Contact centre managers often feel they’re caught in a struggle between keeping employees happy and delivering operational excellence.

But the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive: happy and engaged staff are more productive, deliver better customer experiences, have fewer absences and stay in their jobs longer. Striking a perfect work-life balance can have clear benefits for both employees and organisations. And making engaged employees the superheroes of the contact centre can have an immense impact on revenues and profitability.

We all know that difficult decisions need to be made and that calls need to be answered no matter how unsocial the hour. But most employees understand that pressure too. What they don’t get is when their job dominates their lives at the expense of other interests.

The statistics speak for themselves: 87% of global employees are disengaged, while staff turnover costs UK call centres £1bn per year. But 70% of employees think technology can improve work-life balance, and 81% of contact centre employers want to improve agent performance – the means and the motivation to strike the right balance are there.

So how can workforce management tools help?

We often find even the best intentioned of managers falling into the trap of treating their colleagues as just another resource. It’s an easy trap to fall into: some tools dehumanise the planning process to such an extent that it’s easy to focus too much on the plan and not enough on the person.

The effect is a disillusioned staff which is likely to suffer from very high turnover and will struggle to retain – or attract – the best and brightest. At Capita we’ve seen time and again how employees who are involved in managing their own schedules take a greater interest in their work and stay in their jobs longer.

Gartner has addressed an important new market segment – workforce engagement management. Gartner speaks of a “growing market awareness of the importance of the employees in customer engagement centres” and that this “is triggering an adjustment in the technologies needed to manage their day-to-day roles”.

It’s clearly an important development for contact centres, yet the steps that you should take to gain advantage from it are relatively simple. So how do you drive engagement with contact centre and back-office staff? In our experience, that comes down to a sprinkling of good old-fashioned human interaction, supported by technology that enables a degree of flexibility.

The best tools now allow you to ensure you’ve got the right people allocated to the right tasks at the right time – itself a good first step in keeping employees engaged. These tools track preferences, allocating, where possible, employees to their preferred shift patterns.

They also provide employees direct visibility over their schedules, and allow them to trade hours with colleagues or update their availability. Employees can do all this from their smartphones so whether they are in the office or on the move, they can be assured that they have a degree of control over their schedules and have flexibility when they need it.

That may seem like small change, but to many employees, it makes the world of difference, balancing family life, college and other outside interests with a job that by its nature can be unpredictable.

The obvious benefit of this is of course that customer experience follows suit. When your employees are engaged, your customers will experience the difference within seconds of their call being taken.

If you’re looking to make a change to the dynamic between your agents’ engagement and your contact centre’s performance, join Capita’s next webinar, “Engaged Employees – the Superheroes of the Contact Centre”.

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