Actively engaging employees can always be a challenge, but for call centers, it can be particularly difficult. Recognizing this, it is important for call center managers to recognize the signs of an employee who is slipping into a disengaged slump.
According to Stefan Captijn of Business2Community, there are six early warning signs that supervisors should keep a vigilant eye on. In Captijn’s January 7, 2013 article, “Six Signs Your Contact Center Agents are Hitting the Disengaged Cliff”, Captijn warns supervisors, “…tricking the system is a tell-tale sign of disengagement. Disengaged agents figure out ways to avoid the next call or interaction.”
They do this, Captijn says, by sending themselves to the back of the line; “A classic practice among these agents is to quickly hit the ‘not ready’ button and go back to ready. This resets the longest idle statistic in your ACD and means the agent is now last in line.” Supervisors may be surprised by this mastery of the system, but Captijn says “disengaged agents know these things.”
Another telltale sign, according to the article, is what Captijn calls “The book of 1000 excuses,” the excuses that disengaged agents use when they are confronted with their slipping performance. Captijn notes, “Employees who really want to improve and become better will ask you how they can improve their performance.” Functioning off of this same principle, reduced requests for training may be cause to keep an eye on a particular employee.
Although it is counterintuitive, average handle time goes down among disengaged call center employees, as they are doing “the bare minimum to help your customers”. Supervisors should also watch for more obvious signs, like showing up late and drops in customer feedback.
In its report, “Employee Health and Well Being: Trends in the Call Centre Sector”, The Shepell-fgi Research Group noted that call center employees who are disengaged and stressed are “less likely or able to manage negative emotions, or to display empathy towards clients”, resulting in decreased customer satisfaction.
A study of nearly 120 call center and BPO firms in Call Me! IQ, “The High Cost of Employee Disengagement” found that disengaged employees are three to five times more likely to leave the company, resulting in an average of $158,000 in turnover costs. Even worse, they found that disengaged employees cost their employers an average of 46 percent of their pay in lowered productivity. It is imperative that call center managers and supervisors recognize these signs and know when to put an employee on their “watch list.”
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