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Use Surveys To Understand Service Agent Wellness and Increase Productivity

Shonnah Hughes

Employee surveys help service managers understand call center and field service agents' feedback and inform business plans. Learn how.

Salesforce customer, Shonnah Hughes, the Global Product Growth & Innovation Evangelist at GetFeedback by Survey Monkey, wrote this article.

2020 continues to bring new economic and operational challenges to businesses, leaving traditional playbooks incomplete or irrelevant. Clearly, the global pandemic of COVID-19 threw us all for a loop. What organizations need now is a focused, structured path to move forward. 

As the economy slowly begins to reopen, it’s necessary to prioritize the protection of both the employees and the business. This is no easy task. The question, as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says in the Playbook, is: “How do you identify the ‘no regrets’ decisions that you can make now that will prepare you to move out of this crisis?”

To help answer this question, we unpack the ways employee surveys can stabilize your business and reduce short-term risks. A positive employee experience is key — without it, you lose the necessary customer-centricity that should be at the heart of any company.  

This is especially important when it comes to service agents. On the frontlines of your business, they interact with customers daily. It’s easier for service teams to work effectively and productively if companies support their wellness.  

The key to successfully navigating the service agent employee experience includes listening to and thoughtful action on their feedback. One of the best methods for this is an employee survey. 

Why employee surveys affect agent productivity and morale

Studies have shown a dissatisfied employee is unlikely to provide good customer service or pass vital customer feedback up the chain. In fact, MIT research shows enterprises with a top-quartile employee experience achieve twice the innovation, double the customer satisfaction, and 25% higher profits than those with a bottom-quartile employee experience.

“Enterprises with a top quartile employee experience achieve twice the innovation, double the customer satisfaction, and 25% higher profits than those in the bottom quartile.”

–MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research

The COVID-19 pandemic increased the need to listen to your employees and provide them with a positive work experience. If service agents are concerned about their well-being, they won’t be able to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

By using surveys to collect feedback into what works and what service agents need, it’s easier for business leaders to shape a stable and structured plan to support their workforce and to move forward.

Surveys inform decisions and structure planning

At the moment, service agents are learning to work remotely and relying on digital channels to communicate with leadership. Whether your organization has decided to reopen offices, shift to fully-remote, or something in between, it’s important to rebalance priorities and organizational structure to maintain success. This includes how teams collaborate, which technology tools they need, and more.

When you collect feedback with surveys, you’ll get the data to develop a stabilizing plan to best serve your service team and the future of your organization. Understanding the current status informs your plan and inspires confidence. 

Employee feedback offers a data-driven path forward to sustain productivity across the business. Only then will a company be able to rebuild and grow with the greatest chance of success. 

The benefits of surveys to collect data

Understanding individual employee needs is, of course, a big task. While you can’t interview each service agent in as much depth as you’d like, a data capturing tool, like an employee survey, allows you to engage in those one-on-one conversations at scale. 

To know if your actions are improving agent experience, be sure to track your progress. As you roll out your policy changes, evolving resources, and communicate critical messages, how else do you know if you’re meeting your agents’ expectations?

Answer: regularly survey your agents and set benchmarks.

With a survey solution, you’re able to see trends over time and any changes in sentiment. Whether you look at a specific metric, such as Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), Employee Satisfaction (ESAT), or dive into qualitative feedback, benchmarking gives you a foundation. With a baseline, it’s easier to innovate and improve on stabilization-related plans. 

Similarly, surveys provide one trusted source of data so you can build and distribute reusable datasets. This contributes to faster decisions.

How to build an employee survey

Let’s dive into some best practices when it comes to creating employee surveys for your service agents. There are three key elements to consider: design, context, and length. 

Thoughtful design leads to better data

Survey design is more important than you might think. If you truly want to increase employee engagement and response rates, make sure your survey is branded, easy to read, and mobile-friendly. 

Context matters — read the room

When collecting feedback, context is key. This means surveying your employees when and where it makes sense for them. A survey that doesn’t take into account the realities of the pandemic and other crises can break trust between employees and the organization. 

Length — less is more but make it count

Keep it short. We’re always tempted to ask too many questions but it’s important to be respectful of your employee’s time. Make sure your survey has a clear purpose and only ask what you need to know. 

A focused but short list generally increases participation. If it’s perceived as a big project, or additional “work,” busy people may put it off and even miss the requested deadline.

What to ask service agents in your survey

In this case, we want to focus on ways employee feedback can stabilize your business and reduce short-term risks. That means asking your service agents about ways the organization can best support them, whether transitioning back in the office or fully remote. 

Consider questions both qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative questions ask how they feel or their opinions on a topic. Quantitative questions cover practical issues such as whether they have new caregiving responsibilities or new transportation difficulties.

When asking for feedback, it’s critical to be empathetic and human. Present questions showing your employees you’re listening and you care. Make sure they’re comfortable enough to answer honestly and know you value their feedback. This ensures higher-quality responses and revealing actionable insights. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of psychological safety, it’s often defined as a climate in which people feel able to speak up without judgment. It’s an environment in which they feel able to contribute what they know, feel, and worry about.

To learn more about psychological safety and how it contributes to higher-performance teams, check out this Trailhead module

Examples of survey questions

To understand how your service agents are doing, here are a few best practice questions to ask:

  • How concerned are you about returning to work? Using a scale from one to five, the employee’s answer determines the following path using display logic.
  • Why did you answer (insert answer between one and five)? Provide possible scenarios. Keep it brief, between one and three options, as well as a “fill in the blank” response. Allow users to select more than one answer, as appropriate. This current pandemic is layered with additional stressors and it’s important to understand the full picture.
  • How can we (fill in the blank)? This might be “how can we make you more comfortable” or “improve your experience?” Again, allow users to select multiple answers and a blank answer section to expand or bring a new item to your attention
  • If given the option, would you prefer to work remotely indefinitely? Don’t be afraid of simple yes or no, choose one or two answers types of questions.
  • Conclude with a statement reiterating your purpose for posing the survey. Be sure to lead with empathy here. Ask if there’s anything else the user would like to share. Provide plenty of characters so they’re not limited to one or two sentences.

To help you get started, here is an employee survey template from GetFeedback.

Cadance and channels for surveying your agents

A regular cadence keeps a steady pulse on your employees and gives them an opportunity to provide input during changing climates.

This doesn’t mean you should send a barrage of surveys. You could send a survey every two weeks or once a month, depending on the purpose and your team’s personal preferences. Also, provide context. It shows the importance of each survey and displays empathy and transparency.

In addition, remember employees may require different avenues of communication. Not all channels work for all service agents. Identify channels easiest for them to take your surveys — it could be via email, SMS, community forums, etc. Again, the easier you make it, the greater a response you’ll receive. Better engagement means higher-quality insights.

This consistent cadence of checking in and listening to your agents is critical. According to Forrester, early best practices are showing the effectiveness of broad, continuous, open employee communications. They recommend doubling your employee communication from pre-pandemic levels.

Next steps to take action on agent feedback

Surveys can help you identify issues that need immediate attention, as well as prioritize efforts and reinforce key initiatives with adequate bandwidth.

After you collect enough feedback, your next steps are to analyze it and execute based on key insights. This could include:

  • Prioritize, realign, and restructure existing programs based on the feedback.
  • Share the key takeaways from your survey with your service agents. Transparency shows your teams you are in fact listening to them and holding the organization accountable.
  • Pause any insufficient or non-urgent programs and replace them, if needed, with new ones.
  • Identify new tools, training, and/or educational resources to enable service agent productivity and foster wellness.

How an organization chooses to respond to employee feedback varies. What’s important to remember is taking action on employee data makes the difference between a successful stabilization period or one that falls short.

Another best practice is to collect your employee feedback data into a central dashboard and consider it as your one source of truth. Use it to pull real-time sentiment, insights, and trends and make it accessible across the organization.

Use monthly meetings or any all-company (virtual) gatherings to share your findings and lay out your plan to reopen. Consistent communication of learnings and changes strengthens relationships between employees and employers.

Treat it like any other initiative, with specific goals, deadlines, and appropriate resources. For example, if you ask employees to take on new responsibilities as part of the project, compensate them or reduce their workload accordingly. Encourage creativity and resourcefulness, but provide budget where necessary.

Inspire trust with thoughtful surveys and data-driven actions

Many employees are facing real and sometimes very tough challenges right now. As an employer, it’s never been more important to continue to build trust and transparency into your relationships with employees.

According to a Gallup study last April, 63% of U.S. employees were working from home. For many the transition was sudden. With the gift of time to plan to reopen, take the opportunity to thoughtfully research how your employees feel and the obstacles they face. This gives you a base to support employees as they navigate the current environment.

Be sure to use surveys to capture the pulse of your service agents on an ongoing basis. The insights you gather from surveys during stabilizing phases shape and refine your reopening plans as you move forward.

By keeping your service agents at the heart of your business, you’ll inspire and deepen trust between employee and employer that builds a high-functioning group, ready to serve customers through the pandemic and beyond.

Check out these and other helpful ideas, examples, and tools in The Service Leader’s Guide to Resiliency.

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