers switching providers to someone who can offer them the experience that they are looking for.

What needs to happen is a shift from vague KPIs that are only fed back to the agent at intervals by their managers, to agents knowing immediately how they are performing and how their colleagues are performing as well. This has the potential to encourage agents to be aware of their own work and introduce a competitive nature into the contact centre that can drive staff to succeed.

Although it seems like a juxtaposition, instilling that old work mentality into the modern contact centre is within reach with technology. If what you want to create is a self-motivating atmosphere for employees to improve morale and job satisfaction, then facts and figures relating to the job they are doing right then and there need to be right in front of them.

Technology such as speech analytics offers these real-time capabilities to do anything from prompting to give the right information required of each campaign if there is no detection of the agent doing so, to ‘pushing’ training to the agent desktop if a particular area needs improvement quickly. In this way, staff are aware of what went wrong immediately, and this can be rectified as soon as possible. This sense of guidance using on-the-spot alerts to both the agents and supervisors will encourage agents to self-manage; they will be self-sufficient, addressing where they are going wrong by themselves and allowing them to improve and grow through their own initiative.

If companies are able to monitor agents calls quickly and rate whether they have done well or poorly, then going one step further, why not share this information, live, between all the agents? Imagine if everyone could see how each other is doing through the performance data getting pushed to their agent desktop, transforming this information into a league table that showed staff who’s performing well and who needs to improve. Much has been talked about the growing popularity of ‘gamification’ in contact centres, and this could be a more productive way of achieving healthy competition.

Enabling agents to become self-sufficient, affording them the autonomy to take control of and govern their own work is now very much possible and if the strategy is applied well, any technological investment should generate a return quickly, as the positivity transfers into excellent customer experiences.

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