Trading in Trust: How to Develop A1 Teams in the Contact Center

Build A1 contact center teams with WorkFlexWithout trust, human society cannot function. At least not in a human-friendly manner. Any well-functioning organization, whether it be a family, a business, or the local middle-school soccer team requires a trust-based relationship between the participants. If you’ve ever been part of a company where trust between management and employees is low, you know how unpleasant it can be and how adverse the effects were on your morale and commitment to your job. You’d be far from alone, too. Research indicates a strong correlation and causation between trust in employers and engaged, committed, productive employees. “Trust is the cornerstone for creating a workplace where employees are engaged, productive, and continually innovating,” writes Karyn Twaronite at Harvard Business Review. Her company EY surveyed thousands of people around the world, including the US, and found “people believe a high level of trust in their company would have a major influence on them being happier at work, staying at the company, doing higher-quality work, being more engaged and productive, and recommending the company to others.”

What Produces Trust?
Multiple conditions create trust, but one big can’t-do-without-it factor is transparency. Increasing transparency in organizations leads to increasing employee trust. Sharing information with employees and soliciting their feedback is imperative. That includes “acknowledging your shortcomings.” Another element of fostering employee trust is “treating employees well.” That seems like a no-brainer, but many employers are not perceived as measuring up. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer study found a 27% gap between the employees’ perception of the importance of “treating employees well” and how well employers perform in delivering on the prescription. What exactly does “treating employees well” mean? The most common answer is respecting employees’ rights and not forcing substandard work conditions on them.

Celia Thomas at Customer Contact Central tells us that, as employees, contact center agents seek trust-producing conditions similar to those noted in the previous paragraph: support, transparency, honesty. Leadership in the contact center, she contends, often fails to create these. Specific leadership-practice missteps she lists include:

  • Unfair treatment/favoritism
  • No time for the agent/team
  • Failing to recogniz[e]/reward agent performance
  • Unapproachable
  • Poor communication

Agent response to these deficits is predictably less than favorable. Investing in a concerted effort to eliminate (or at least ameliorate) each point “is far reaching, and measurable in areas such as retention, production, achieving KPI’s, better attendance, improved quality, and improved morale,” she writes. As is the case with most problems, methods for addressing them proliferate. An attitude adjustment in the leadership is, of course, necessary for any approach to work. It begins with recognition of the problem(s) and a desire to solve them. Once there, the research and evaluation processes can begin, including the cost/benefit analysis of any solution. As a representative of WorkFlex, I suggest the WorkFlex suite of employee-empowering products as a cost-saving, effective means of addressing most of the items on the misstep list and filling the trust gap.

WorkFlex Is a Trust-Building Tool
It may appear an overstatement of sizable proportions to pronounce a software platform a trust-building tool, but the pronouncement can stand up to scrutiny. Let’s go step-by-step through the list:

  • Unfair treatment/favoritism  (WorkFlex annihilates this issue because it’s an automated system based on a powerful rules engine. Humans do not have to be involved in the decision-making. If opportunities for Time Off or Extra Hours are available, all eligible agents will see them in the WorkFlex agent mobile app interface and have the ability to select them.)
  • No time for the agent/team  (WorkFlex makes supervisors mobile, so they can remain on the floor and available to agents for assistance. With the supervisor app on the supervisor’s tablet, they can roam the floor while still monitoring performance.)
  • Failing to recogniz[e]/reward agent performance  (There are, of course, many means of recognizing and rewarding agent performance and WorkFlex offers one that both engages agents and gives them something they really want: more time off. What is it? Gamification capability that enables agents to earn points.)
  • Unapproachable  (As noted above, the supervisor app enables managers assigned to teams of agents to remain among them and extend assistance when issues arise. That does make them more approachable in terms of proximity. Whether they’re “warm and fuzzy” as team leaders or simply as human beings is another matter entirely and we concede we are unable to effect personality or temperament adjustments…)
  • Poor communication  (WorkFlex automates some of the communication agents find most relevant to their lives – i.e., when opportunities for Extra Hours or Time Off suddenly pop up, agents will receive those in the WorkFlex mobile app, and they’ll receive opportunities for only those time frames they have pre-designated as those they’re interested in. Management can also send individual messages to agents on the mobile app should the need arise. In other words, WorkFlex enables good communication channels and processes. Again, however, we are limited to technology. As to the psychology…well, there are some darned good self-help books out there…)

Kidding aside, WorkFlex is, ultimately, a trust-building tool because it puts a substantial level of control and self-direction into the hands of the agent. Empowering agents with that kind of independence is an unmistakable message from management: we care about you, we want to treat you well, we’re striving to create conditions that make you happier with your job, and we trust you to manage yourselves. As recipients of management’s vote of confidence, most agents will respond in kind. Mutual trust allows you to develop A1 teams in the contact center. A1 teams are made of committed, productive employees who aren’t eyeing the exits between (or during) calls.

-The WorkFlex Team

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