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Agent Engagement: A Comprehensive Guide

Definition, Importance, Benchmark, and Tips to Improve Call Center Agent Engagement

| 5 min read

1. What Is Call Center Agent Engagement

Call center agent engagement refers to the level of involvement, motivation, and emotional commitment that call center agents have toward their work, goals, and the organization they represent. It encompasses various factors that contribute to agent satisfaction, productivity, and customer service delivery performance.

high agent engagement infographic

Agent job satisfaction is different from agent engagement. When an agent has high job satisfaction, they like handling customer inquiries and problems and are satisfied with their supervisor and compensation.

However, agents may not be totally engaged in their call center job. For example, they may be good at delivering customer service but may not have a high emotional commitment enough to go the extra mile to deliver great customer service. High emotional commitment or engagement can be the difference for an agent going from providing good to great customer service.

It's likely you are hearing more about agent engagement lately. There is good reason for the agent engagement focus, especially when you consider the call center industry agent turnover and absenteeism are at an all-time high.

Delivering great customer service is essential for a company's success. Call center agents play a critical role in providing great customer service. In many cases, the call center agent is the last line of defense to stop a customer from defecting and increasing customer retention. SQM Group's research shows 95% of customers expressed intent to continue doing business with an organization when an agent provided First Call Resolution.

2. Why Is Agent Engagement So Important?

SQM Group's research shows that 47% of managers feel their biggest problem operating a call center effectively and efficiently is high agent turnover and absenteeism. Furthermore, SQM's customer experience (CX) research, First Call Resolution (FCR), and Customer Satisfaction (Csat) for the call center industry significantly decreased in 2022 due to agent turnover.

SQM also believes that the number one problem in 2022 to achieving a high call center Csat and FCR rate is the historically high agent turnover rate of 38%, and there are no signs of slowing down the employee turnover rate any time soon. Agent engagement is a leading indicator for turnover, absenteeism, FCR, and Csat performance.

One of the main responsibilities of call center leaders and supervisors is to assess and improve agent engagement, which has become even more important in the work-from-home (WFH) model that most agents use for handling calls. It is critical for supervisors to identify disengaged agents, and failure to do so will result in the following:

  • Lower FCR, Csat, and customer retention
  • Increases in agent turnover and absenteeism
  • Higher operating costs (e.g., recruiting, training, productivity)
  • Lower job satisfaction

In addition, engaged agents care about resolving customer interactions and retaining customers, whereas disengaged agents are not as committed to resolving customer interactions and retaining customers. Therefore, SQM believes that organizations should evaluate their call center HR practices on agent satisfaction (Esat), engagement, turnover, and their impact on customer experience.

Top-performing Esat and Csat call centers use employee feedback at all levels as one of their primary tools to improve CX. Gathering feedback from agents about what drives their overall satisfaction and dissatisfaction with working in the call center or WFM is critical to decreasing turnover and cost-per-call resolution and improving FCR, Esat, and Csat performance.

3. What Is the Agent Engagement Benchmark Rate?

SQM's agent engagement rate is based on three metrics: overall satisfaction with working in the call center, willingness to continue working in the call center, and willingness to recommend working in the call center to others.

SQM Group's research based on benchmarking agent engagement with leading North American call centers shows the industry average is that 30% of agents are highly engaged, 11% are somewhat engaged, a whopping 54% are somewhat disengaged, and 5% are highly disengaged.

agent engagement metrics infographic
agent engagement benchmark rate infographic

4. What Is a Good Agent Engagement Rate?

Again, there are four levels of agent engagement (i.e., highly engaged, somewhat engaged, somewhat disengaged, and highly disengaged). Based on the agent engagement survey method, the call center industry benchmark average for agent engagement rate (i.e., highly engaged and somewhat engaged) is 41%.

The agent engagement rate of 41% means that 59% of agents are either somewhat disengaged or highly disengaged working at a call center. Furthermore, agents that are somewhat disengaged or highly disengaged are likely to be part of the great resignation and quiet quitting agents working at the call center.

The agent engagement industry standard for a good rate is 45% to 55%. Achieving a good agent engagement rate (i.e., highly engaged, somewhat engaged) is one of the biggest challenges for call center leaders to achieve.

5. Tips on How to Improve Agent Engagement?

Engaged agents are actively invested in their roles and exhibit a strong sense of purpose and dedication. Agents are more likely to provide exceptional customer service, contribute innovative ideas, and go the extra mile to meet customer needs. Agent engagement is crucial because it directly impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Some key tips for call center agent engagement improvement include:

Agent Accountability: According to Gallup, their research found employees who think their manager holds them accountable for performance are 2.5x more likely to be engaged in their job. The agent dashboard provides them insights into their performance that they are held accountable for achieving.

Job Satisfaction: Engaged agents generally experience higher job satisfaction levels as they find their work meaningful and fulfilling. Factors that contribute to job satisfaction include a positive work environment, fair compensation, recognition for achievements, and opportunities for growth and advancement.

Training and Development: Providing ongoing training and development opportunities helps agents improve their skills, stay updated on industry trends, and feel empowered to handle customer inquiries effectively. Engaged agents appreciate organizations that invest in their professional growth.

Communication and Feedback: Regular and transparent communication between agents and management fosters trust, reduces uncertainty, and promotes engagement. Agents should have a platform to provide feedback, share their concerns, and contribute to decision-making processes.

Recognition and Rewards: Recognizing and rewarding agents for their achievements and exceptional performance boosts their motivation and engagement. This can include incentives, bonuses, public acknowledgments, or opportunities for advancement.

Work-Life Balance: Striking a healthy work-life balance is essential for agent engagement. Organizations that prioritize employee well-being, offer flexible schedules, and promote a supportive work environment create a conducive atmosphere for agent engagement.

Tools and Technology: Equipping agents with the right tools, technologies, and resources streamlines their workflow and empowers them to deliver efficient customer service. Having user-friendly software, automation tools, and access to knowledge management tools enhances agent engagement by reducing frustration and enhancing productivity.

By focusing on these key tips, organizations can foster call center agent engagement, leading to improved customer experiences, higher employee retention rates, and overall business success.