The weekend before Thanksgiving, I competed in my very first body-building competition. Between stage appearances, eating hourly meals and making sure my Oompa Loompa-like tan was intact, the customer-service lessons were hard to miss.
1. Forget agent to supervisor ratios. You need expediters. If you’ve never been backstage at a body-building competition, imagine a large room filled with free-weights, (tan) spraying tents, and fans leading to numerous dressing rooms—all connected by a fine mist of spray tan, Pam oil, hairspray and spray glue, amidst the chaos of dozens of competitors pumping up in preparation for their time on stage. Part of the chaos was likely due to the fact that this was my first show. Some competitors had the process down to a science. I think I even caught one competitor on a yoga mat catching a few moments of Zen. But the clear breaks in the chaos were the expediters, like bright beacons of knowledge and organization. The sole purpose of the expediters was to keep the competitors on track with the flow of the competition, make sure they were in the staging area when needed, and on stage when scheduled. And while there were only three of them (compared to over 90 competitors, plus coaches, trainers and helpers backstage), they seemed to be everywhere and have the answers to every question. If you can’t describe your call center supervisors the same way, you need to re-examine your supervisor selection and training process.
2. It’s all about relationships. When you think about any competition that involves any degree of primping, you probably think you need to keep your finger on the record button of your flipcam so you don’t miss the impending cat fight. Instead, what you would have found were male competitors spotting each other in the pump-up room, women helping each other with make-up and glue, and competitors joking with the MC while on stage. If, as a manager, you can’t recall the last time you genuinely laughed with an agent or left working thinking, “We accomplished a lot today, but we had fun doing it!” your call center is at severe risk for agent burn-out. Continue reading “Six Lessons body-building can teach you about customer experiences.” »
As promised, here are the remaining 6 practices that prove your company cares about its people. We covered the first 7 practices already and those can be found here. As you may recall the entire 13 practices are an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Survey Pain Relief.
8. Self-Managed Teams. It’s one thing to form a team and quite another to allow the team to manage itself. While the team structure will not fix everything and definitely requires executive sponsorship, nevertheless, there have been many highly positive outcomes from the institution of self-directed teams. These teams set their own standards, handle their own problems, and are responsible for disciplining and rewarding the members. Such a structure can eliminate several levels of management, as well as the resources needed to sustain them and the bureaucracy that inevitably emerges to prop them up. In addition, members of self-managed teams tend to be engaged, cooperative and loyal. Continue reading “The Rest of the 13 Practices that Prove Your Company Cares about its People” »
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Survey Pain Relief where we focus in on how companies express the value they place on their human capital. The balance of the 13 practices that prove your company cares about its people is here.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, and a well-known and highly respected researcher and author, suggests that there are some 13 or so practices for managing people, which are key to retaining competitive advantage (from “Producing Sustainable Competitive Advantage through the Effective Management of People,” Academy of Management Executive). These suggestions seem to fly somewhat in the face of the typical ways in which we manage call centers, and so they’re worth a close examination.
Why should a review of these 13 practices be made? Interestingly, companies that invest in the human component and adopt a long-term investment perspective gain a competitive advantage that is very difficult for competitors to imitate. By contrast, new technology can be purchased, patents and licensing agreements secured, market share purchased through advertising and aggressive pricing, brands bought or sold — these are all tactics that can be implemented by one firm and copied by the competition in a few months. But once an organization creates a competitive advantage through its people, it is rarely also achieved by a competitor in the same industry. Companies can maintain their HR-generated uniqueness — and high-performing competitive advantage — by expressing their appreciation to the people who make it all possible in both monetary and intangible terms.
1. Employment Security. Employment security signals to the workforce that the organization is making a long-standing commitment to their well-being. Firms that take a longer-term perspective demonstrate a standard of care for their people that goes beyond the contractual pay period requirements. When the firm makes a commitment to employment security for its workers, those workers, in turn, feel an obligation to reciprocate and take a long-term view of the needs of the firm.
2. Selectivity in Recruiting. If a firm commits to employment security, it behooves it to select wisely so as to only offer positions to those who at least meet minimum standards. Rather than assessing the job/skills fit, many firms are now assessing the person/organization fit and doing so with great care.
3. High Wages.In this day of offshoring to save wages, it may seem counter-intuitive to suggest paying higher salaries. But doing so can yield handsome dividends, as higher wages will attract a larger pool of applicants, which can lead to higher quality applicants and greater selectivity for the organization. Most importantly, high wages signal that the people are considered important, just as low wages indicate a perceived interchangeability and, hence, the lack of importance for employees.
4. Incentive Pay. Better performers should receive more pay.
5. Employee Ownership. There are two clear effects of employee ownership interests in the firm. The tug-of-war that often exists between labor and capital is largely avoided because each has partially become the other. The “us/them” delineations simply no longer apply. Secondly, employee-owners look to the future and the long-range effects of today’s decisions. While this has traditionally been a perspective only expected from managers, workers who are also owners often take it up, as well.
6. Information sharing. If people are to be the source of competitive advantage, then it follows that information needs to be shared and acted upon within the organization.
7. Participation and Empowerment. Decentralization of decision-making is paramount to getting people to take ownership of the firm’s processes and outcomes. Push decision-making power, as much as is practical, down to the agent level. Agents who see what needs to be done for a customer but have no power to give it feel frustrated over their inability to affect a positive outcome.
Now that we have covered the first 7 practices let’s take a little break. In the next post, we will cover the remaining 6 practices. As always we would love to get your comments and thoughts on how you have seen these practices put into action and the positive or negative impacts.
This post is part of the book, “Survey Pain Relief.” Why do some survey programs thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of success? In “Survey Pain Relief,” renowned research scientists Dr. Jodie Monger and Dr. Debra Perkins, tackle numerous plaguing questions. Inside, the doctors reveal the science and art of customer surveying and explain proven methods for creating successful customer satisfaction research programs.
“Survey Pain Relief” was written to remedy the $billions spent each year on survey programs that can be best described as survey malpractice. These programs are all too often accepted as valid by the unskilled and unknowing. Inside is your chance to gain knowledge and not be a victim of being lead by the blind. For more information http://www.surveypainrelief.com/
I recently had the opportunity to facilitate a session titled, “Innovative New Models for Managing Customer Contact Agents” . This was a 90-minute workshop that provided attendees the chance to collaborate with one another to rethink the way they operate their contact center. The objective was to create an environment that is more inspirational, innovative, and filled with happy employees. These are the notes from that session. Continue reading “Innovative New Models for Managing Customer Contact Agents” »