Teamwork is the best way to increase your call center team’s productivity levels. But if you’re not sure how to go about fostering better teamwork in your contact center, then these productivity tips will help take your agents’ performance to the next level.
One of the first questions you should ask yourself is: Is the topic of productivity a key component of your team development program?
It should be.
If you’re struggling with improving productivity and reducing burnout, you’re not alone. However, even in times of peak call volumes, you can boost overall team performance by giving your agents better multitasking, time management, and productivity skills. Let’s look at some best practices and tips for doing this in your own call center.
Why Team Productivity is Important
The word productivity gets tossed around a fair bit in the business world. Have you ever considered what it means or why it’s so important?
The sound of a workplace that’s buzzing with activity tends to boost everyone’s morale. But there’s an even more important reason to work on improving team productivity. Productivity makes it possible to provide more products and services to customers in a shorter period of time, and that leads to higher profits.
We all have those days when we roll out of bed feeling alert and mentally strong. Those are the days you’re highly productive and you’re a master at getting things done. There are other work days where you just can’t seem to get motivated, no matter how hard you try. On those days, it’s easy to get distracted by personal life problems (or social media). Before you know it, it’s the end of the day, and you’ve accomplished a little bit or nothing at all. We’ve all been there!
But, when it comes to optimizing efficiency in your call center, the goal is to reduce the amount of time your representatives spend on unimportant tasks and limit distractions wherever possible.
In case you’re wondering how unproductive the workplace can really be, consider this: the average worker is productive for just less than three hours a day. The challenge that businesses face is how to set up a work environment where workers have the tools they need to work efficiently and how to keep everyone positive and motivated throughout the work day.
Increasing Workforce Motivation
Team members are motivated in various ways. Goal-setting, reviews, and incentives all play a role in keeping workers focused and engaged. Believe it or not, team members are also motivated by their peers. Many workers will work harder to earn respect and admiration from their peers. That type of mentality can be contagious.
This concept also extends to team members who are working from home. When workers succeed in their individual roles, it sets the stage for others to take up the baton and succeed in their roles. Working in teams therefore tends to be a morale booster for everyone (as long as performance metrics are shared amongst distributed teams).
Effective teams are aware of overall departmental goals, and they often have great ideas about how to delegate tasks equitably. As each team increases its productivity levels, overall company productivity increases, as well.
Why a To-Do List Is a Must
A to-do list is a handy resource that works well as a reminder to make sure workers are covering all the appropriate bases after they check in at the start of their shift. Making sure your team can properly leverage a to-do list is the first tip to increase productivity.
Ways to-do lists can improve productivity levels of call center teams:
- A to-do list is valuable because it can be duplicated over and over again for similar types of projects.
- Pre-designed to-do lists make it easy for workers to get up and running quickly for the day. With a handy to-do list, all workers need to do is review the list to ensure they’re doing what needs to be done. This allows for decisions to be made fairly quickly.
- To-do lists are also helpful for time management, and you can even include timeframes for each item in the list to help employees allocate their time efficiently. This way, workers are more likely to tackle difficult tasks right away and they’re less likely to procrastinate. In a call center, a to-do list is therefore great for reminding sales agents how much time they should be spending on phone calls for sales activities like prospecting, nurturing leads, or closing sales.
- There’s a lot to be said for establishing good work habits right from the start. Well-crafted to-do lists acclimate workers to specific protocols from the moment they’re onboarded. Over time, they rely more heavily on the good work habits they’ve developed and less on the actual task lists. Then, if they ever get lax about following workflows, to-do lists stand as a reference for how to get back on track.
- With everything laid out at the start of the day and knowing the expected timeframes for accomplishing tasks, to-do lists help workers prioritize tasks, which helps increase productivity.
- Pre-set task lists also alleviate much of the frustration that goes along with feeling overwhelmed over having to start from scratch and being confused over where to begin.
- Finally, to-do lists are a great way to establish consistency among your call center teams and help improve team performance overall.
Recommended Softwares for Your To-Do Lists
There are a variety of ways to set up to-do lists for your call center. Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and Google Sheets work well for creating to-do lists, and they’re easy to store and share with team members. Microsoft Word also has a nice selection of templates for setting up tasks, to-do lists, and note-taking. If you prefer to use apps for setting up to-do lists, you can check out Evernote, Wunderlist, todoist, or Any.do.
The Pros and Cons of Multitasking
The ability to multitask is a characteristic that recruiters often look for in potential candidates for sales and support representative positions. It makes sense. These positions require workers to perform many tasks simultaneously, like talking on the phone, checking emails, switching programs, or taking notes.
There are plenty of benefits of multitasking, but there are some downsides as well. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of multitasking in a call center:
- Multitasking increases efficiency. A good multitasker can listen to a customer on the phone and be typing notes at the same time. A headset frees up a sales or support agent’s hands, allowing them to tend to other duties while speaking to customers, and for a seasoned agent, routine tasks are usually fairly even to complete, even while multitasking.
- Multitasking increases productivity. Documentation is necessary for business, but it doesn’t directly generate revenue. By way of multitasking, sales and support agents can spend time on revenue-producing tasks at the same time they’re performing simple, mundane tasks (like data entry) that don’t directly contribute to your bottom line.
- Multitasking increases your employees’ level of resilience. Multitasking can be pretty demanding at times. It comes easier for some people than others. The more an agent gets experience in multitasking, the easier it becomes to focus on more than one task at a time.
- Multitasking inspires adaptability. The more you do something, the easier it becomes. As workers become better at multitasking, they learn to become flexible and they’re less intimidated when their job requires them to be adaptable in other ways. You could think of it as developing a flexible mindset.
- Multitasking can cause agents to lose their focus. Unlike a computer, which can process thousands of tasks at the same time, the human brain isn’t wired that way. Multitasking leads to “brain drain” in some situations. It may disrupt a worker’s memory, decrease their creativity, and lower their productivity.
- Multitasking gets in the way of tasks that require strong focus. Some tasks require a higher level of focus than others. When a worker can’t give important tasks their full attention because they have to multitask, they often have to give those tasks more attention later on (like to go back and correct mistakes or input more detailed information). Sales and support agents often need a little time before and after calls to complete these tasks, so they can give their undivided attention to customers during calls.
- Multitasking prioritizes urgent tasks, causing smaller tasks to get delayed. For example, a sales agent needs to take calls as they come in. When calls come in quick succession, it doesn’t always leave time for accurate note-taking. If workers procrastinate when it comes to updating the system, important details could be lost in a sea of cryptic notes.
- Multitasking can lead to unfinished tasks. Multitasking can cause sales and support agents to jump between tasks, never finishing anything.
Best Practices for Time Management
When workers get distracted, time can get away from them quickly. As work piles up, employees get overwhelmed when there’s not enough time to get everything done. The following 9 best practices for time management will help employees to manage their time better and increase call center productivity levels overall:
1) Log activities according to time.
If employees are spending around 3 hours being truly productive, what are they doing the rest of the time? An activity log will highlight periods of time that are being wasted.
2) Set goals for what needs to be accomplished during a shift.
Things are bound to come up that will change the schedule, but it helps to have a goal to shoot for.
3) Tackle the most important tasks first.
If the most pressing things get done first, everything else often comes easier. A little momentum goes a long way.
4) Allot time every day for specific duties and activities.
For example, schedule times for outbound calling when your target audience is likely to be home or available, and save data entry for less productive times.
5) Check and answer emails at set intervals.
It can be tempting to read each email as it comes in, so disable those email notifications. Workers can manage their time better if they schedule a time of day in the morning and afternoon to read and answer emails, rather than constantly checking their inbox throughout the day.
6) Encourage employees to practice good sleep habits at home.
They’ll be better rested if they go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
7) Don’t put employees in a position where they feel obligated to over-promise or over-commit.
As much as your reps may want to please their supervisors or peers, agreeing to do the impossible will only cause stress and frustration. For example, David Allen, an author who’s famous for writing about productivity tips, is a big proponent of saying no some of the time.
8) Don’t be afraid to delegate.
What takes one person a few minutes could take another a few hours. Play to the strengths of your individual team members by delegating tasks to the people best suited to accomplish them, and your overall team productivity levels will increase.
9) Use the right tools.
Automation is a call center’s best friend, because it lets you perform simple, repetitive tasks quickly. Call center software helps you set up the right workflows for various activities, further improving productivity and efficiency.
Ways to Avoid Burnout
Employees who are subjected to chronic workplace stress and aren’t able to manage it effectively are much more likely to fall victim to burnout.
Burnout can cause feelings of exhaustion and negativity, and it has a huge impact on productivity in the workplace. Sales and support agents working in a call center are at particularly high risk of burnout. Burned-out employees are more likely to take time off for being sick, and you’ll also experience higher churn rates in your call center.
6 ways to avoid burnout in your call center:
- Create a culture of stress reduction. Encourage sales and support agents to pace themselves. Discourage working during breaks and lunch periods. Allow time for them to clean up their workstations, so they feel ready for work the next day. This is an important part of team development.
- Set up call center software to enable communication and collaboration with supervisors and peers. Make sure workers have someone to talk to if they need help, even if they’re working at home. They’ll spend less time searching for answers, and more time working productively.
- Incentivize your sales and support agents. Everyone who calls into your contact center needs something. This puts a lot of stress on workers, so be sure to reward them for their hard work.
- Don’t overload your top performers. Your top people make great mentors, but bear in mind that training other employees takes away from the time they could be meeting their goals. Ultimately, asking them to be responsible for too many things can result in more stress or reduced productivity.
- Coach sales and support agents in real-time. Look for voice calling software that offers features like call monitoring, call recording, and call whispering to assist workers before, during, and after calls. Share tips, like keyboard shortcuts and other productivity hacks, that save time when completing repetitive tasks.
- Offer opportunities for career advancement. Many of the activities in a call center are repetitive. Some workers will eventually get bored if they don’t feel challenged or if they don’t feel they’re being compensated adequately for the work they do.
10 Productivity Tips to Improve Team Performance
1) Give teams autonomy.
Teams perform best when they have the right tools and training to make decisions on their own without a lot of supervision. Have confidence in their skills and abilities to do their jobs.
2) Keep workers engaged.
Ask for agents’ input to increase their participation in company policy making. Employees that get to be active and involved feel that they have value. Schedule times for teams to discuss common issues and brainstorm. A lot of great ideas were born this way.
3) Make idle time more productive.
Your cloud calling software gives you data that shows when your sales and support agents have a little downtime. Break down tasks into smaller chunks and encourage workers to use idle time to tackle them.
4) Encourage frequent, short breaks.
Give employees mental breaks and physical breaks. People can only focus intently for short periods of time, but short breaks of two minutes or so are often all that’s needed for workers to feel refreshed and ready to dig back in. Studies have even shown that a quick snack break can help improve productivity. Allow for a longer 10 or 15-minute break after stressful calls.
5) Share metrics and KPIs with employees.
Set up metrics and KPIs and share them with sales and support agents. When it’s review time, you’ll have objective data to share with them. A few tips for productivity will help them improve their performance for the next time. Some cloud-based phone systems, like Aircall, offer dashboard analytics to make this easy.
6) Provide sales and support agents with a single source of data.
A CRM is a good short-term solution, but if you’re committed to delivering a good customer experience, you need the right cloud calling software. Software integrations work in tandem with your cloud phone system to sync customer data and bring it to your representatives’ fingertips when they need it during calls.
7) Set up a virtual call center.
With cloud calling software, your team members can live and work anywhere they have an internet connection. Plus, over half of workers prefer to work remotely. When people are happy at work, they’re more productive, so allowing teams to work flexibly can help boost overall performance.
8) Schedule regular team meetings.
Take the time for weekly team meetings, and establish an agenda that focuses on improving productivity. Workers will have a greater sense of purpose when they have opportunities to brainstorm new ideas.
9) Educate agents about the importance of improving the customer experience.
While you’re keen on the impact of the customer experience, your employees may not be. Help sales and support agents to see the big picture and how productivity plays a role in enhancing the overall customer experience.
10) Set up a fair system of incentives and rewards.
Connect sales and support goals to rewards and incentives. The fairest way to reward your workers is to use metrics and KPIs to objectively evaluate their performance.
Finally, here’s one of our best productivity tips: Asking teams to work longer hours won’t improve productivity.
Teams that feel valued and understand the importance of keeping their stress levels down will be your most productive teams. Collectively, they’ll set you up for overall greater productivity.