Raising team morale in a cold calling world

Feb 3

Raising team morale in a cold calling world

It takes real courage to work in an outbound call centre. Cold calling, appointment setting and sales – it’s an environment which can be tough on staff morale. At times we’re reminded of the lyrics to an Eminem song:

He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down,
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s choking how, everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over, blaow!

For an outbound agent faced with cold calling a hundred or more people a day, each phone call starts the clock running again, each day becomes a groundhog day of good calls and bad ones. It’s the sort of work that can be a testing place to keep your morale high.

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that maintaining good staff morale is key to a productive and profitable call centre. But ensuring your agents are feeling good about their jobs and happy to be present requires consistent effort and dedication on your behalf. Even managers who work hard to set a good example for their contact centre team may find themselves lost at what to do when morale seems low.

To help, we’re providing these tips so you can keep your team motivated, happy and focused on results, which will also help to reduce staff turnover.

 

1 Recognise and reward their achievements

Companies with employee recognition programs have more engaged employees, and are twelve times more likely to see strong business outcomes – that’s a direct connection to achieving sales targets. So when your outbound agents are doing well, tell them. When they get good feedback from clients, share it with them. Recognise individuals and team efforts – whether it’s in the form of a “job well done” and a pat on the back, or a small cash bonus, employee rewards will drive their motivation to continue to do well.

 

2 Recognise special events in their lives

When someone on your team has a birthday, celebrate it. If an agent is expecting a new addition to the family soon, send a gift for the baby. Is an agent getting married? Send a wedding gift. This level of attention shows you care, and helps employees feel valued. When they know their home life is acknowledged, they’re more likely to bring their best to work.

 

3 Keep your door open

When you have an office, an open-door communication policy encourages your outbound agents and team leaders to come to you whenever they need you, with whatever they need. Transparency in your call centre helps build trust, and agents who know their feedback is valued are often more productive. Staff morale will improve simply because they know you’ll listen to what they have to say.

Working with an open-door policy also allows you to be more aware of what’s happening in your call centre on a daily basis. Informal discussions with staff can help you gain insights about the business. It also helps ensure your employees when come to you whenever they have issues or ideas, which is important in the fast paced world of a contact centre. You’ll also foster a closer working relationship by letting your staff see you as friendly and approachable.

Of course, even with an open door management style, you’ll still need to close the door for confidential employee discussions. To avoid creating anxiety amongst staff who see the door closed for these types of conversations, opt to hold these meetings in a conference room, or go for a walk for a confidential chat.

One study suggested that 77% of employees want more collaboration with their manager, and when they’re shut out, they’re more likely to leave their job – which we know is already an issue for many cold calling contact centres. 74% of employees want a manager who will listen to what they have to say, understand, and respond to their concerns, and 86% of employees want to trust, and be trusted by their manager. Open door management helps address all these key areas of what employees are looking for.

 

4 Encourage breaks away from their desk to help meet cold calling targets

Remind everyone of the importance of taking a proper break. If you have outbound agents who are workaholics and avoid leaving their station for the duration of their shift or use their breaks to catch up on paperwork, institute a mandatory away-from-desk break policy.

Though this seems counterintuitive, taking short breaks will increase their ability to focus on their work. A 2011 study showed the longer someone worked, the more their performance declined, but allowing people to take short breaks from the main tasks enabled them to stay more focused as a whole.

Want your team to make the most of those breaks? Encourage staff to exercise. Getting the blood pumping increases energy and alertness, making it easier to get things done. Encourage your agents to get up and move to keep blood flowing – suggest they go walk around the block, grab a coffee, or simply go to the break room for a snack. Taking a break every 90 minutes to walk a couple of laps around the office is better than sitting still at the cubicle.

 

5 Organise a different sort of reward

While employees will surely appreciate a free breakfast or lunch, think outside the box. Your agents are in front of computers all day cold calling, which can be stressful on the body. Hire a massage therapist to provide quick back and shoulder massages while agents take their breaks. Or, hire a professional instructor to teach yoga or a Zumba class for an hour. Going beyond the standard free meal will boost staff morale because employees know you care.

 

6 Provide time off for the pursuit of personal projects

Personal projects can break the monotony of day-to-day work in a cold calling or telesales environment, and could provide your company with a source of innovation. Atlassian, a collaboration software developer in Sydney, hosts a “ShipIt day” every quarter where employees are allowed to work on anything they find exciting, as long as it is somewhat related to the company’s products or processes. A day like this in your contact centre could include ideas on how to make training sessions more fun, ideas to vary the scripts used with customers, and more.

Other companies provide volunteer leave, which allows teams to work together to contribute to a charity or other volunteer organisation together.

 

7 Surprise your team with random acts of kindness

When onboarding new outbound calling agents, include a small questionnaire with a list of their favourite things – sports team, flower, colour, treat, etc. Keep the information on hand so when someone clearly needs a pick-me-up, you’re ready with one. Have an agent who’s been working overtime to cover someone out on leave? On Friday, present them with their favourite treat or a bunch of their favourite flowers.

Boosting staff morale when their day to day job includes cold calling and appointment setting requires an honest appraisal of where morale sits currently. Reach out to employees and find out what you can do to help motivate them. Get their ideas on policy and process changes that can make their jobs easier and more enjoyable. Take your findings to senior management if the suggestions aren’t within your power to implement, and start with praise for a job well done as soon as possible.

Just like with team motivation, it’s possible for staff morale to waiver from one day to the next. Some days will be a breeze, while others will will make your outbound team feel as though they’re about to go head to head with a tough audience. That’s normal, because outbound sales – whether it’s cold calling or appointment setting – is one of the most challenging jobs out there. When your staff is down because they’re not happy with schedules, their performance, or have been upset by a rough call, knowing they can come to you and talk, or get some encouragement from their fellow team members, can make all the difference.

 

Hopefully we’ve given you some useful ideas about how to keep your team’s morale high – it’s an important area to focus on as there’s a direct connection between happy, productive staff and achieving your outbound cold calling targets. To find out more, why not download a copy of our free guide to the psychology of a high performing call centre.

Cold calling ebook

 

 

Image via Flickr CC/ChrisMartino


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