In the contact center world, we like to say that happy employees make happy customers. Instinctively, we know that it’s true—and it actually is. A Forbes contributor puts it like this:
There’s a direct link between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction.
Happy employees equal happy customers. Unhappy employees lead to
unhappy customers. It’s not quite as simple as that, but as a generalization it’s
not too far off. Employees are the driving factor behind customer satisfaction.
Employee interactions set the tone for a positive or negative customer experience.
When employees aren’t happy at work, their interactions with customers can, and
almost always will, suffer. Over the course of time, this can have serious repercussions
for a business.
But how does happiness actually work? Are there common “happiness triggers” for employees? Can happiness on the job be created or managed? Truth be told, “happiness” is probably a complicated mix of the work environment, bosses, the work itself and other stuff. The best happiness recipes may be those that individual companies have made their own.
2degrees has cracked the happiness code
One NICE inContact customer in New Zealand—2degrees—appears to have it figured out. In fact the company has created an environment that effectively addresses both sides of the happiness equation by being both customer-centric and employee-centric. And the attention it devotes to its contact centre—and contact centre agents—is a key contributor to the company’s stunning growth and success.
The 2degrees success story didn’t happen by accident. The company makes extraordinary efforts to continue building a company whose culture, mission and day-to-day life are designed to keep employees happy—who, in turn, cultivate satisfied customers. It makes concerted efforts, too, to adapt its philosophy and practices to contact centre employees, who are at the center of the 2degrees-customer relationship.
What is happiness, anyway?
Employee happiness has long been a hot topic—research, theories and opinions are plentiful. Does the work environment foster happiness—or is it dependent on the boss, co-workers, or the work itself? Is happiness the same as satisfaction? A love for the work? A sense of higher purpose? Or is it as simple as just wanting to come to work every day?
There is agreement on why having happy employees is important. We know that satisfied employees do a better job, they create value, they build relationships and tend to stay with the company rather than leaving for greener pastures. Old-school thinking about happiness on the job revolved almost exclusively around money. Who doesn’t want fair compensation? But it’s far from the whole story. And while being happy at work is surely the result of many different factors, one of these tops the charts and seems to cross job categories and paygrades: engagement.
Is ‘engagement’ the holy grail?
If not the holy grail of employee happiness, engagement sure comes close. For starters, it has a proven impact on business performance. The Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace Report states that “…engaged employees produce better business outcomes than do other employees across industry, across company size and nationality, and in good economic times and bad.” Another survey, conducted by the Harvard Business Review in 2013, The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance, found that the vast majority of senior-level-executive respondents ranked employee engagement as very important to achieving organizational success. But—only 24% described their employees highly engaged.
And a 2018 Gallup survey found that 66% of employees worldwide are either not engaged or are actively disengaged in their jobs! At the same time, the survey said that even though they’re disengaged, most employees don’t actually hate their jobs. More often, they lack passion for their roles and don’t care enough to innovate, create, or put anything more into their jobs than the bare minimum.
Engagement drives performance
So what about this elusive engagement? Peeling back the employee happiness onion a little more, engagement is more than a lofty concept—it involves attention, involvement, connection, alignment, belief. And in the workplace, engagement can be cultivated —and deepened—by things like company culture, mission, purpose.
In fact, the importance of employee engagement—to individuals as well as to companies—can’t be overstated. Company culture experts say that engaged employees have a passion for their work, go the extra mile and actively problem-solve. Engaged employees thrive in their jobs and experience greater job satisfaction than their disengaged counterparts. In 2019, HBR reported that decades of data confirm that higher employee engagement, or the strength of the mental and emotional connection an employee feels toward their workplace, has many positive benefits, including reduced stress, improved health, and job satisfaction, not to mention increased productivity, job retention. and profitability.
Wow—sign us up! How do we get engaged?
It’s not money, it’s purpose
In 2018 HBR reported on just how important a sense of purpose is in the workplace: Nine out of 10 people, it said, are willing to earn less money in exchange for more meaningful work!
But relatively few can treat patients or save the environment—that’s not what we’re talking about here. There’s purpose everywhere, and employers can actively deepen employee engagement by instilling a sense of purpose that’s grounded in impact.Again, from HBR:. When employees connect the impact of their work back to the real world, daily tasks which once seemed tedious gain meaning. Purpose should be part of business plans, and employees should regularly see the impact their work has within the company and outside it.
2degrees nails it: happiness and engagement
Which brings us back to 2degrees, a shining example of how a company with a clear purpose has successfully infused its culture and brand identity with that purpose—to the benefit of employees, customers, and the bottom line. Beyond just mission and purpose, 2 degrees takes a broad “centricity” approach—keeping employees and customers front and center—that enables it to continue to respond to the needs of both groups in creative ways.
The 2 degrees philosophy becomes immediately evident on its website and YouTube videos: It’s the upstart taking on the big guys, doing what’s right by the customer and having a great time doing it. This relatively new company was founded in 2009, and the name—2-degrees—reflects the connectedness of everyone in New Zealand. 2degrees is one of just three telco players in New Zealand that include Vodafone, a national company, and Spark, also a New Zealand company. In little more than a decade, 2 degrees grown exponentially and is giving its competitors a run for their money.
Pulling together for a common purpose
According to HBR, there’s plenty of research that shows that when people are able to connect the purpose of their organization to their purpose as individuals, they are happier and more engaged at work. The 2degrees founders got it right: They had a clear mission from the start.
“We like to fight for what’s right,” says Tracy Duthie, head of service development and support, in Customer Care for 2degrees. “And I’d like to think that our company values are not just New Zealand values but world [values]. From the beginning we focused on integrity, passion, challenger, devoted, simplicity—these make sense wherever you work and whatever you do.
She continues: “But we also continue to evolve as a company and recently adopted some new values that really zero in on who we are:
- In it together
- Own it
- Dare to be different
We hold each other accountable to these values. We try to live and breathe them.”
The 2degrees mission, vision and values all revolve around doing what’s right for the customer, giving them a better telecom alternative. The quest for fairness infuses the entire culture of the company as well as the customer experience 2degrees employees provide.
“We want to fight for fair, and we have an all-New Zealand contact centre,” Tracy says. ”We think it’s important to service our people (customers) with our people (employees). We also have a strong set of internal values that lay the foundation of what we do.”
She continues “We’re also always questioning ourselves: ‘Are we fighting for fair or are we just doing what the others do?’ Although a relatively large company [now], this mentality gives us a common purpose and a family feel.”
“2degrees started as a small business that wanted to take on the big players, and that was 12 years ago,” Tracy says. “Since then, we have grown rapidly, so at times, there have been struggles between keeping that small business family feel while becoming big and corporate. The thing that has kept us together through this growth is having a common purpose and working together on this. Added to this is some great leadership around how we make a company work for both employees and customers, and we have what 2 degrees is today.”
If that sounds serious, it is. At the same time, though, fun and a light-hearted touch are also built into the 2degrees culture—and the 2degrees brand. This is a company that embraces fun. While they’re dead serious about doing right by customers—and each other—“…we try not to take ourselves too seriously,” Tracy says. “We started with Rhys Darby [a New Zealand comedian and actor] to market us, and today we have emojis. It shows the lighter side of an important business.”
Way more than fun
While fun plays an important role in the 2 degrees environment, the company has put other practices in place as part of a deliberate effort to create a desirable employee experience—while also staying faithful to its culture and values as it continues to grow.
As with happiness and engagement, experts have conducted research and compiled lists of what employees want most in the workplace. What leads to retention? Can perks foster happiness and engagement? Business News Daily published an interesting list: 16 Cool Perks That Keep Employees Happy on the Job. The perks on this list are wide-ranging, from yoga to daily ice cream to time off.
It comes as no surprise that 2 degrees checks a number of boxes in terms of employee perks, many of which revolve around work-life balance and health and wellness.
“We strive to be a great place to all to work,” Tracy says. “There is a big drive toward mental health support and great leadership. We get our birthday (or a day close) off work, we have free yoga classes, a garden that you can take produce out of for your lunch, we support charities—and we even have ‘bring your dog to work Fridays’. These are just a few of the things that make 2 degrees a great place to work. Comparing this to other companies I’ve worked…well, I’ve never worked in a place with so much support before!”
How does the contact centre fit in?
Obviously, this is working for 2degrees employees and the company. But what about contact centre employees, in particular? They are certainly behind—and central to—the “fighting for fair” mission, but let’s face it: Dogs in the contact centre might not be the best idea. Tracy acknowledges that contact centre needs and requirements are different.
By its very nature and direct-to-customer relationship, the contact centre must be more structured and process-oriented. But, she says, that’s why 2degrees goes out of its way to make sure contact centre employees are every bit as valued—and satisfied—as the rest of the 2degrees staff. Motivation is a key focus for her and the company’s leadership.
“Contact centre agents work in a different way to other business teams,” she says. “So we look at what drives our contact centre agents and how to inspire them,” Tracy says. ”From day one, we make sure we show their career pathway, and we coach them continuously.” 2degrees is in good company, by the way, in paying special attention to its contact centre agents. Other providers concur, including NICE inContact customer Expivia Interaction Marketing Group, which also offers some interesting insights on nurturing agents.
Having the right tools is also an important component of a satisfying agent experience. The company’s contact centre CXone solutions deployed about a year ago on the mobile side of the business included self-service IVR, which offloads routine interactions from agents and reduces customer wait time, and a unified and seamless platform to replace its disconnected systems. True to its employee-centric culture, 2degrees encourages open dialogue, and agents are encouraged to provide feedback on what’s working and what’s not.
Always looking forward
Overall, CXone has resulted in dramatic improvements in SLAs—response time and service level stats among them—a sure sign that agents are responding to the agent-centric, easy-to-use CXone tools. But 2egrees is not one to rest on its laurels: The company continues to look ahead, to new ways of further enriching both the agent and customer experiences. With its ongoing focus on agent motivation, Tracy says it plans to implement gamification in inView in the coming months.
2degrees is also looking at a “work-from-anywhere in the country” program. After successfully navigating what turned out to be an accidental work-from-home pilot during the pandemic, 2degrees is seriously evaluating allowing agents to work wherever they want throughout New Zealand. Tracy says the company has been thinking about remote working for a while, and a few team members have already trialed the concept.
Beyond the immediate benefits of treating the people who work for you well and caring about how they feel about the company, 2degrees wisely understands that every interaction with a satisfied, engaged employee is a building block in a long-term relationship with a satisfied customer. As HBR says, customer and employee satisfaction are really two sides of the same coin. 2degrees never loses sight of that connection. It’s how the company got to this point—and how it will continue to grow and “fight for fair” on its customers’ behalf.