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Jean-Marc Robillard - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

The Importance of Continuous Employee Engagement

Recently I noticed an increase in articles and opinion pieces foretelling the end of "employee engagement".

It is true that hundred of millions of dollars have been invested in engagement programs at work, and according to Global engagement studies, the problem has not been correctly addressed. Nor has the definition of "engagement" been standardized in the media.

For example, in this article, the author defines engagement by equating it with "annual or bi-annual surveys", going on to say that these are insufficient. I agree, and by the end of this opinion piece, we get a much more insightful definition that is similar to "employee commitment".

Not only are surveys incomplete, the methodology used is often flawed – most survey respondents start with the belief, right or wrong, that their answers are being used to determine their suitability for career advancement, and therefore end up skewing their input to what management would like to hear.

"The word survey, in any of its intended meanings, cannot possibly encompass the definition of employee engagement. A survey is a means by which to measure sentiment, engagement, and motivation, perhaps. By design, it cannot create engagement, unless the survey itself is so engrossing and entertaining that employees look forward to filling it out at the expense of all other endeavors."

The best method for an overall objective view on engagement is to incorporate multiple sources of input: employee surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, NPS scores. 

But surveys are such a small part of what measures, let alone drives, employee engagement. A continuous engagement model provides an ongoing, sustained workplace dynamic that stimulates creativity, dedication, motivation, and interest. 

The ultimate goal you are striving to attain is an environment where employees want to tackle their daily challenges with enthusiasm. While its doubtful any single organization can achieve 100% engagement, having that kind of focused objective will drive results.

Since my personal experience in the last decade has been largely in the contact center industry, one that has been frequently highlighted as the most challenging in the areas of employee retention and motivation, let's examine a continuous engagement model as applied to a call center.

Employee Engagement in the Contact Center Industry

Contact centers are challenged by 3 main issues when it comes to engagement:

  1. Agent absenteeism
  2. Agent attrition
  3. Shift performance variance

The root cause for all three relates back to motivation, and the best way to keep an employee motivated is to offer a self-managed workplace structure where ownership of results is part of the corporate culture. Contact center agents are evaluated via KPIs: average handling time, schedule adherence, resolution time, customer satisfaction scores. Some call centers use a combination of these metrics, others have a single overarching KPI to indicate operational effectiveness.

Regardless of the type of measurements being used as a yardstick for success, relating the existing objectives to a more immersive experience can completely change the dynamic within a team or department.

As proven in numerous psychological studies on the topic, gamification has a positive and direct impact on behavior. By applying game mechanics to progress tracking at work, and allowing employees to share, or keep private, their own milestones and achievements, you allow them to influence and own their results.

Machine Learning to power continuous engagement

Numerous studies have concluded that simplistic gamification models that use extrinsic motivators like contests have only a temporary effect, and can actually decrease motivation at work, as the extroverted overachievers will consistently place at the top of a leaderboard or department scorecard, while those who need to improve the most will become increasingly discouraged as they see their scores at the bottom of the list.

Following the same logic, there is a drop-off point for repetitive engagement programs that propose the same uninspired challenges on a predictable, periodic basis.

This is where Machine Learning, and the resulting adaptive progression for gamified objectives becomes paramount to success. If a program or solution to encourage employees does not adapt to their progress, in an individualized manner, and by taking into account their personality profile and established behavioral traits, you end up with a "one-size-fits-all" program that will ultimately fail.

Continuous Employee Engagement defined

Where existing definitions of "employee engagement" fail is in their assumption that employee surveys are what drives internal loyalty and dedication.

By all means, take the pulse of your organization, and establish a baseline; it will aid in making adjustments to management style, department policies, and corporate culture.

But if you want those changes to remain part of the daily activities and project milestones within your organization, a continuous model must be adopted. One that creates a unique experience for each and every employee, based on their personal motivators, behavioral influencers, and recognition for their progress and achievements.

Employee engagement is not something to be "fixed", it is a workplace culture that is nurtured over time, with gradual progress and well-defined objectives tied to the overall corporate vision.

Publish Date: March 21, 2017 3:06 PM


Why Machine Learning matters for Contact Centers

We have some exciting news about our Machine Learning based capabilities here at nGUVU I would like to share.

For those of you that did not happen to catch our initial press release, we have been collaborating with IVADO, North-America’s leading data science research institute. It’s been well-established that AI and Machine Learning are key technology drivers for 2017, and organizations such as Gartner, ICMI, and Aberdeen all agree: AI and related technologies are the next wave in revolutionizing the contact center for 2017.

But what exactly are the benefits? They are actually quite straightforward, and apply to existing processes that can be challenging when attempted manually in an ever-busy environment like a contact center.

Predicting and preventing attrition & absenteeism

We have introduced algorithms that can be used to predict future trends, at the agent level, for attrition and absenteeism, based on established behavioral patterns, employee actions and data compiled from a multitude of sources within your contact center infrastructure. In other words, we analyze and interpret the data that is generated daily, including the actions of each agent, to produce information that aids in management decisions.

Maximizing agent productivity

Based on reports from nGAGEMENT, a contact center manager finds out when specific members of his team are performing at their best.

Not only does this information assist with optimizing shift scheduling and off-shift task planning, it can also be used to create a more engaging work environment by suggesting learning activities and competitions to encourage a strong work ethic, in return for recognition and rewards.

In conclusion

We would like to say thanks to our loyal customers, who by the simple act of using our engagement platform every day in their contact centers, are contributing to the advancement of predictive analytics and workforce optimization, while reaping the benefits for their own operations.

Wishing you all a successful start to 2017!

Publish Date: January 25, 2017 7:16 PM


What is a Contact Center?

Now there is a broad question, but I assure you it's not designed to be click-bait; over the last few months, I have recorded the recurrence of this basic question several dozen times in face-to-face meetings at technology events, within peer discussion groups, and virtually every area outside the purview of actual contact center industry experts.

Below is a short but comprehensive introduction to the broad context and industries within which contact centers operate - proof positive that when we say "we provide solutions for virtually every industry"we are not just spinning a story. Almost every industry sector is serviced by a variation on a contact center department.

Contact Center Industry Definition

Call centers are offices set up by companies for inbound or outbound telephone calls. Inbound call centers generally deal with customer service and facilitating such things as customer inquiries or complaints. Activity in outbound call centers usually includes such occupations as telemarketing, market research and the seeking of charitable donations. Offices handling other forms of customer contact, such as email, social media and letters, as well as telephone calls are often called contact centers.

Types of Contact Centers

• Inbound (when it is the customer who initiates contact)
• Outbound (when it is the contact center that initiates contact)
• Blended (both inbound and outbound contacts are handled)

In a modern inbound contact center a considerable portion of the load is shifted towards automated response or speech-enabled systems usually referred to as self-service systems.

Inbound contact center activity
 - General queries (available products and services)
 - Account management (updates, password change, etc.)
 - Sales orders
 - Support issues
 - Cancellations and returns

Outbound contact center activity
 - Sales calls to new customers
 - Proactive customer service (e.g. informing of delays, delivery arrangements, etc. )
 - Cross-selling or up-selling sales calls to existing customers
 - Debt collection
 - Renewals (sales calls to existing customers)
 - Customer satisfaction surveys

Contact Center Industry Statistics

A survey of global contact center industry leaders carried out in June 2015 found that just over 60 percent of their organizations were located in the U.S. The primary industry of the contact center leaders’ organizations was health care providers, closely followed by financial services.

In 2015, the state with the highest employment in call center industry was Texas with close to 250 thousand employees. Florida ranked second with over 226 thousand workers in the call center industry. 

India-based Tata Consultancy Services is one of the leading call center service providers in the world. During their fiscal year ending March 31, 2015, the company generated approximately 16.6 billion U.S. dollars in revenue.

Another major player in the industry is the U.S. company Convergys Corporation. In early 2014, the company announced its acquisition of Stream Global Services, in this year the revenue of the Convergys Corporation increased by around 800 million U.S. dollars over the annual revenues of the previous three fiscal years. In 2015, the company revenue increased even more reaching around 2.95 billion U.S. dollars. 

Who is responsible for the Customer Journey?

The structure and role definitions in today's contact center are becoming increasingly complex, especially as communication channels multiply and technologies converge. In the same Deloitte study as above, 400 contact centers worldwide were surveyed to determine who was actually responsible for the entire customer journey, or customer experience, from start to end.

The results may surprise some; so while seeing the CxO near the top is to be expected, most agreed that middle management runs the show. While that is empowering, it also indicates that much progress still needs to be made to get the contact center firmly positioned at the executive level.

Publish Date: November 23, 2016 9:12 PM


Ever try to get the temperature at the office just right for everyone?

Performance Management is very similar, in that measuring, assessing, and motivating your team is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

As a matter of fact, if the link between employee engagementand performance managementis not established on an individual contributor level, the entire plot of evaluating and managing performance is being missed.

Focusing on each and every employee's optimal performance triggers and getting them motivated, engaged, and generally satisfied with their work environment sounds like a lot of heavy lifting, but two technologies can help immensely in those areas.

1- Gamification

Let me stop you right there, because I know you just became skeptical; I am not going to sell you on Gamification as a solution you need to tackle immediately, neither am I talking about playing Candy Crush during work hours.

The entire value proposition for gamification is based on the inherent design that allows for each individual employee to engage with the application in their own fashion, and for their own reasons and motivators.

A competitive individual will see huge value in challenging colleagues to a KPI contest to see who can hit their numbers first, and someone more introverted will take the opportunity to beat their own score from the previous period. The socialites in your company will take pleasure in exploring all the features like "high-fives" or "likes" when their colleagues hit their targets. The list goes on, and the one constant is that everyone gets involved, regardless of their personal preferences and motivational factors.

I've presented some very successful corporate gamification implementations in the past, and if you would like to consult some source material directly, I have 2 blogs to recommend:

  • Gamification.co - Founded by Gabe Zichermann, this site provides some of the best real-world examples of gamification making an impact in areas as diverse as cancer research, corporate employee engagement programs, and educational initiatives.
  • Jane McGonigal: The author of the New York Times Bestseller "Super Better" and guest on the Colbert Report shares her personal journey as well as other real-world applications for game mechanics.

2- Data Science

Some may perceive this as the other end of the technology spectrum - are we talking about Astrology and Astronomy in the same article? - but they would be missing the link between the behavioral influence of gamification, and the science of analyzing those behaviors.

Predictive analytics is vital to adjusting performance management programs at the individual level, since the data being analyzed is both aggregate and predictive. It provides context for how things are going in general, across the department - especially when compared with historical data, and/or comparably similar data from the same industry and demographics sources - as well as insight into individual patterns in behavior that may be indicative of an exception.

Examples of exceptions in individual behavioral patterns include a decline in motivation, increased absenteeism, a slow-down in productivity at work, also known as "Presenteeism", and a propensity for flight risk.

While I would shy away from saying that numbers alone can tell you exactly when an employee is about to quit, I will proffer that the combination of indicators above, along with personal observation, are a great way to know when it's time to have a chat and perhaps uncover what is going on in an employee's work and personal life, allowing you, as the manager or HR professional, to either avoid the loss of a valued employee, or precipitate a departure that is best for all parties involved.

Here are a few solid Data Science resources:

  • Data Science Central: I personally subscribe tho this journal, and it has been one of the most useful and progressive sources on my path to learning more about analytics.
  • Predictive analytics World: You can learn a lot from this blog about the How and Why behind consumer and client behavior.

Summary

When you consider how difficult it is to nurture and encourage success for every employee in your organization, and the fact that, right now, there are technologies and solutions that can help you on that path, saving you from the negative repercussions of wasted potential and the loss of high-performing employees - let alone the well-documented cost of high attrition or turnover - it makes sense to provide actionable insight to front-line managers, HR professionals, and team leaders.

Providing your managers with a thermostat, and the ability to tweak and adjust the parameters for each individual team member, is true performance management.

If you keep letting them use a thermometer, they can continue to provide the same update every week at your management meeting, and we all know how that story ends...

 

Publish Date: November 15, 2016 4:28 PM


Vote for your favorite video for a chance to Win an Apple Watch!

We are in the Top 3 Finalists for this year's Genesys G-Force Demo battle! Upvote nGUVU for a chance at winning an Apple Watch!

Find the Partner Demo  Battle videos here: http://www.genesys.com/gforce/miami2016/pavilion

Vote here: http://bit.ly/2cm4riK

good luck to our fellow Demo Battle participants!

Jean-Marc Robillard

nGUVU

Publish Date: September 21, 2016 3:22 PM


Gamification Revolution with Gabe Zichermann - Podcast

Publish Date: July 5, 2016 8:25 PM


What is Gamification?

According to Wikipedia, Gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.

But let’s take a closer look at what gamification means in the context of a typical business. More specifically, how its being applied in a Workforce Management context.

You may be surprised to learn that the concept of applying gamification outside of traditional gaming has been around for over a century! “Making work fun”, as a way to motivate employees and keep their spirits up is certainly not a new idea. What is new, however, is the application of modern gaming to B2B software and Cloud applications. We can all relate to some of the motivational quotes from business influencers like Steve Jobs, Co-Founder at Apple, who famously said: “ Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Early precursors to today’s gamification landscape are everywhere, and to quote Zac Fitz-Walter: “…Before the term existed many designers and researchers were already exploring the role of play and fun in computer applications. Malone in the early 80s created heuristics for designing enjoyable user interfaces and Draper in the late 90s looked at analyzing fun as a candidate software requirement.”

Some notable examples of 1st Generation gamification applications/programs:

  • Daily tasks — Chore Wars (2007): Features “Dungeons & Dragons” style storytelling.
  • Education — Quest to Learn (2009): Applying gamification to education to engage students at an early age.
  • Personal FinanceMint (2006, acquired by Intuit 2009): A free, web-based personal financial management service for Canada and the U.S.
  • And many more…In our next article, we will examine the real-world application for gamification and discuss the documented effects on workforce motivation and employee engagement.

 

Publish Date: July 5, 2016 7:27 PM

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