May 8th, 2017
Morale. Engagement. Retention. Three words that you should keep in mind. As businesses, we often like to believe that our employees are happy and have everything that they need to do a fantastic job. But that isn’t always the case. And the cost of ignoring our customer service (CS) operators’ needs is often disastrously high, especially when it comes to the customer experience (CX) that they are offering.
FM invests a lot of time and money into it's employees. Their success is our success. This includes professional development opportunities (both paid and free) and doing our best to provide any internal cross-training requested. Here’s our advice on keeping engagement high and why it’s so important.
The cost of low morale
‘Why is low morale bad for a business?’
Employees with low morale are simply far less productive. Those who feel trapped or frustrated in their position are, naturally, less inclined to put the effort into their work. These employees become less manageable, less concerned about producing a great customer experience and have much more counter-productive attitudes. Even if they aren't being overtly problematic, their frustrations can still have a huge impact on their daily work.
Their unhappiness is reflected in their interactions with customers, and can be infectious to their colleagues. Emotion contagion occurs between groups of people that are often in close contact with each other, including team-mates in the workplace. Employees who are unhappy with their job are perfectly capable of spreading this dissatisfaction to other workers, even if they don’t particularly mean to. And this negative outlook can spread to customers too.
Problems not being addressed
This often occurs because of poor management in a department. If your managers are running their teams from the top-down, they are often instilling a sense of helplessness and apathy into the teams they are in charge of. Top-down management is when a manager expects their teams to listen, work hard and not complain, often not providing an open door for any issues that may arise. This makes your employees feel like they’ve nowhere to go when something goes wrong and that no one is willing to listen to them.
This is an issue in itself but it also leads to problems within the department not being addressed. Systems that aren’t working, positions that are not being filled, interactions that are being abandoned. All of these things can occur when an employee doesn’t feel like they are able to raise it with someone higher in the chain of command. This can create a sense of incredible frustration in your operators, along with a distrust for the management system and even as far as the company as a whole. This can, eventually, lead to employees simply quitting their jobs, sometimes en masse.
This one’s simple. Employees with low job satisfaction are much more likely to leave your company for another one. In fact, a quarter of UK employees are already looking to leave their jobs.
Although you may think that it takes a lot for an employee to leave – and it often does – high turnover is an issue in a lot of companies and should be something you’re monitoring. The UK national average for turnover is 15%. Although the percentage varies from industry to industry, 15% of your staff leaving per year is quite a handful.
High turnover means your employees have to pick up the slack for the positions that you’re now trying to fill. That increased workload will leak into the customer experience they are delivering; stressed and tired staff can't perform at 100% for your customers, which is where it really counts.
Morale Boosting Techniques
‘How can I Improve Employee Engagement?’
One of the easiest ways of improving job satisfaction is making sure your operators have all the resources to complete the tasks you’re giving them. All too often, businesses can find themselves asking more and more from their employees. And, especially during peak times, it’s sometimes unavoidable. After all, every company has a bottom line. But, make sure that what you’re asking from your employees is actually within their ability to complete.
If your operators already have targets – like a certain amount of contacts per hour (CPH) – and you’re now asking them to conduct surveys as well, make sure you’re re-evaluating their targets as a result. We’re not saying it’s a good idea to let your teams off lightly, but it also doesn’t pay to over-work them. Teams who have achievable goals – and who are consistently able to reach these goals – naturally become more proud of the work they’re doing and work harder to achieve more. Setting targets is important but making sure your teams have everything they need to reach them is critical for good morale and productivity.
This might seem like an obvious one but it’s pretty easy to get it wrong. The rule follows that if you offer your employees some kind of reward for a job well done, they’ll work harder for that reward. But your teams aren’t a donkey with a carrot and a stick – they’re thinking, feeling people who often think and feel very differently on an individual basis.
The first thing to do is to actually ask your operators what they want. You might be surprised by the answer. Sometimes it can be as simple as an extra day off work or a meal out as a team. Sometimes it can be a bit pricier, like an office coffee machine or a party. But, whatever answers you receive, they’re all important. These are the things that will really motivate your team to work harder toward giving the best CX they can. Remember to make sure that the reward seems tangible for everyone on your team, otherwise the lustre will slowly fade and productivity will slump as a result.
And, remember, a little competition never hurt anyone! Our CS teams are given monthly scorecards, with those at the top taking home a cash reward for their hard work during the month. We’ve found that little motivates as well as some beer-money in the back pocket.
Successes and Goals
We can’t emphasise enough how important it is to celebrate your successes. Even when you have a team that is dedicated and working hard, stress can still become an issue. Letting your teams know what they’ve achieved can be a great way to make it all seem worth it. At FM, We have an annual Christmas party where we celebrate the success of the year. We give out awards, prizes and generally give everyone a chance to let their hair down.
But don’t stop there! The big successes are important but the weekly, or even daily, achievements are what keep your team really going. We've found that weekly meetings to re-group are vital. Meetings like this give you a chance to talk about targets, any on-going issues and how you're going to move forward as a team. If your operators are on a bit of a low because of a particularly bad interaction last week, don’t let it fester. New week, new goals, and new successes!
Promoting from the bottom-up
Although this one isn’t vital, it’s certainly something to consider. Promoting from within your company can really help shape the way your teams work. Although you could find someone from outside to become a supervisor, consider promoting someone who is already shining. They may have more to learn but they are also incredibly in touch with their team and know exactly how your company works. This technique is something we use quite often at FM and it has left us with departmental managers who are trusted, respected and who know exactly how to keep their teams motivated. (Trust us, that’s pretty useful during peak hours).
Our head of Human Resources (HR), Emma Walton, was promoted all the way up the ladder within our little family. She said that:
The people most capable of managing a team are the people who have experienced working within that team. In order to understand what is required to do a good job, they need to understand exactly what their staff are doing, hour by hour, and they need to be able to understand how to help them if they’re having any issues. Promoting from within the business also means that they already understand the company values, culture, structure etc. and, therefore, the transition is much easier.
The Benefits of Professional Development
‘Does training improve morale and productivity?’
Even if your workplace is the happiest in the world, you have to be offering more to your operators to retain the best. We’ve spoken a little about promoting within the business but your employees usually can’t get there on their own – they need additional training to really improve. So how does training and professional development help your company?
The opportunity for improvement is a great motivator. This works for any business, both small and large. Offering additional, targeted, training for each employee means they get a little boost of confidence and pride any time they complete a course, pass a test or gain a skill. When someone feels like they’re becoming more accomplished and proficient at their work, their job satisfaction increases, along with the likelihood of them remaining with the company.
This higher level of job satisfaction and performance only makes things better for the company overall. Your employees are happier in their job because they are being given the chance to improve and succeed. This happiness motivates them to work even harder and creates a sense of loyalty toward the company that has given them this wealth of knowledge. And, as a result, your operators become your best brand ambassadors, which translates into their work. A loyal employee is always keen to make sure that your company shines in every interaction, making for the best CX.
We offer NVQ courses to our operators within FM, of which, nine are currently on said courses. We offer these for free to those without degrees, not only to help them improve in their work but to make sure they know we are invested in them as both workers and individuals. Daniel Foster, our head of customer care, says "I am a strong believer that a company is only as good as its employees. By giving our employees the knowledge to be able to excel in their roles, not only do we enhance the care provided to our clients but we also [allow] our people to pursue a career path. […] This empowers employees and helps to drive employee engagement."
This one might seem obvious but it’s important. Creating the right atmosphere in your company – making sure your morale is high and that you’re providing the right kind of opportunities – attracts the very best. Right now, the UK is facing – and has been facing for some time – a shortage in skilled workers. So why not train your own?
Beside our NVQ courses, we also offer professional development training – at no cost to the employee – in nearly all our departments.
An average of 90% of people who have completed a qualification with us have received a promotion or salary increase as a result. And we've seen nothing but positive results.
This kind of loyalty means that your employees rarely leave the company, even during stressful times. When you offer professional development, you’re telling your employees that you care about their careers and want them to be the best that they can be.
Many professional workers want to improve and are looking for opportunities for promotion. If your company puts the time and money into giving your employees these chances, they're unlikely to be looking for them elsewhere. Not only that, but you’re also encouraging the most motivated people to apply for jobs within your company – see how these are all linked in a nice circle?
Morale is everything within any company. If your employees aren’t happy, aren’t motivated and aren’t satisfied with their job, you’re going to be in trouble. But there are many things you can do to help improve the situation and this blog only covers a few of them. We make sure we're on top form when it comes to keeping our operators happy and motivated, making our customer experience the one to beat. Want us to represent you, or just want to have a chat about what we can offer? Send us a quick message today.