Workforce Insights:

How Employee Surveys Can Improve Call Center Performance

By Penny Reynolds

One significant factor in your call center’s success is how happy and satisfied the employees are. Employee satisfaction has an extremely high correlation with customer satisfaction and that makes sense. The happier your employees are, the better they’re going to treat your customers. They’re also more apt to show up for work and be on time, as well as more likely to  adhere to processes and give their best efforts. But if they’re not happy, you have a call center with absenteeism and adherence issues, poor productivity, and lackluster service. Therefore, it’s vitally important that you know what their level of satisfaction is and what key issues and factors are driving discontent so you can address them promptly.

Despite the significant correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, fewer than half of call centers do regular employee satisfaction surveys. Most centers do track turnover and look at factors cited in exit interviews, but by then it’s too late. The time to ask questions is before they leave, while you still have the ability to evaluate problems and make changes that can impact their satisfaction and retention rate. Another problem is that for those organizations that do perform employee surveys, these are often the generic employee surveys from the HR Department that everyone in the company receives and these surveys simply don’t address all the unique factors that impact satisfaction of call center staff. It’s important to do your own call center employee surveys where you can ask about all the issues impacting their feelings about their job. Uncovering and directly addressing employee concerns will improve retention, increase staff satisfaction, and ultimately improve productivity and service. Employee Survey Design To truly get a comprehensive view of what life is like  in the call center from an employee’s point of view, there can be hundreds of potential questions. So many questions…but so little time. The key is to identify key points impacting  satisfaction and performance and focus on these, particularly from a workforce planning point of view. While most surveys are created and coordinated through the Human Resources  function in an organization, there may be some questions your center can develop and administer in a more isolated way. With any survey, one of the most important factors in getting good results is to administer it in a way that assures anonymity. You want candid responses from your staff so you can get to root causes of dissatisfaction, but in order for them to respond completely truthfully, the staff need to be completely sure that their survey responses are indeed anonymous. The survey, whether done on paper or online, should include an introduction that reinforces this anonymity and urges them to respond truthfully and candidly about their perceptions and feelings. There are 10 categories of questions you might include in an employee survey.

  1. Employee Demographics
    You’ll want to ask questions that provide insights into the makeup of your workforce to see if there are any significant trends by age, by type of call handled, by length of time on the job, and so on. Here are a few of the questions to ask and what to look for in your results.
  • How long have you worked for the company? Sorting on this question defines issues that may be more bothersome for your brand new staff who aren’t feeling comfortable on the job yet and may have issues with training programs, access to coaching, or a dislike for their new work schedule. On the other hand, it’s interesting to see what the issues are for more senior staff to gauge satisfaction with compensation, schedules, growth opportunities, etc.
  • What is the size of your team? Sorting on this question sheds some light on some of the factors that may contribute to satisfaction of small team sizes versus larger teams where there is not as much individual attention.
  • What types of contacts do you handle? It’s interesting to see the difference in satisfaction levels of staff handling primarily sales calls versus service versus technical support, etc. While all the staff in your center may handle the same type of call, you may wish to compare how your staff compare to staff in other centers handling the same type of call. This question can also be used to ask about channels of communication handled to see the different responses of your staff handling calls compared to web chat or email or back office work.
  1. External Influences and Concerns
    Maintaining a work/life balance is a common concern of employees everywhere and the call center is no exception. Include some questions about how their call center job impacts or is impacted by outside concerns.
  • Where is your primary work site? Here’s another important sorting question. You’ll want to see the difference in responses from those staff that work in the traditional call center compared to those working from home. Surveys show some significant differences in satisfaction between these two groups as you might imagine.
  • How far do you commute to work each day? This question may provide some insight into the “wear and tear” factor for some employees who spend a significant amount of time getting to and from work each day.
  • To what degree does your job allow you to provide care for others in your household? Variations of this question can help identify those where daycare, medical care, or other special support issues are an underlying source of stress or concern.
  •  o what degree does your job allow you to participate in outside activities? This question uncovers some of the frustrations some employees may have about work schedules and the inflexibility inherent in call center scheduling. It is interesting to analyze these responses against some of the scheduling questions.
  • How would you describe your work/life balance? This is another question that serves as an encompassing look at how the job fits in with their home life and other activities.
  1. Training and Development
    The training that employees receive, or fail to receive, can be either a huge supporting factor or one causing dissatisfaction. You’ll want to include questions that gauge perceptions about initial and ongoing training.
  • How satisfied are you with the level of ongoing training and development you receive? Versions of this question can ask about how often and in what way ongoing training needs are assessed, as well as how ongoing training is delivered (frequency, delivery methods, etc.).
  • How satisfied are you with the communications and general information flow in the center? Versions of this question should gauge satisfaction with both the frequency of
    internal communications, forms of delivery, completeness, etc.
  1. Performance Metrics
    Call centers have many measures of performance in place, as outlined earlier in this article, and some of them are specifically measures of individual agent  performance. Some employees feel comfortable and satisfied with these individual and team metrics, while others view them as biased and unfair, serving as a source of  dissatisfaction. It’s important to gather the perceptions of your staff related to these measures of performance as some may warrant re-thinking if they are being done in an unfair
    way or not supplying relevant information.
  • What is your level of satisfaction with how your performance is measured? Stress here that they are commenting on the way in which measurement happens, not with their individual scores. Versions of the question can address frequency of the measurement, previous notice of what to be measured, understanding of scoring system, etc.
  • Do you think performance measures are applied fairly in your center? Versions of this question will gauge how the staff feel about the overall fairness of the measures themselves
    as well as how they are actually applied.
  • How effective is your supervisor or manager at providing feedback to you about your performance and coaching for improvement? This question gives some insight about how performance metrics are actually being used for continuous improvement.
  1. Work Schedules
    A huge cause of dissatisfaction in many centers is the scheduling process overall and for some individuals the actual work schedule itself. Questions in this area can uncover some changes that may be needed in the scheduling process.
  • How are work schedules assigned in your call center? It is  interesting to see the difference in satisfaction in centersthat schedule by seniority, by an equal rotation, or by performance. Including a “don’t know” will point out those staff that have no idea how the scheduling process works.
  • How satisfied are you with the following components of your schedule? Include a rating scale for various aspects of the work schedule, including but not limited to days of week worked, start time, lunches, breaks, length of shift, etc.
  • How satisfied are you with the following components of th scheduling process in your center? Include a rating scale for various aspects of the workforce planning process, including but not limited to: schedule predictability, frequency of schedule bid, assignment process, availability of trades, overtime availability, time off availability, parttime availability, variety of shift options, vacation request process, time-off request handling, etc. This is one area where it is useful to benchmark your own scheduling practices to other centers to see how you compare and where changes in the process may be justified.
  • How fair do you perceive the current scheduling practice to be? It is interesting to see the scale of answers to this question sorted by how the schedules are created as outlined above.
  • What is the schedule adherence goal you are asked to follow?  This question is useful for sorting if there are different goals by group and can also uncover instances where staff are unaware of the goal or how it is measured.
  • How do you feel about the expectation for schedule adherence in your center? This question gauges how reasonable staff feel about rules for adhering to work schedules.
  • How do you feel about the process for recognizing schedule adherence? Variations of this question can gauge perceptions about both positive consequences for good adherence as well as the discipline or negative consequences for non-adherence.
  • How do you feel about the administration of the attendance policy in your center? This question can uncover a variety of responses and feelings about fairness of the policy itself as well as how the management team enforces it.
  1. Compensation and Rewards
    This section of your survey may be much like the questions on the general employee survey, addressing perceptions about overall compensation, benefits, and the reward and recognition system.
  • Do you feel fairly paid for the work that you do? Utilize a scale ranging from “very unfairly paid” to “very fairly paid” to gauge overall satisfaction. You may want to separate salary and benefits and perhaps treat bonuses or additional performance-based pay separately.
  • What type of reward would you most like to receive for good performance? It’s dangerous to think that money is the root of all problems or the end-all satisfaction solution. Some staff would prefer to receive other types of reward for good performance, so include a list of potential rewards (like supervisor recognition, public recognition, gift cards,
    company merchandise, development opportunities, time off phones, etc.) they may earn for good work.

Open Questions

Open-ended text based questions are useful so that staff have a chance to say what’s on their minds and voice any concerns not addressed by the multiple-choice survey questions. While useful and rich in content, the more open the questions, the more time it takes for the employee to take the survey. It also substantially impacts the analysis time, so think carefully about including these at the end. One of the most useful questions to wrap up the survey may be:

If you could recommend changes to senior management to make the center a more favorable place to work, what would they be? These questions can be answered simply or in great detail
and give employees a final opportunity to explain what’s keeping them there or what may be driving them away.

After the Survey

A final consideration for employee surveys has to do with what happens after the survey. Just doing the survey and asking their opinions can have a tremendous impact on the morale of the staff. However, if the survey happens and no feedback is provided, no results shared, or no actions taken, the survey can have just the opposite effect. Conduct the survey over a brief period of time, compile the results, and share the overall responses with your staff. Showing them the results and acting on the findings can result in a huge payback in terms of job satisfaction, which translates into improved performance, better service and a better retention rate.