How to Retain and Engage Agents with a Flexible Model

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The shift to a hybrid contact center environment has brought about new challenges and opportunities for almost all contact centers. This change has required leaders and their teams to go back to the drawing board and refresh their approach to agent management.

As new models emerge, such as gig-powered models, it’s important that contact centers adopt best practices to ensure their agents thrive in hybrid models.

In this blog post, we will explore how top brands are retaining and engaging agents, identifying key factors for agent success, shortening the time to competency for new agents, and how they are supporting their agents to stay ahead of growing trends.

Retaining and Engaging Agents in the Hybrid Contact Center Environment

More and more contact centers are leaning into hybrid models, which enable agents to work remote and/or in-office. While most contact centers quickly adopted hybrid models, they weren’t quite ready or experienced to sustain these models and ensure high performance. 

Despite the increased flexibility, contact center turnover rates are higher than ever, and it is becoming increasingly challenging for the best contact centers to retain top talent. As we consider new approaches to leading hybrid teams, a few strategies are required to keep agents engaged and motivated.

These approaches include:

Flexible Scheduling: Allowing agents to choose their work hours enhances work-life balance, reducing burnout and increasing job satisfaction. Flexibility is especially important in a hybrid environment, where agents juggle multiple responsibilities. 

Regular Communication and Support: Maintaining regular communication through virtual meetings, chat groups, and one-on-one check-ins ensures agents feel connected and supported. Access to support resources and open channels for feedback fosters a sense of belonging and collaboration. One of the top reasons that agents typically leave a position, especially shortly after joining, is feeling they aren’t properly supported to excel in their work.

Recognition and Rewards: Recognizing and rewarding agents for their achievements boosts morale and motivation. Implementing performance-based incentives and appreciation programs helps retain top talent by making agents feel valued for their contributions.

Identifying Factors that Contribute to Agent Success

Understanding what drives agent success in a hybrid environment is crucial for optimizing performance. Top brands are focusing on several key factors:

Effective Training Programs: Comprehensive training covering technical and soft skills is essential. Leading companies invest in interactive and engaging training modules catering to various learning styles, ensuring agents are well-prepared for their roles. In one of our earlier posts, we explained that some of the best contact centers are moving away from classroom models and instead embracing interactive, on-demand learning to help agents establish competency faster.

Clear Performance Metrics: Defining clear and achievable performance metrics helps agents understand expectations and goals. Regular performance reviews and constructive feedback allow agents to continuously improve and succeed in their roles. Keeping your agents in the loop about their metrics allows your managers to gamify their performance. You may consider increasing opportunities for those who consistently perform well or provide special rewards when certain metrics are met.

Empowerment and Autonomy: Empowering agents to make decisions and solve problems independently boosts their confidence and job satisfaction. Providing autonomy, along with the necessary tools and resources, enables agents to excel in their roles. This is very important. Agents are some of your most powerful stakeholders, especially when it comes to improving processes and adopting new technologies.

Shortening Time to Competency for New Agents

Reducing the time it takes for new agents to become fully competent is a priority for many contact centers. Here are a few best practices your contact center should consider.

Streamlined Onboarding Processes: Simplifying and accelerating the onboarding process helps new agents get up to speed quickly. This includes clear documentation, structured training schedules, and immediate access to necessary resources. Your onboarding process is where your contact center makes the first impression with new agents. Depending on their experience, this can cause agents to leave or share how wonderful the experience is with other agents like them.

Mentorship Programs: Pairing new agents with experienced mentors provides them with guidance and support as they learn the ropes. Mentorship programs facilitate knowledge transfer and help new agents navigate challenges effectively. A mentorship program is not only great for new agents, but tenured agents as well. These are the types of leadership opportunities your contact center can expand on and provide to those who are looking to grow within your company.

Performance Monitoring Technology: Utilizing advanced technology such as AI-powered training tools, simulation exercises, and real-time performance tracking accelerates learning and skill development. These technologies provide immediate feedback and personalized learning experiences for new agents. This is key to helping agents improve on opportunities to make them better at their jobs. With these tools, you can address weaknesses early on and help them build on these skills during training. This can also prevent the development of bad habits that could potentially impact the performance of new agents as they onboard.

Keeping Your Agents Up-to-Date on Industry Trends and Best Practices

Often times leaders are the ones who take on the responsibility of staying informed about the latest trends and best practices. However, it is crucial for agents to also have a pulse on these industry changes as well. Here are a few practices you may consider implementing in your contact center:

Continuous Learning and Development: Encouraging continuous learning through workshops, webinars, and online courses ensures agents stay updated with industry advancements. Providing access to a wealth of learning resources fosters a culture of growth and improvement. You should also practice sourcing topics from the agents on things they’d like to learn to improve on their jobs or to grow as professionals. This can help inform the types of continued learning programs you bring on board and increase participation because you're focusing on topics they care about.

Participation in Industry Events: Enabling agents to attend industry conferences, trade shows, and networking events allows them to gain insights into emerging trends and innovative practices. These events provide opportunities to learn from industry experts and peers. These types of rewards can be granted on performance or tenure, further incentivizing agents to stay onboard with your contact center.

Collaborative Learning Communities: Creating internal and external communities where agents and leaders share knowledge and experiences fosters a collaborative learning environment. Participation in forums, discussion groups, and social media communities helps stay connected with industry developments. This can include a monthly or quarterly town hall where agents can bring their ideas to a larger discussion that include leadership, managers, and peers. 

As the hybrid contact center environment becomes the new norm, top brands are demonstrating that with the right strategies, it is possible to retain and engage agents, identify key success factors, shorten time to competency, and stay updated on industry trends.

While contact center optimization is done over time, it is important to prioritize the efforts your team can execute most easily and slowly adopt change from there. These strategies not only improve agent satisfaction and performance but, with the right execution can improve the overall contact center success.

For more insights and to stay ahead in the industry, consider partnering with a contact center solutions provider like ShyftOff. With expertise in gig-powered models and a commitment to excellence, ShyftOff can help you optimize your contact center operations and achieve outstanding results. Start your journey towards a more efficient and engaged contact center today.

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