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Building Team Culture in a Contact Center

By Hire Dynamics

Your contact center team members are busy!

They’re always on the phone, always taking notes, always solving customer issues.

Who has time for camaraderie?

Yet building a healthy team culture among your team members is imperative regarding how well they deal with your customers and when it comes to their job satisfaction – and your employee retention.

Remote work has made team culture not only more critical but harder to come by…and maintain

Nurturing team culture was only one of several topics our three panelists discussed at our annual Contact Center Executive Forum we held on September 22.

Yet, it’s such an important subject that we thought we’d discuss it more here.

Possibly the MOST important thing a contact center can do to build team culture?

Don’t be afraid to get to know your team members really well.

Why is this important?

Our panelists mentioned that when they sent their employees home to work in March 2020, employees began sharing information with their leaders, unlike prior. They quickly learned several things:

  • Who was homeschooling children, whether in pre-school, grade school, high school, or even offspring that had returned from college.
  • Who was struggling emotionally or mentally.
  • Who was experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Who was ill, or who was taking care of ill loved ones.

Panelists said they pretty much became something akin to counselors, therapists, parents, and close friends as their team members started opening up to them over the early weeks and months of the pandemic – and beyond.

While they said that this deeper bond sometimes made management harder (managers aren’t personal friends, after all), the panelists mentioned that they would never have bonded so closely with their team members if it hadn’t been for the pandemic (something of a ray of light during a highly stressful time for everyone).

CSRs also started reaching out to each other.

Our panelists noted that team members also became closer with each other even though they now worked apart. This, naturally, also helped build team cohesion.

Bottom line: as hard as making it through the pandemic has been, panelists noted that one result had become an even stronger team culture.

What happens now?

Many experts now believe the pandemic could well be on the wane in spring 2022 (although it possibly could start its decline as soon as 4th Q 2021).

Whether that’s the case or not, the chances are good that many employees will want to – and will be able to — continue working from home.

Building and keeping a robust team culture now and post-pandemic

Healthy company culture is critical for employee attraction as well as retention: it attracts great people. Also, it leads to more engaged employees, who tend to stick around longer than unengaged employees.

One study found that enterprises with terrific organizational cultures tend to have 72 percent higher employee engagement. This directly links to higher retention and lower turnover: a 2019 Glassdoor survey found that 65 percent of employees said their company’s culture was an essential factor in whether or not they stayed or went elsewhere.

Contact center culture-building strategies that work.

Effective tactics and strategies our panelists mentioned included:

  • Virtual team game sessions (Jeopardy was noted as a favorite).
  • Birthday celebrations, including sending gifts to the employee’s home to be opened during the party.
  • Handwritten notes of thanks, congratulations, best wishes, sympathy, etc., from managers were a hit.

Some other culture-building ideas:

  • Let all new hires and even current team members know how vital remote-team cohesion is. Ask them for their build-team culture ideas.
  • Embrace the ways technology can help teams stay close. Zoom and Slack, for example, have built-in functions explicitly created for this purpose.
  • Be wary of bombarding your team with too many messages. As you get ready to send a message, take a moment to think if it really needs to be sent.
  • Remember that brief communication isn’t necessarily clear communication: Never assume team members understand “your” particular idioms and terms. If possible, write the message, then set it aside and read it later. Is it clear to you?
  • Make sure you offer skill-building/development opportunities. Don’t be shy about reminding members of your team about them.
  • Encourage collaboration (both informal and formal) among members of your team.
  • Have a virtual “team lunch” every so often. Monthly, at least. And DO NOT talk at ALL about work!

Note: most of these ideas also work in an on-site work situation. Just be careful not to focus too much on your in-person team members at the risk of “neglecting” your remote workers.

As mentioned in our first CCEF recap, we plan to hold our next round table in February 2022.

If you’d like us to email you when we set a firm date, drop us a line.