If you run a contact center then you know that talented, engaged contact center agents are essential to your company’s success. They are friendly, efficient, and ensure that every customer experience is a positive reflection of your company.

An engaged contact center agent is a productive one, and the agent’s immediate supervisor or team leader plays an important role. In fact, contact center team leaders largely influence the top factors impacting employee engagement. After all,

Agents don’t leave contact centers, they leave team leaders.

In their helpful book, Minimizing Agent Turnover, Jon Anton and Anita Rockwell present research that outlines primary factors that drive agent engagement.  In this research, here is what was most important:

  • Trust in leadership – help your agents believe you have their best interests in mind.
  • Give your agents a chance to use their skills on the job.
  • Help your agents be assured their jobs are secure.
  • Offer a competitive package.
  • Maintain or improve the quality of your company’s products and services.
  • Reduce work-related stress.
  • Ensure your company is conducting business with honesty and integrity.

While there are multiple factors, it seems the real secret to agent engagement is hiring and developing effective team leaders.

And the most successful of these team leaders focus on two specific employee engagement drivers:  motivation and retention.


In contact centers, there is often a “crisis of the day.”  These emergent situations combined with the normal day-to-day stress of the job create a situation that will challenge even the most engaged agent. A good leader knows that having an atmosphere that is light and supportive can counteract that stress.

What if your contact center team leaders could honestly say, “We offer a casual workplace, flexible schedules, and consistent rewards. Employees move to our contact center because our relaxed atmosphere makes them happy to come to work.”

Now that’s motivating!

What are some ways to motivate your agents to improve engagement?

Motivate the entire group through the use of games, contests and team building.  

One company created a series of monthly contests. Agents were encouraged to self-report experiences of customer service that went above and beyond.  Customers were given post call surveys to report the most extraordinary agent experiences.  Each of these positive reports went towards earning a special reward for the group such as a celebration complete with food and prizes. Another company offered to make a donation to a different charitable organization each month based on the agents’ choice.

Motivation is best determined by asking your agents what they would like to see happen. Form a committee to advise you on these rewards and events. Make sure you keep a cheerful and upbeat environment in the call center.

Motivate individuals through public recognition and private affirmation. 

A good team leader knows what incentives motivate each team member. While some agents value public recognition, others might prefer a private word of affirmation for a job well done. Effective team leaders take an individual approach and focus on what matters most to each team member. Keep a stash of gift cards and small rewards on hand for spontaneously rewarding engaged agents. One company filled light bulb shaped jars with yellow candy and handed them out as rewards for bright ideas. For a more serious approach to understanding what your contact center agents value, consider reading The Dream Manager, by Matthew Kelly, and learn how listening to employees dramatically increased engagement for one company.


While motivation and retention are closely related, they are not the same thing. If agents feel valued by their team leaders, they will not actively look for reasons to leave. Team leaders who are “retention champions” tend to have these things in common:

  • They treat each person fairly.
  • They look out for their agents’ best interests.
  • They advocate issues that are important to them.
  • They operate with integrity.
  • They demonstrate flexibility in finding solutions to unique situations.

If your team leaders are given the training and freedom they need to create a supportive, fun environment for the agents in their contact centers, you will begin to see a higher level of agent engagement and an increase in customer satisfaction. Keeping an eye on motivation and retention makes it all happen.

Wish all of your team leaders were Retention Champions? It may be easier than you think! Check out our next blog to see what attributes top team leaders have in common – and how to hire and develop the best.