Off Center
Employee engagement has been all the rage among people management experts for years. More than  just a term that the folks at Gallup invented to make “employee satisfaction” seem obsolete and to get filthy rich, employee engagement is a metric to help determine who on your front line would likely continue working for your company even if you stopped paying them.

In today’s competitive business climate, creating customer advocacy requires call center staff to be more than just “satisfied” with their job. Satisfied agents like what they do and want to provide good service, but what’s needed are people who love what they do and feel compelled to provide great service. That’s right – agent engagement is so crucial today that it requires sentences featuring three separate italicized words. 

I know plenty of call centers that report agent satisfaction rates in the 90% range but still struggle with turnover, graffiti and arson. Centers with truly engaged agents, on the other hand, find that their staff remains loyal and committed for the long haul
right up until the center is outsourced to the Philippines.

To help you accurately track the level of agent engagement in your call center, I have developed a concise yet comprehensive survey (see below) that you can administer to staff. In creating the survey, I considered the latest best practices in engagement survey design, but got confused by all the science and psychometrics, and thus decided to come up with my own approach. 

The Ultimate Agent Engagement Survey
1) On my way to work in the call center, I usually…
a) Feel very excited and empowered about helping customers.
b) Pop a Xanax and then I’m fine.
c) Throw-up a little in my mouth.

2) If the call center were to catch fire, I would…
a) Risk my life trying to extinguish the flames.
b) Run like a frightened cheetah.
c) Hide the gasoline can and the matches.

3) I feel valued and respected at work.
a) Strongly agree
b) Agree
c) Neutral
d) I earn $8.50/hr and work in a cubicle the size of a bathroom stall – what do YOU think?

4) The key performance objectives in place in the call center…
a) Are fair, feasible and focused on the customer experience.
b) Push productivity somewhat at the expense of the customer experience.
c) Push me to drink and listen to death metal music.   

5) Training and development in the call center…
a) Is comprehensive and eclectic, and prepares me for continuous success.
b) Is lacking somewhat, but what are you gonna do? 
c) Ended right after my job interview.

6) Rewards/recognition in the call center…
a) Is frequent, meaningful and inspires me to perform at my best.
b) Is high in sugar and saturated fats.
c) Would be lovely.

7) Compensation and benefits in the call center…
a) Is highly competitive and alluring.
b) Is standard and acceptable.
c) Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

8) Please tell us what we can do to make the call center a better place to work.
(Kindly limit your response to 10 characters or less.)

Colin Taylor
3/25/2011 12:03:11 am

Entertaining and only slightly tongue in cheek. I have note a few additions.

You ommitted some of the instructions related to completing the survey;
1) Remove any leg irons
2) State your nam in order to mprotect your anonymity
3) place customers on hold before you begin

3/25/2011 05:00:05 am

Nice additions, Colin.

I may be calling on you to fill in for me while I catch up on my sleep next month.



3/27/2011 02:03:38 pm

There's even a subtle second-layer problem where management are absolutely sure they're providing a great environment - except they haven't checked this with the employees.

Then there's the issue that they provide an environment which has all the things that an averaging of the employee response survey requested - but it's so inflexible and rigid that no actual human beings can get any use out of it. God forbid that two employees might want two slightly different things.

3/27/2011 09:40:18 pm

Good points, CG. Numbers and perceptions don't tell the full story of engagement -- employees do. Also, how the survey is administered will impact results. Company must promise employee anonymity, and ensure agents that the company truly wants their honest feedback to help make real improvements.

Also, I don't believe in offering incentives to complete a survey. If you have to do that to get responses, then you already know agents are NOT engaged.

Thanks for your comments!



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