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Our well-being depends on the quality of our connections with others. According to Yale University lecturer Emma Seppälä, "people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathic to others, [and are] more trusting and cooperative"—all essential attributes of a stable and productive workforce.
Maintaining connectedness within a contact center has always presented unique challenges. For example, engagement among customer service agents is demanding due to the one-to-one nature of customer care, the continuous flow of customer interactions and the lack of physical mobility due to reliance on screen-based support systems. The warp-speed migration to work-from-home complicated things further—IT and operations management continue to augment processes and technologies to support an evolving landscape of remote and hybrid teams. High attrition rates, inherently diverse workforces, labor shortages and an extraordinarily dynamic technology backdrop thicken the plot for the customer contact narrative.
Despite its unique impediments, contact center senior leaders should regularly examine the effectiveness of their employee engagement strategies. Here are six ways to stimulate connectedness, organizational trust and productive relationships throughout your customer contact organization.
1. Unleash the full power of your systems and data.
Technology and data abound in contact centers but often aren't leveraged to their full extent. Multiple core systems provide essential functionality and useful reports, but tapping the full potential of siloed solutions requires more. Automatically aggregate, synthesize and analyze collective data and present it in functional real-time management dashboards to every stakeholder. Integrate holistic coaching, intelligent workflows, gamification, performance-based compensation and other capabilities to engender teamwork, accountability and collaboration.
There are software options that can provide these capabilities, categorically defined as contact center performance management, employee engagement, performance enablement, gamification and workforce optimization.
2. Maintain the accelerated pace of digital transformation.
One silver lining of the Covid-19 restrictions was the full-throttle transformation of vital contact center systems that made support of consumers and businesses throughout the pandemic nearly seamless. As home offices activated overnight, videoconferencing became the standard means for team leaders to connect with and support their agents. Cloud-based providers of omnichannel customer service, CRM, QA, coaching and other processes creatively aligned with their customers to advance remote workforce capabilities and elevate CX. If you aren't among the organizations that were able to expedite technology upgrades during the pandemic, it's not too late. Vendor solutions have evolved in breadth, specialty and versatility, offering more options than ever to maximize customer contact team efficiency, collaboration and productivity.
3. Create an environment of trust, transparency and accountability.
The state of trust these days is pitiful. A 2021 Gallup survey found that a mere 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they trust their organization's leadership, while 74% of employees worldwide believe corruption is widespread among businesses in their country. Without trust, no organization should expect to survive—let alone thrive. To demonstrate fidelity to this most fundamental tenet:
• Be open and forthright about the organization's vision, strategy and status.
• Align performance-based pay programs to performance goals and apply them impartially to others in the same role.
• Deliver on the commitments voiced by and pledged to the workforce (do what you say you'll do).
• Disclose and accept responsibility for errors and missteps.
Win or lose, transparency can foster trust within the organization and equip employees to think critically as well as effectively support colleagues and customers.
4. Make connectedness seamless and fun.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or so the saying goes—and perhaps even worse, a bored, disengaged quiet-quitter. To enhance the work experience, amuse, celebrate or excite your employees in the following four ways.
• Celebrate everything—birthdays, work anniversaries, awards and performance milestones and other events via private and public communication and festivities.
• Gamify teamwork, productive behaviors, KPI performance and senior leadership engagement. Use game mechanics as a core component of your performance management and employee engagement strategy.
• Reward meaningful progress and performance with incentive compensation, redeemable credits, badges, time off, flex scheduling and other perquisites that meet the needs of your workforce.
• Engage employees continuously via coaching, polls, surveys and informal check-ins.
Engendering friendly and authentic workplace relationships—especially given the isolation inherent to remote work—is more critical now than ever.
5. Gather in person.
The work-from-home model offers contact centers many benefits—including eliminated commutes, reduced office expense, expanded workforce diversification and greater schedule flexibility. There are serious drawbacks, however, like the effects of isolation on personal well-being, less efficient and effective training and support, systems security, and loss of in-person collaborative problem-solving. Regardless of the remote work/office mix, offices and other locations where the workforce can gather are essential to ensuring employees receive the full range of support they need. Thoughtfully and creatively consider the venues and formal policies used for training, presentations, daily work and other events focusing on making connectedness consistent, meaningful and intuitive.
6. Strengthen connection through volunteering.
Volunteering may have more significant potential to boost employee engagement and strengthen employer/employee connections than any other strategy. A UnitedHealth Group study found that U.S. adults feel physically and mentally healthier as well as experience lower stress and greater self-esteem by volunteering. America's Charities reports that 71% of surveyed employees say it's imperative or very important to work where the culture supports giving and volunteering, and 90% of businesses indicated that partnering with reputable nonprofits enhances their brands. There are numerous resources that can help you decide where to begin your community service journey, and you can also ask your employees about the causes that matter to them.
A human sanctuary.
Today's workforce must navigate a world fraught with uncertainty, disruption and challenges, and employees trust their employer more than any other institution to guide them safely through the fog. Facilitating connectedness within the workplace isn't easy, but the benefits are compelling, and the timing and mission could not be more apparent. Make your workplace an oasis of trust, potential and authentic connection in which your people can freely pursue happiness and prosper—and amplify your ability to deliver exceptional outcomes for customers, business and community.
View original article on Forbes.com