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Getting the Balance Right: Happy Employees, Excellent Results

In the results-driven world of BPO, employee happiness often seems to be in conflict with the notion of exceptional delivery for customers, but the reality is that these two aspects are not really in opposition. In fact, happy employees are more likely to deliver good results, which is why culture is so important in the BPO context. So how do you address the question of culture?

OneLink BPO’s approach to culture is people-focused with a coaching methodology that encourages employees to reflect on their own capabilities and identify areas of improvement. It starts with a conversation with the agent – what we call the Incredybles – and focuses on what they are doing well. Many coaching methodologies focus on problems only and never actually congratulate the agent on what they are doing right, but recognizing what the agents are doing is a core part of developing a positive and happy workplace culture.

It is important to ensure that you are also asking the right questions of the agent, so that they can identify factors impacting on results. Through that process, it is possible to come to a conclusion based on the information from the agent and facilitated by the coach, that helps the agent to identify what needs to be done to address the issue. It is a self-discovery coaching session.

OneLink BPO has always focused on the happiness of our employees, but the coaching methodology has evolved and been adapted throughout our learnings in the process. This coaching methodology and the happy employee culture translates into customer
satisfaction.

It is important to ensure that the agents on a specific account become an extension of the customer’s business. This is done by creating an image from the get-go, starting from branding, set up of the account in the cubicle, the colours and bringing the values of the company and aligning them with our values, so that we can transmit this sense of belonging.

The culture piece permeates through this. When customers see facilities with happy employees they love to walk the floor, because that sense of wellbeing and happiness is felt throughout, and it transcends into the customer experience.

The entrepreneurial spirit is an important part of this and it must function at every level of leadership. We have been through situations when we were with different ventures, where we went from being entrepreneurial to being corporate. What happens then is that you lose agility, responsiveness, and that assertiveness of problem-solving, because as you become more corporate, you become more bureaucratic. It is important to avoid this and to keep processes agile and nimble, and to empower people within an employee-centric culture that embraces customer experience.

That entrepreneurial spirit allows us to challenge ourselves, take ourselves out of our comfort zone, and add value to the relationship beyond what is on a MSA or a SOW. It is about being able to listen to recurring calls where there are certain issues and go to the customer and ask them: have you thought about doing XYZ, have you thought about putting an RPA on these processes? This is what the entrepreneurial spirit allows.

It needs to go through a vetting process, but these are ideas that might come from an agent or from a supervisor. Really listening to our employees and empowering them to communicate their ideas has had a significant impact in terms of customer satisfaction and has also positively impacted on retention.

When we started operations in Colombia six years ago, we revolutionized the industry overall because it was very traditionally focused on being productive, on scalability and process, without really understanding that to do those things, you have to go through people. When we got there, we changed the dynamics of the industry. Now the contact centers are playing catch up with what we do, because they were losing people who were coming to work for us. Everything that we do around culture is to drive that attrition number down.

We can measure that in four ways: attrition, absenteeism, ESATS and internal referrals, and the result of an employee-centric entrepreneurial culture has yielded dividends in all of those areas. For example, in Colombia, attrition is quite high compared to other Latin American countries we operate in; if we focus on English-speaking agents, attrition in Colombia runs at about 10% a month, very similar to what you see in the Philippines. We have managed to stay below that and while we are not at the level we would like, we are at between 4.5 and 5.5%. In other geographies that we operate in, we are at 3% and that includes voluntary and involuntary attrition.

Absenteeism is a leading indicator of attrition. It is important to get in front of that. We have a risk of leaving metric, a tool that is a measure of if there is a low, medium, or high risk of somebody leaving the company in the next 30 days. It is based on conversations that the supervisor has with agents on a weekly basis, so we can identify possible issues early and implement actions if necessary.

Happy employees really do translate into positive results for customers; with the right methodology and a willing ear, it is possible to address attrition rates and differentiate yourself from the competition, while ensuring the health, wellbeing and happiness of your staff.

Guillermo Valiente

Guillermo Valiente is the Vice President of Business Development at OneLink BPO and has over 20 years of experience in the industry.

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