University of Wisconsin Talk: Making Call Center Culture Tangible & Tips for Call Center Rep Engagement

I had the great pleasure of being asked to give a talk to the University of Wisconsin E-Business Consortium on “Making Call Center Culture Tangible, Using Culture as a Weapon, and Engagement Practices for Call Center Reps”.  This is the full talk that I gave.

Main Focuses:

  • Call Center Culture
    • Let’s be honest, you have never really defined it.
  • Using Culture as a Weapon
    • How and Why you Should Hire, Incent, and Promote off Culture
  • Call Center Employee Engagement
    • Actionable Items to Improve your Employee Engagement

1. Call Center Culture

The first step to having a company culture is to define it in a couple of words or pillars. Creating a tangible call center culture can be used as a tool to define work expectations, improve your center, improve engagement and make your center a fun and better place to work while making sure your policies and procedures are still covered.

Defining a culture: How do you treat reps? How do you treat management? How do you operate sales, service, and tech? Do your reps work best in individual or group settings?

Depending on the type of center you have now, you need to learn how to work toward the type of center that you want. How management treats people is an important aspect of defining your culture; and there is no wrong answer to this. Do you want lenient, strict, or fun management styles? Narrow down how you operate. When you are hiring, look for the personality types that you think will match best with the culture you’re striving for.

Compare the environment on the floor versus how your supervisors talk to peers. Do you want constant interaction throughout the day? Do you want conservative supervising styles? Have a set tempo, crush cliques, decide which behaviors are tolerated, and make sure your teams are always communicating.

Break your culture down into a few main keywords. Something you can drill into your training, talk about every day, and have your reps really understand. You need a foundational layer that covers as much as it can when it comes to anything from KPI’s, to the attendance policy, to what types of interactions you have on the call center floor.

Some examples:

  • Security & Service
  • Respect & Teamwork
  • Quick & Right
  • Customer & Employee First
  • Service First, Number Second
  • Sales & Smiles
  • Hit the Numbers, Do it!
  • Attitude & Effort (Expivia’s)

There’s a wide range of directions you could take with how you want to build your foundational culture. You need to decide if you want to be more proactive about your sales and numbers, or if you want to focus more on customer sentiment. Most of you are in the middle, like Expivia. Given the amount of clients Expivia hosts, we are still able to balance efficiency and customer sentiment well.

We do not hire off resumes, we hire individuals that we believe will come in with a great attitude and effort. We do not incent or promote top sales or best QA scores, we promote those who give great attitude and effort. However, the people who are giving the most attitude and effort are often the ones achieving the most- it goes hand in hand. We thrive off of a positive cycle of feedback.

2. Use Culture as a Weapon

How do you measure Attitude and Effort?

We measure attitude and effort through the four key areas of our call center business:

  • Hiring – Hiring off personality and not necessarily skill.
  • Salary – How we incent and promote. One of the biggest changes we have had in our center is the introduction of speech analytics. We can now see exactly what kinds of interactions our reps are having with callers and promote them for having a great attitude.
  • Management – How middle management functions to both control and uplift reps. We control the first 30-60 minutes of every shift. We check in on every rep and make sure they are feeling good and ready to work. If they aren’t, we have open communication, or may even tell them to take a little morning break before they even get started. We want our reps to feel comfortable being transparent with any issue they might have- whether its at work or at home.
  • Environment – When you have reps that enjoy their jobs, you foster a healthy and uplifting workplace. We play games, we have fun, and we try to make the working environment as enjoyable as possible because we know the job can be taxing.
We also host attendance and effort multipliers, so reps can raise their hourly pay simply by showing up. Coming to work is step 1!

3. Tips to Engage Your Call Center Reps:

Create a Call Center Leadership Group consisting of 5-7 reps that meet monthly. Talk about topics such as common issues being seen on the floor, introduction or discussion about new equipment or technology, and getting buy-in & staying engaged and communicative.

Create a Middle Management Summit. Engage your middle management and listen to their thoughts and suggestions. If a policy they have used is working well for them, we will name the policy after them. Ask these questions: How are they using your call center technology every day? What tips can they give peers on how they handle situations? What issues, goings-on, or specific efforts should we be looking out for?

Create an employee suggestion board. At Expivia, our only rule is that any suggestion must build upon either the Attitude or Effort pillar. It’s a win for the reps because they know they are being heard, and it’s a win for the company because we can use their suggestions to further build our culture.

Create Call Center Committees. Expivia hosts three main committees: Games, Equipment, & Welcome. The Games committee is always asking reps what they like to play and researching games that can be fun and motivating. The Equipment Committee is responsible for front line equipment like headsets and chairs. The Welcome Committee acts as the first face new employees see and will mentor the freshman workforce. They make sure new reps are treated properly and understand the values and culture of Expivia, and how to grow alongside it.

Use Social Media. We have a dedicated Facebook account for Agent Engagement. Instagram lets the associates show off their workplace. We also like to live stream games and host championships!

Rotate Management Trainees and Leads. At Expivia we have management trainees that eventually become supervisors. First, they shadow HR for a week to see what they go through on a day to day basis. They will learn how being out of occupancy or out of compliance creates a huge headache for HR. It is very important that they understand how QA does their job. We want to give a holistic approach to teaching how to manage a call center floor.

Games to play: we have a list of games to play both in the physical call center and via a work from home model.

The top tips for call center management (in office):

  • Welcome with enthusiasm! “Take the Temp” and check in with everyone individually.
  • Recap (be positive) foster positive feedback cycles and talk about the day before and high producers. Congratulate achievement.
  • Set individual and team goals.
  • Have fun! Keep games going constantly.

The  top tips for call center management (work from home):

  • Team video chat via Slack
  • Individual video chat, talk about the day before
  • IM Team Channel every 15 minutes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner Individual IM’s. Check in 3x a day.
  • Have fun!

Thanks for reading! I hope this added some value.

Want more call center operations content? Head over to our weekly call center operations podcast “Advice from a Call Center Geek!” at expiviausa.com/call-center-geek-podcast/

Advice from a Call Center Geek is a weekly podcast with a focus on all things call center and contact center. We discuss topics such as call center operations, hiring, culture, technology, and training and have fun doing it! #callcenter #contactcenter #CX #custserv #callcentergeek

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