Low morale among contact center employees — often an organization’s front door to its customers — is at a crisis point. More than three-quarters of customer experience (CX) leaders say low morale/engagement among their staff is challenging. It’s time for a change.

“I challenge you to throw out your workforce strategies… and ask, ‘How can I help so my people can best serve our customers?’” said Natalie Beckerman, SVP of Global Call Center Operations for Leaf Home.

Her provocation to improve the employee experience was a common theme at the 18th Annual Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event. Speakers from across industries implored attendees to think differently.

“The market and workforce have changed significantly; organizations need to follow,” said Beckerman in her session “What It Takes to Lead with Agility.”

“Move now; move fast,” she added.

Beckerman’s advice: Be an employer that’s attractive to employees. Offer competitive benefits and salary. Make sure your work environment is pleasing. Provide flexibility in terms of hybrid and remote working.

“If we don’t meet employees’ needs, they’re not going to meet the needs of the business.”

How else can CX leaders meet their team’s needs? Several executives shared their advice and success strategies during the event.

Listen, Learn and Act

At Nationwide, the goal for listening to CX employees is twofold: Improve employee engagement to improve the customer experience. The insurer knows the value of its employees’ insights and has a formal process to capture input, noted Jasmine Green, VP of Enterprise Customer Solutions and Enablement.

“Every company has something that you’re doing wrong. Own it. And do something about it,” said Green during her session, “Empowering Associates to Enhance CX and Efficiencies.”

At the core of the company’s voice of employee (VOE) process is a portal where agents can share information on how to improve the customer experience, increase efficiencies and more. Any employee who shares an issue or idea can opt-in to be notified if the idea is used. Nationwide gives employees kudos when it uses their idea — and the employee receives a gift.

Nationwide has twice as many employees using the portal as it expected. And the company has used 28% of the ideas submitted, nearly double what was projected before launching the portal.

Employees are happy and more engaged because they feel heard and can see where they’re making an impact. Plus, their insights have led to improved processes, better business outcomes and ROI benefits.

Put Trust at the Center

The team at Muck Rack, a B2B SaaS tool for PR teams, has been fully remote since the company’s launch. And trust is at the center of this model, said Vanessa Neurohr, VP of Customer Success, said during her session, “Transforming the Contact Center: Practices and Methodology for Sustainable Change.”

Since joining the company, Neurohr grew her customer service team from two to 50. She established five strategies for engaging CX employees from day one:

  1. Make connections happen quickly during onboarding. Muck Rack assigns each new hire an onboarding buddy who connects with them on their first day and helps them get acclimated.
  2. Find a way to recognize your team members’ contributions. Be intentional about everything from giving individual recognition to team kudos.
  3. Show how customer support employees live our company values: customer devotion, resilience, ownership, transparency. In one meeting, for example, staff members told stories about how they live one of the values.
  4. Communicate in excess. “If I’m not sick of hearing myself say something, I haven’t said it enough,” said Neurohr.
  5. Don’t assume someone else is solving a problem. Neurohr and her team created formal processes for employees to share feedback. One program, called “Ring the Alarm,” focuses on reporting any issue that could negatively affect the brand — or is affecting multiple customers or high-value customers.

Additionally, Muck Rack uses OKRs (objectives and key results) to build cross-functional collaboration and align priorities. Neurohr said this brings clarity and focus. And it enables “controlled autonomy,” because progress is visible.

“We’re very serious about how we set and measure goals so we can best enable people to do their best work from anywhere” she said.

Empathy and Empowerment

Ultimately, CX leaders should listen to their CX employees and empower them to make smart decisions, said Brian Saylor, SVP, Director of Customer Service Center at Sandy Spring Bank.

During his session, “Automation: Where the Best Possible Landing Spot,” he advised attendees to ask employees what the customer and employee experience issues are and then make those employees part of the solution. They’ll have unique insight into how to make processes easier and more empathetic.

“Happy employees give happy experiences,” he said. “If employees don’t feel valued, they won’t deliver experiences that make customers feel valued.”

Ginger Conlon is an award-winning editorial leader who has covered marketing and customer experience for the majority of her career, Ginger Conlon is currently Thought Leadership Director at Genesys. In her prior roles as Chief Editor of Direct Marketing News, 1to1 and CRM magazines, she set the editorial vision and strategy, which led to increased readership, reader engagement and revenue. Ginger received a DMCNY Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.