The Art of Boosting Team Morale: How to Motivate Your Live Chat Team

November 29th, 2017 | Isabella Steele | Live Chat | Blog Home
The Art of Boosting Team Morale: How to Motivate Your Live Chat Team

It doesn’t matter if you’re a student who’s struggling to study for a test, an artist who’s trying to get back to work on a painting, or a doctor who has a pile of exam results that are waiting to be reviewed; everybody suffers from a lack of motivation at times. This “everybody” includes your live chat agents.

Maybe you have noticed a dip in your live chat agents’ performance, or that your agents are spending more time in extended wrap-up mode, “away,” or on restroom, lunch and smoke breaks. Maybe you can sense that their motivation is fading through their grim greetings or the lifeless expressions that they wear into and around the office. Maybe your agents have morphed into a sea of oversized gray hoodies, and office laughter is nothing more than a faint memory.

It is inevitable that some days your live chat agents, like all professionals, will find themselves down in the dumps and in need of something to help keep them going. The good news is that when the correct measures are taken, a lack of motivation is very much treatable, and is even in part preventable. By following the tips that we have laid out in this blog post, you will learn ways to motivate your employees and boost your team’s morale in no time.

customer service training activities

[Free Download] 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams

The activities in this eBook can be great training materials to improve customer service or morale in your team. Each activity focuses on a particular area of learning and comes with suggested debriefs. This helps your team link activities to learning and apply the learning to the workplace.
Download Now

Remind Agents of the Human “Why”

“Work is a search ‘for daily meaning as well as daily bread’,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author and radio personality Studs Terkel.

Wharton Business Professor, Adam Grant, backs this up. For decades, Americans have ranked purpose as their top priority in a job, above promotions, income, job security, and hours,” he writes. According to data from more than 11,000 employees across industries, the single strongest predictor of meaningfulness was the belief that the job had a positive impact on others.

Customer service is possibly one of the most accessible jobs for people who like to help other people and make a difference. However, sometimes in the hustle of the workplace, agents can get lost in the workload, and lose sight of who and what they are actually working for. To help them regain their motivation and/or stay motivated, it is important that your live chat agents be reminded of the greater purpose behind what they do.

Grant says that sometimes employees are too distant to see what the impact of their job is.

“This is why leaders at John Deere invite employees who build tractors to meet the farmers who buy their tractors, leaders at Facebook invite software developers to hear from users who have found long-lost friends and family members thanks to the site, and leaders at Wells Fargo Bank film videos of customers describing how low-interest loans have rescued them from debt. When we see the direct consequences of our jobs for others, we find greater meaning.”

By reminding your live chat agents that they are helping real people find solutions to their problems, you will be reminding them of “why” it is that they do what they do.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Forward reviews, comments, thank you emails, and recordings from customers to your live chat agents so that they will be able to feel the tangible evidence of a person that they have helped.
  2. Print out and hang up customer feedback. If you have access to customer photos, print those out and hang them up as well! These practices will help agents see customers as names and faces, rather than just usernames, and are great ways to motivate employees.

Show Your Agents You Care

Knowing that someone cares about you is an uplifting and oftentimes inspiring feeling. This is why one great way to boost team morale is to show your agents that you care. Here are a few ways that you can do this according to Forbes, with tips for each situation:

  • Go Above and Beyond Personally to Help Them
    Tips and Ideas: If your agent needs a favor that is within your reach, lend them a hand! For example, if an agent is in need of a babysitter for the weekend, give them the contact information of someone you trust, or even offer to have their kids spend the weekend with you if you have the time and are up for it.
  • Relate to Them; Don’t Act Like You’re Above Them
    Tips and Ideas: Share your own fears and vulnerabilities with your employees so that they will know that they can trust you with theirs.
  • Show You Care About Their Personal Life
    Tips and Ideas:
    1. Keep a calendar full of office birthdays, and surprise each agent with a special treat on their special day. Gift cards, cupcakes, presents, and signed cards are great ways to make your agent feel appreciated and motivated.
    2. If an agent has lost a loved one or is battling a serious illness, have the office sign a card to show that you care. As the Forbes contributor John Hall notes, “The trick is to let your team know that you don’t just see them as worker bees.”
  • Show Interest in Their Significant Others/Families
    Tips and Ideas:
    1. Invite your employees’ partners to the annual holiday party or host fun ‘Take Your Child to Work Day’ activities for their children.
    2. Pay attention to when agents are getting married, have a new baby on the way, etc. and give them gifts, cards, surprise parties, and more to commemorate!
  • Back Them Up with Customers
    Tips and Ideas: If a customer is treating an agent poorly, show your agent you are on his or her side and make it so that your agent does not have to handle this customer again.

Win Them Over Through Their Stomachs

Some lists of workplace motivational tools downplay the use of donuts, coffee, and pizza as incentives, or call them out for being unoriginal or boring. However, on behalf of myself and other food lovers out there: don’t stop! Unsolicited food is almost always appreciated and is guaranteed to brighten someone’s day and boost team morale, if only a little bit.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. How about a game? The next time your company sponsors a lunch, brunch, snack, or dinner for your live chat agents, try playing spin the wheel, having a raffle, or inventing another fun activity to decide what food will come in next.
  2. Maybe you’re impulsive–so why fight it? Try surprising your live chat agents with catering from different restaurants sporadically throughout the month. See how long you can go before repeating the same food option; it’s bound to keep the office interesting.
  3. Are you an avid baker? Or maybe you make a killer guacamole? If so, try bringing your agents homemade treats. Homemade foods require your personal time and energy and are an especially lovely way to motivate employees and show your agents that you care.

Listen To Your Agents And Act Accordingly

Many live chat agents have a higher team morale when they feel that they are listened to. For example, if an agent can see that a process isn’t working well and makes a suggestion for improvement, he or she will feel more motivated if his or her request is heard and change is made as a result.

When employees see that their feedback is being translated into a visible, measurable improvement, they will feel like they are a vital part of the company and that their voices matter. This feeling is sure to energize your live chat agents and boost team morale.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Many companies who use a suggestion box for agents don’t follow up with the suggestions or communicate to agents why some ideas haven’t been implemented. This can make agents feel frustrated and unheard. To avoid this common mistake, implement a “Voice of the Agent” program as a formalized process for implementing agent feedback.
  2. Run focus groups for your employees, where your live chat representatives can get together to discuss potential improvements and figure out what can be done and who will be responsible for making the changes. Putting the responsibility for change back into the hands of agents, rather than making them a passive “recipient” of the change process can be a tremendous motivator.

Grant Your Agents More Autonomy

Autonomy has repeatedly been identified as a major contributor to motivation. Specifically, autonomy has been proven to increase job satisfaction and alleviate emotional exhaustion felt by customer service agents.

An agent who has his or her hands tied by unnecessary limitations or excessive micromanagement can’t give much assistance to customers who need help. Agents who have more freedom to do what it takes to solve customer problems will feel more empowered at work and will be more motivated as a result.

Tips and Ideas: Help your agents feel more in control by giving them freedom over certain decisions, such as whether to give a customer a refund, whether to reorder products and what to offer an upset customer in a difficult situation. This will give your agents more control over what they can do to help satisfy their customers, ultimately benefitting your customers, agents, and even your supervisors (who will be less tied up with answering agent questions and approving agent requests).

Work With Your Team

When the going gets tough, dive into the work pool with your agents!

As an agent, nothing is more discouraging than to be under a heavy workload while your supervisor or manager plays solitaire on his or her phone. This is why it is detrimental to your team’s motivation that you lead by example. Whether you are working on a separate project or answering live chats yourself, make sure that you know when to hustle with your team.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. When the live chat volume is through the roof, make yourself busy helping agents, working on an escalated customer service problem, or by taking live chats yourself to lower the queue, etc. By working hard when your employees are working hard, your live chat agents know that you are all in this together.
  2. Even things like getting drinks for busy agents can be an appreciated use of time.

Mix Up the Routine

If you notice that an agent has been down in the dumps, he or she might benefit from a change in pace. By having an agent who has been suffering from a lack of motivation come in an hour later or leave an hour earlier, the extra time to sleep in or beat traffic might prove to be an energizing change for the better.

Note that this requires proper implementation; if agents aren’t consulted beforehand, a shift in the work schedule could end up messing with class schedules, childcare arrangements, and other set compromises. This could prove stressful to agents, instead of motivational.

Tips and Ideas: Try giving disheartened agents a little bit more time off, or a schedule that is different in some way. For example, you could have an agent work from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM one Monday instead of from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM like they are normally scheduled.

Get Together Outside of The Office

A great way to motivate your live chat agents to succeed in their jobs is to encourage a sense of community amongst agents. By spending time with your agents outside the office, your agents will be able to develop a relationship with you and with their coworkers that makes their job feel more valuable.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Organize an event where you invite your live chat agents to get lunch or see a movie outside of office hours.
  2. If you have an event to celebrate such as a birthday or a baby shower, invite the team!

Give Your Employees Breaks

Your live chat agents spend most of their days on the computer. Every so often, a little bit of fresh air will do them good. In order for your live chat agents to sustain those budding relationships with their coworkers, give your live chat agents some breathing room to chitchat or to just unwind.

Tips and Ideas: The amount of breaks you give your agents and the time that they are allowed to take may be up to company policy. However, if a hardworking agent asks you to take 5 and the queues are not clogged up, don’t be afraid to say yes!

Use Friendly Competition

For some agents, competition is a huge motivator. Although it may not be for everyone, having a friendly competition is a good way to help your most competitive agents shine.

When you use competition as a motivational tool, try and select a competition that won’t be de-motivating to other employees, or promote bad behavior. For example, it may not be the best idea to compete for lowest average handle time, as this might result in unsatisfied customers whose issues were not fully solved.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Come up with a competition that will help motivate your competitive employees, but that won’t demotivate employees who aren’t interested or don’t win. You can do this by not over-emphasizing competitions, by having first, second, and third-place prizes so multiple people can win, and keeping the prizes basic so that they act more as a bonus than as an end goal (for example, you might use a 10, 20, and 30 dollar gift card to a restaurant).
  2. Try having an arbitrary or silly competition, such as who can chat with the most people named “David” in one week. This can help make live chatting more fun for everyone, and keeps the winner random.

Recognize Employee Achievements

“Ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes,” says Duke psychology professor Dan Ariely.

The Business Insider furthers this with their own quote:

Employee recognition comes in many different forms and is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to motivate your live chat agents. Many companies recognize employee achievement is through recognition programs such as the “Employee of the Month,” peer-to-peer recognition programs, or other recognitions based on specific results or behaviors.

Another often overlooked form of employee recognition is a warm word of thanks at the end of a long day. While telling an employee “thank you for all your hard work,” may not be as shiny as an achievement pin or plaque, it is a valuable way of letting your live chat agents know that they are seen and appreciated.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Start thanking your employees at the end of the day or week for all of the hard work they have put in.
  2. Establish a peer-to-peer nomination program, where your agents can nominate each other for exceptional help given. These sort of programs can help to build a feedback culture where it is standard for agents to recognize and appreciate the hard work of others.

Introduce New Challenges or Responsibilities

Some live chat agents might get bored of their current assignments, and feel a need for a greater challenge or additional intellectual stimulation. For these agents, try motivating them by offering them increased responsibilities.

By taking on additional responsibilities that they deem to be useful, many agents will feel a greater sense of value and will enjoy the mix-up in routine.

When using this motivational practice, it is important to first approach your agents and ask them if they are interested in doing something different or taking on a new responsibility. If they are not interested, offer up the opportunity to another agent.

Remember that nobody likes busywork and that your agents must feel like their efforts are amounting to something valuable in order for new challenges and/or responsibilities to function as a motivator.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Create a list of specialized tasks that are in need of more attention. Approach capable but bored agents and ask if they are interested in taking on the responsibility of switching their live chat status to “away” to fulfill that task. You’ll be surprised by how many agents will take you up on your offer!
  2. Have agents job swap or shadow in other departments to change up their routine, help break down silos, improve communication, help agents better understand processes, and more.

Promote Within Your Company

For some live chat agents, customer service is their passion and is a field that they are interested in staying in for a long time. By promoting within your company, you will be able to motivate live chat agents who wish to stay long term, and who hope to someday become a supervisor or manager, or even work in a different department.

Promoting from within doesn’t just motivate employees–it is also beneficial to companies who have already spent time and resources training agents in company products and culture.

Tips and Ideas: Try considering your contact center as a “training ground” for new staff, who will later move within the company and along to different departments. By setting clear milestones for agents to achieve in order to proceed, you will help motivate them even further.

Celebrate When Possible

Every day that we are alive is a reason to celebrate, but chances are that’s not a part of the official workplace policy. Still, it’s nice to give your live chat agents something to celebrate whenever possible. That means embracing seasonal holidays as reasons to do something special for your employees and ways to boost employee motivation.

Whether you find yourself making Valentine delivery boxes for your employees, buying green cookies on St. Patrick’s day, having a full-on dress-up party on Halloween, or following your own original ideas, a little festive effort can go a long way.

Tips and Ideas:
  1. Decorate your contact center and come up with food and/or activity options for holidays to get your team in the holiday spirit!
  2. Check out Pinterest for some great office party and decoration ideas.

Try Something Different

While a classic holiday party or morning bagels might inspire newer employees, what about agents that have been with you for 5 or 10 years? Sometimes the best remedy for low motivation is to mix things up at the office and do something a little different to keep your employees enthused.

Tips and Ideas: Why not organize a rock climbing or corporate bowling event? Why not hire a masseuse to give employees complimentary massages? The bigger the gesture, the more important your live chat agents will feel.

Grant Your Employees Time To Pursue Their Passions

For some live chat agents, their job is just a means to make money in order to fuel other, more rewarding passions. By respecting your agents’ out-of-office passions and even giving them time to pursue those passions, you will be able to help motivate your team both in and out of the office.

Some companies, like Studer Group, a management consulting firm, give their employees paid time off to pursue activities outside of the office. This Gulf Breeze, Florida-based group gives its 114 employees four paid hours a month to volunteer for a charitable initiative or organization of their choice. This helps to promote corporate social responsibility and grow community ties, a process that is enriching for everyone involved.

Tips and Ideas: Let your agents be transparent with you about their passions, and take them seriously when it comes to scheduling. Both you and your agents will feel better if they can be honest and about needing to leave early for their professional fighting tournament or their art show that is opening on Friday instead of lying and pretending to need to go home sick. Your agents will give greater value to and feel more motivated to succeed at a job that supports their needs and dreams than one that doesn’t.

Emphasize Growth Before “Getting”

The law may uphold that corporations are considered people for some purposes, but chances are your employees don’t agree. Live chat agents and employees, in general, can quickly become jaded by corporate “getting” mentality. If your agents feel that your corporate culture is all about profiting rather than truly caring for their employees or customers, then their motivation to do well by your business will be low.

If you shift your primary motivation from what profits your agents are getting, and towards how your employees and the corporation as a whole are growing and contributing, your agents are more likely to feel cared for and energized.

Tips and Ideas: Foster a growth-friendly atmosphere by having a weekly check-in with agents where you ask them how they are feeling, how they are growing, and what their biggest challenges are. By focusing on them personally, not their numbers, you will help motivate your live chat agents.

Learn What Incentivizes Your Employees

No two individuals are motivated as equally by the same things. Some agents might find food to be a primary performance motivator. Others might be most motivated when they feel like they have the ability to move up in the company.

This difference in motivations is also something that spans across generations. According to Jamie Gutfreund of the Intelligence Group, Baby Boomers were a “very individualistic generation. They were very independent. They wanted to get the corner office and the trappings of success.” Millennials, by contrast, want to find purpose in their toil and their career, she says, which does not necessarily come from getting the highest possible salary or nicest office.

While there may be truth to these and other generalizations, it is important to do what you can to figure out what makes each of your unique live chat agents “tick.”

Tips and Ideas: Sometimes your employees will tell you what motivates them, either directly or indirectly. You just have to listen! Get to know your team and you will get to know what motivates them. Then, you can personalize your incentives and act accordingly.

Conclusion

By following these tips on how to boost agent morale, you will create agents who are more productive, dedicated, and most importantly, who are happier in the workplace. Say goodbye to grumpy stares, and hello to your new, motivated team!

For additional reading, check out our eBook, 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams.

How will you start motivating your employees today?

customer service training activities

[Free Download] 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams

The activities in this eBook can be great training materials to improve customer service or morale in your team. Each activity focuses on a particular area of learning and comes with suggested debriefs. This helps your team link activities to learning and apply the learning to the workplace.
Download Now

About 

Isabella is a freelance editor, writer, and blogger with Comm100. She is passionate about helping people, teams, and organizations grow into their full potential, and excel in their service. In her spare time, you can find her traveling, painting, or drinking copious amounts of coconut water. Connect with Isabella on LinkedIn.

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