The “Voice of the Customer” has been making a lot of noise in contact centers recent years. Formal “VOC” initiatives have helped many centers get closer to the customer – gathering invaluable customer data and feedback (via C-Sat surveys, analytics, etc.) that lead to significant improvements in service, product offerings and overall operational efficiencies.

No one can deny the intrinsic power of an effectively implemented VOC process, but there is another voice that contact centers need to be listening to and acting on constantly – that of the their own agents.

In a previous post (Six Reasons Your Contact Center Agents Are Disengaged), I mentioned that your agents possess a wealth of insight about your operation and customers, and how empowering agents to use that insight and knowledge is one of the best things your center can do to improve processes, revenue and the customer experience and agent engagement. But don’t just take my word for it. Numerous contact centers report that they have electrified their operation by tapping the power of their agents and implementing a “Voice of the Employee” (VOE) initiative. Following are just a couple of examples:

NY Life/AARP Gives Agents the “VOTE”

NY Life’s AARP Operations Center in Tampa, Fla., has a formal “VOTE” (their clever acronym for “Voice of the Employee”) program in place; in fact, the program is actually managed by a team of the center’s agents. This team of rotating agents actively solicits feedback from the rest of the center’s staff on how to improve service delivery. The team picks a process, system or metric they want to improve and then builds an awareness campaign around that area. Via a VOTE database, agents across the center can submit their ideas and feedback, which the team reviews and passes on to management. Throughout the process, the VOTE team keeps the other agents in the loop about which suggestions are being considered by management and which ones get chosen for action.

While the VOTE program has led to many improvements, one of the most notable has been to the center’s first call resolution performance. Thanks to agent feedback on what they needed to resolve customer issues more efficiently and effectively, today NY Life/AARP boasts an FCR rate near the world-class range of 85%.

The company and customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from agents’ insight and wisdom. The contact center’s agents receive ample recognition for their bright ideas, especially when they lead to a positive change in the center.

Comerica Bank Drives Continuous Improvement via “Agent Council” and Focus Groups

Few organizations heed the voice of their contact center employees as much as Comerica Bank does. For one, Comerica has in place an “Agent Council” –  a group of peer-elected delegates from each agent team in the center who meet with the center’s Senior VP once a month to discuss issues that are of interest or concern to agents center-wide. Together, the Council and the SVP come up with solutions that are good for agents and the business.

Another way Comerica actively involves agents in continuously improving processes and the customer experience is through focus groups, where agents are asked to provide comprehensive and candid feedback on key topics presented by management.

The Council and focus groups are much more than just kind gestures to make Comerica’s agents feel like they have a say. Real results are achieved. Thanks to agents’ collective suggestions and feedback, the center has revamped such things as attendance policies, workflows and dress codes, and has greatly improved escalation processes.

Oh, and let’s not forget the positive impact that such empowerment has on agent engagement.

“I love the Agent Council,” says one Comerica agent, Michelle. “I’ve never worked somewhere where I actually create the rules and have the ability to vote on how we run the call center.”