Call Centre Agent Performance Evaluation Solutions

Turn your employees into job masters

EDITORIAL: - June 2000

By John Carver, Bank of Montreal

One of the most difficult challenges facing any organization is how to motivate people. This is especially true for those of us managing call centers.

I have always had agreement from my peers when defining the role of the call center manager. Simply stated, we must get quality work, efficiently completed through employees. The trick, and the point at which theories diverge, is how to motivate employees to fulfill both of these requirements, and have them enjoy the experience of doing the work.

So where should we focus our efforts? One important lesson I have learned is that task-focused motivation, for example increasing productivity through specific reward programs, will not sustain permanent gains. These approaches are inevitably short lived when compared to results achieved through creation of ongoing employee job satisfaction. While neither is exclusive to the success of your call center, I believe that the degree to which you create employee job satisfaction determines the willingness of your work force to apply itself to the job over the longer haul.

It has been my privilege to lead many line groups during my career as a senior manager with the Bank of Montreal. I presently manage a 165-seat Master-Card call center with all the usual challenges: stress, burnout, performance and absenteeism. Despite all this, in an independent bank-wide employee survey this past year, our people registered the highest employee commitment index score for groups over 100 persons.

Our approach toward motivation is twofold. We support all stages of employee development, and we encourage a culture of mutual respect and team spirit.

It begins at the new hire stage with in-house facilitators who understand our business and deliver training which continuously evolves to meet the business needs and the various learning styles.

It continues with coaching and encouragement. Our coaches have formalized sessions every three weeks where the coach and customer service officer discuss everything from acknowledgment of strengths, improvement of shortcomings to such things as career planning and resume preparation.

It concludes with the celebration of the advancement of those who move on. We celebrate at every opportunity both personal and business related successes.

A practical example of things that work for us include a Job Mastery program where customer service officers, who have met published performance prerequisites, are recognized. Our "Job Masters" are honored at a luncheon, receive a framed certificate and an award, become eligible for a promotion and a salary increase and are permanently acclaimed on the "honor roll" plaque in our lobby.

Other programs include recognition of top salespersons, milestone celebrations and recently a reunion of Job Masters alumni. Ninety-three percent of the invitees, many no longer at the call center, met to welcome new members to the club.

Our work as managers is to get the job done. I am an enthusiastic believer in measuring results. Experience has shown me that fairness and objectivity in performance assessment are essential elements. Setting clear realistic performance expectations, combined with working hard at maintaining frequent and open communication is critical.

Employees must also be provided with opportunities to share the expectations that they have of their managers. Employee feedback is the most effective way to determine how you are doing and how to improve your call center.

Just as important is our commitment to our employees. We inform our people how salary increases are determined and how job promotions are decided. We have created job maps outlining requirements for advancement through job grades within the center. Most importantly, we follow up on our promises.

No single activity or incentive stands alone. Rather it is the cumulative effect of continuous effort that produces results.