Call Center Employee Engagement at InfoCision: A Case Study

Contributor:  Steve Brubaker
Posted:  09/21/2009  12:00:00 AM EDT
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In the call center industry the churn and burn mentality of call center employee management is all too common. In this environment, where staff is considered disposable, it’s not surprising that attrition rates are exceedingly high, forcing companies to dedicate considerable resources to keeping this machine running.

Perhaps it’s the economy that has many call centers reevaluating their employee management strategy as many have slowed down their hiring considerably and are looking for ways to maximize the call center representatives they have.

Even before the economic meltdown, teleservices provider InfoCision Management Corporation was fully aware of the connection between employee job satisfaction and increased productivity and performance.

Since its founding 27 years ago, one consistent thread in InfoCision’s employee management strategy is the belief that a happy worker is a better worker. And, the better our call center representatives feel about their jobs at the call center, the people they work with and for, the better the overall environment of the call center will be. And, the fact that they enjoy their job comes across on the phone and the result is a higher ROI for our clients and a competitive advantage for us.



In the Call Center, It Begins and Ends with People

Our business is about building relationships between our clients and their customers and donors, and it all starts with the type of employee we hire to work in our call centers. Unlike others in the teleservices industry, we prefer to hire more mature call center representatives who have years of experience in sales and customer care. The average age of our Communicators (what we call our call center representatives because they communicate with customers and donors with the goal of building relationships) is 41 years old; 56 percent are the primary wage earner in their family.

To ensure that we are retaining the most talented call center workforce, we look at the call center representative as a whole and many of our employee management programs were designed to help balance their work lives with their personal lives, as well as excel professionally.

Employee Satisfaction in the Call Center

First and foremost we strive to make sure our call center representatives are satisfied with their job with the call center and feel that InfoCision is a place where they can create a fulfilling career.

We enjoy low turnover in the call center at a rate of just 8 percent, and much of that can be attributed to creating an environment where call center representatives can excel. Each call center representative is provided job-specific training as well as ongoing training and development to help them adapt to changing technologies, best practices, or to just be ready to play a bigger role within the company’s call center. We also operate a call center mentoring program that gives exceptional veteran Communicators the chance to mentor new Communicators with fewer than 90 days of service. The program allows them to take new Communicators under their wing to show them best practices in the call center, help them to become acclimated to the company and the programs on which they are calling, and provide them with a peer from whom they can seek advice. It also gives veteran Communicators the opportunity to gain recognition for helping the call center staff grow and foster quality call center employees, while earning extra bonus money for their accomplishments.

Knowing that life’s demands outside of work can often be more challenging than work duties, we understand that we can’t ask our call center representatives to devote their full attention to work if they don’t have the time or tools to attend to personal and family responsibilities. Over the last five years, InfoCision has revolutionized its benefits by investing well over one million dollars in on-site call center physicians and clinics, fitness centers, child care centers, health fairs with free health screenings and numerous company-sponsored work/life balance programs that are available to all employees and their families.

And, because we place such a high value on employee benefits and amenities, these programs are represented at the senior management table through our vice president of Employee Benefits. Recent internal statistics are showing a promising increase in productivity and attendance for those call center representatives who are taking advantage of the various employee amenities.

Tackling Healthcare Costs and Keeping Call Center Employees Healthy

InfoCision is unique among many businesses today in that we have chosen not to cut healthcare benefits to save money, but instead have chosen to increase our wellness programs to save money. Combined with our decision to move to a self-insured health benefits plan, our health and wellness programs have saved InfoCision and its employees thousands of dollars. InfoCision’s rising insurance premiums flat-lined in 2006 and increased by low single digits in 2007 and 2008.

Keeping our call center representatives engaged is also key. It is estimated that more than half of American employees are considered disengaged. How productive can a company be when most of its employees are showing up simply to collect a paycheck and exerting only enough effort to keep their job?

Employee Engagement Comes From the Top Down in the Call Center

InfoCision has found the cure for the apathy that is infecting so many companies—and it doesn’t cost a penny. It really comes down to showing employees how they add value and how they are valued. And, engagement must come from the top down and be genuine. One example is the monthly employee recognition ceremonies held at each of our 12 locations. At these monthly meetings, every employee also has the opportunity to meet with senior call center management to voice their opinions, offer suggestions or ask questions.

In addition, InfoCision conducts bi-annual, company-wide employee satisfaction surveys. The ultimate goal of these surveys is to provide a clearer perspective on how employees prioritize and rank the importance and value of such topics as health and wellness benefits, salary, training, the review process, career development and communication. We view these surveys as a tool for change and use the information as a chance to improve the company. When employees feel their thoughts and opinions really matter they are more likely to look for creative solutions to problems and be more willing to do whatever it takes to help the company and the call center succeed. 

The Facts Speak Louder Than Words

Our growth is proof that this philosophy works. In the last 10 years we have enjoyed an average growth rate of 12 percent, added 24 call centers and more than 3,000 employees. By creating a great place to work we are able to attract, retain and motivate top performing employees who provide a competitive advantage so that we can successfully compete and grow.

Our unique corporate culture has helped us earn clients who value the same ideals we do. On several occasions Fortune 100 clients have told our president, Carl Albright, that the reason they gave InfoCision their business was because of InfoCision’s corporate culture…and not just based on what Carl told them. They had actually gone and talked to our Communicators and call center management—to see and feel first hand what he was talking about. Each time, the prospective client came back and said that everyone they talked to confirmed what they were told; and it sold them on partnering with our company.
 
Our 4,000 employees are the heart and soul of our business and the reason we continue to enjoy prosperity and growth. We know that if you give employees a sense that they are valued by the company, the chances are exponentially better that they will work hard to please you and the customer.

First published on Call Center IQ.

Steve Brubaker Contributor:   Steve Brubaker


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