Your parents put you in the call center

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Your parents put you in the call center

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As you look around the office at your coworkers out there in the cubicle farm, do you ever find yourself wondering how you ended up in your chair?  Do you think you have anything in common with them?  What brought you all to the call center industry?  It has to be some kind of gravitational pull into a career in service because you didn’t wake up one morning when you were 17 and say “I’m going to college so I can be a manager and then an executive in a call center.”

We work with and talk to many leaders across the customer service industry and have detected a few common characteristics among all of us with the “service gene”:  many of us are the oldest child, possess strong problem-solving skills and a can-do attitude.  We are now, and were growing up, the strong one among the siblings; the one who faces challenges head on.  Do you have younger siblings who are the exact opposite in nature and are more likely to be the victim of “adversity”?  There’s a pattern among our observations, but is it an anomaly or common across the leaders in the customer service industry?

Let’s first look into the birth order body of research.  It’s no surprise that studies show how birth order plays a big role in a person’s character traits.  First born children are reliable, conscientious and natural born leaders according to psychologist Kevin Leman (Neal, 2009).  They are often given more responsibility within the family and are typically compliant individuals.  They are frequently called upon to care for other children and make the most of situations.  They are team players however generally take the team leadership role.  Oldest children are often very smart, heads of large corporations, earn more than their younger siblings and are better educated (Personality Traits of Your Firstborn Child; Parenting Kids, March 2011).  Does this sound like you?  Does it sound like your management team?

CTA-Resources-NowNow let’s think about how family dynamics shaped us.  Most people will agree that children are a product of their environment (nurture, right?). But do you understand exactly what that means and how it applies to you and has shaped your adult life?  As a child did you often have to figure things out on your own because your parents were tending to younger siblings who required and/or demanded more of their time?  Did you often find yourself thinking ‘I wasn’t allowed to do that when I was that age’ when hearing of younger siblings’ evening plans?  Ever find yourself wondering why your younger siblings seem to have a never ending series of ‘crises’ in their lives since you rarely feel that way (or rather you just deal with it)?  All of these things have huge impacts on our adult lives and guide us in the work force.

Think about as a child how you developed your problem-solving skills, your leadership skills, and your view on situations; how a younger sibling was always the victim in every situation, not a problem-solver and not like you.  Their path is still different than yours, likely continuing to seek out people and/or environments that will bail them out because that is all they know.  Instead of trying to resolve the crisis on their own, they will likely proclaim they were never taught the fundamental survival skills that the oldest child is adept at.  They often perceive the older sibling that possesses such skills as being lucky, never occurring to them to pay attention to the whole picture of how the sibling approaches challenges and adversity.

customers-grade-the-callsProblem solving ability, nurturing, integrity and responsibility are characteristics of first born children so it is not surprising that a career path is complemented by such traits.  A leadership role in the customer service industry is a natural path where we nurture the direct reports while solving problems and making sound business decisions with integrity.  You may even observe that some of the front line agents with no aspiration (or ability) to become managers are not first born and have not been nurtured to be self reliant.  Many are just part of your work family now and need to be taken care of by you, the “parent”.  Do these high maintenance agents resemble one of your siblings?

The answer to the question about “how did you get here” is a path that leads all the way back to the home you grew up in.  The sibling strife that you are still subjected to as an adult is incredibly valuable to recognize as you lead your team because that team is made up of other people’s difficult siblings.  The next time you find yourself dealing with family dynamics (and the crisis of the day for your younger sibling), look for the value in that experience because without it, you wouldn’t be the strong leader in the customer service industry that you are today.

Let us know how your own research goes with the managers you work with and with those who report to you.

If you are looking for more information about call centers and improving call center performance look no further than our ebook library.  Don’t see a subject you are interested in?  Let us know and we’ll get working on it!

About Dr. Jodie Monger

Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics and a pioneer in voice of the customer research for the contact center industry. Before creating CRMetrics, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality.

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By | 2016-12-05T15:14:57+00:00 August 16th, 2012|Call Center Analytics, Call Center Operations|0 Comments