"You better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone. For times they are a-changing," Bob Dylan's 1964 lyrics still speak true to this day, and much has changed since the song debuted in the 1960's. The Baby Boomers that once made up a majority of the workforce are moving into retirement, and Millennials are taking their place. With this turnover in generations, also comes a change in perspectives, expectations, and culture. Contact center management, who have so long been rooted in micromanagement through agent performance and metrics, are going to have to alter how they manage their employees, or risk losing them. It has been shown that Millennials don't take too kindly to micromanagement, and are looking for a more fluid, creative, and trusting workplace.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF MICROMANAGEMENT
Micromanagement can be OK in certain circumstances, such as the first few weeks after hiring a new recruit. They may need some help getting settled in their new role. But if micromanagement continues beyond the "settling in" period of new employees, it can have a destructive effect on both the company culture and organization.
Having a helicopter boss decreases the efficiency of workers. Contact centers can be a stressful workplace to begin with, but adding on the pressure of constantly nagging of managers, and it can be severely demotivating. A stressed out employee, who constantly has to worry about doing something wrong is less likely to do good work.
On the flip side, managers who pick over every detail are spending more time telling others what to do, or redoing the work of others, rather than actually getting anything done. In the contact center, this can be especially problematic. It slows down the ability for quick decision making, in a work environment where quick decisions count.
When agents aren't trusted to do good work, and are kept too busy being micromanaged, they are unable to come up with new ideas. Innovation only comes from employees who are allowed a chance to shine on their own. Staff under micromanagement will likely do one of two things: 1) They will become part of the "zombiefied" wait-to-be-told culture that has likely manifested itself under this manager, and will just wait to be told what to do, rather than coming up with their own ideas, or 2) They will leave.
WHAT MILLENNIALS WANT
Millennials have a different expectations about the workplace than their Baby Boomer predecessors. While Baby Boomers were happy to work Monday through Friday 9AM to 5PM, Millennials are looking for more flexibility. They want the ability to occasionally work outside the office or work different hours, depending on what works better for them. In a contact center, its difficult to allow this flexibility for in-office agents. However, a possible solution would be to offer some work-from-home positions, which would allow the greater flexibility that Millennials crave.
This new generation is also looking for leaders who coach, not for a micromanager. They want someone who is going to listen, and show them respect. They want someone who is going to give support and feedback, and trust them to work successfully on their own or in a team atmosphere. Consider this: Within a contact center, by placing more trust in your employees, you can actually improve performance by 14%.
One final major factor that Millennials want in the workplace, is progression and development. 44% of Millennials are planning on leaving their current job within the next two years due to a lack of development opportunities. Offering a clear career path to agents who are just getting hired, can help to mitigate some of the attrition that contact centers see with their employees.
3 WAYS TO OPTIMIZE PERFORMANCE WITHOUT MICROMANAGING
Modern call center management are sitting in the middle of a bit of a paradox. The biggest killer of contact center culture is micromanagement. However, contact centers are centered around managing performance, and culture is tied directly to performance. So where do we go from here?
Maybe contact centers should be taking a cue from Millennials, and start changing how performance and management is handled. Three things that Millennials are most likely to dislike about a contact center are: 1) Rigid metrics, 2) Scripted workflow, and 3) Lack of authority to fix problems. But these three things are also the easiest to change, while removing micromanaging from the equation.
Establish a team atmosphere
Rather than setting up a strictly micromanaged contact center, where Quality Assurance is monitored by an outside group, problems are solved only by managers or supervisors, and high scores reign...Instead, consider establishing a more collaborative atmosphere between agents, and between agents and managers.
• Hard, cold numbers are discouraging. Rather than focusing coaching on poor scores, focus more on behavior. Tell them what they are doing well and make recommendations on what they can do better, in order to succeed at what they are struggling in.
• Allow contact center teams to work together to create goals, metrics and standards.
• Have agents participate in the quality assurance process, by having them evaluate their own contacts. Most of the time, agents will be able to recognize what they did wrong. Allowing them a chance to score their own calls, can significantly increase the level of trust between agents and managers.
• Give agents the freedom to discuss what they think is best to solve a problem, rather than having their manager immediately offer a solution. Often, the agents will be able to offer a better solution that their manager may not have though of!
Overall Benefit: Millennials love working collaboratively, feeling like they can make a difference, and being trusted.
Traditional contact center performance is deeply rooted in goals and data metrics, because it can seem to make performance management easier. However, having too many metrics can have unintended consequences. Too many metrics can make it for agents to focus on what really matters (ie. happy customers and higher conversion rates). It's hard to balance metrics that contradict one another, such as call handling time and first contact resolution. A possible solution to the metrics problem...focus on qualitative feedback, rather than quantitative measures.
Overall Benefit: Millennials thrive off of feedback, recommendations, and having their contribution is being recognized.
Chained to a script, Millennials are stuck in a very monotonous job day in and day out, with no room for creativity. Not only is it boring for the agent, but customers who are on call with a representative who is basing their call word-for-word off a script, are left with a feeling of inauthenticity.
It can be nerve racking to consider letting your agents go off script. It's like letting go off your first born on their first day of kindergarten. Some degree of independence, for both the 5 year old, and the agent is a good thing. Agents that are allowed to go off-script can make split second judgment calls that can make the difference in having a successful transfer or sale. They can add humor or empathy. They can personalize each phone call depending on the customer and their needs. Did you know: 69% of customers believe that their customer service improves significantly when agents don't sound like they are reading a script? So...maybe it's time to stop with the hand holding, and let agents go off-script. It will benefit your agents, your customers, and your customer service rating.
Overall Benefit: Offers some degree of autonomy, and creative freedom.
By 2024, Millennials will make up 75% of the entire workforce. They have already brought changes to many businesses and industries, altering how they are run. Companies that haven't started adapting, and swimming along with the current of the new generations, are going to get left behind trying to swim back upstream....for times they are a-changing.