Creating An Amazing Call Center Culture
Post written but CEO Thomas Laird:
You learn some things after running contact centers for 20+ years. The following are 5 tips or to take that a step further, absolutes on changing or creating a great contact center culture in your customer service center.
“You can’t expect your employees to exceed the expectations of your customers if you don’t exceed the employees’ expectations of management.” -Howard Shultz CEO Starbucks
1. Your Contact Center Environment Needs to be AWESOME and FUN:Customer Service/sales positions can be very difficult jobs. I truly believe that associates feed off the energy in the room. Jon Gordon’s book “The Positive Dog” talks how each of us has two dogs inside of us constantly fighting. One is positive, motivated and always in a great mood. The other dog is negative, tired and does the least amount of work possible. The dog that wins is the dog WE FEED!!! I believe that call center management must provide the proper “nutrition” for the positive dog.
I don’t care what type of call center you have there should be energy, it should be loud, there should be high fives and games going on. Contact centers are unique places and can be actually the “fun” place to work when done properly. Attitude is everything…what kind of message are associates getting when they come to work.
When I come in the room at the beginning of the shift I love hearing an associate ask, “What game is going on today!”…That is the sound of people wanting to be at work
2. Control the First 30 Minutes: Management needs to control the first thirty minutes of the shift and then slowly back down as the hour goes on. Positive management is the key here. EVERY ASSOCIATE NEED TO BE GREETED as they come in. Your associates are your most important asset. The email you are sending can wait.
During this time you are taking the temperature of the team, who needs extra motivation, who is in a great mood. Learn the personalities and what makes your team tick.
The first thirty minutes should be a time of recap yesterday, give team goals and then give each team member their individual goals for the day that are reasonable for each specific person. Setting the table for the day is HUGE. If you work hard to get things started off properly things will more easily fall into place.
3. Invest in Your Associates: How we correct associates goes a long way to how problems get solved. Many centers are “write-up” happy. They use negative enforcement as the means to correct problems. When negativity is used you are feeding into the negative dog! My advice to you is to go OVER THE TOP when someone does something good. Great sale, awesome quality scores, good monitoring session or the best….having a customer say what a great job they did (we do really special things for this) all get balloons, shout outs high fives…
When someone does something wrong then you need to invest in them. Help them, train them, and let them listen to theirs calls. Don’t be write-up happy (time and place for this) and don’t embarrass them on the floor. Associates will be able to see you are helping them and a bond will develop.
It’s easy to fire people. Anyone can do that. True leaders make stars.
4. Allow for Progression: People like to succeed. While not everyone can become management there are many ways to progress associates. They can move to higher paying programs, become team leaders or simply sit in the “better” chair or workstation.
Every week each supervisor should take 15 minutes and pull each associate for “weekly agent analysis” meetings. Talk to the associate in a positive tone about how they are doing, goals and goal setting and set up a progression plan for them. Some associates are happy in the job they are in but most want more, its human nature. Set up a detailed plan to help them reach these goals.
I love the quote from Richard Branson, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t.” .
5. Hire and Educate Your Management: In my contact center we hire on attitude first and job experience and history as a far second. Don’t fall in to the trap that great associates make great supervisor or a great manager at a different business will be great in the call center business. Educate your management team to your culture. We have a management equation that we manage by TRUST= CHARACTER + COMPETENCE which I have a post on our blog about. (click on link).
Have a management program where they are educated on not just how to do the job (stats, policies and procedures) but how you treat people, leadership skills, how to act on the floor, how to interact with peers and associates. Management cannot fake these things, your associates will see right through it and then the trust factor is gone.
Once they get through this program, have a graduation ceremony. We have an oath that they take and they get to sign the graduation book that all supervisors have signed along with getting a “framed diploma”.
We actually had a rival center offer a 100 signing bonus to any management member who joined them that earned one of our diplomas. We did have one supervisor interview…but she stayed with us.
6. Referral Program: When you have your center you like from a culture standpoint and you like the type of person that is in our center that is the ONLY time you should and I would say MUST start your employee referral program. There is a saying that you are the sum of the 5 people that you are closest too. If you like your call center reps then only makes sense for you to try to bring in people they know and like. It gives you the best chance to keep the culture that you are creating.
If you have culture issues and you do not like the vibe in your center when why would you being more of those type of people into your organizations. Referral programs can be a HUGE culture tool for both positive and negative change depending how and when they are implemented
Thomas Laird is a customer service and contact center consultant and operations professional with over 25 year of experience. Thomas is currently the CEO of Expivia Interaction Marketing Group, Inc. and lead writer for the Contact Center Muse Blog… a blog focusing on all things Call Center and Customer Service.