Could call centers be a great place to work?

call_centerCall centers have a reputation for being a challenging place to work. But since the call center is often the one direct connection you have with your customers, it’s in your firm’s best interests to make the experience as positive as possible for your call center workers. Over the years we have spent a great deal of time working with call center managers to improve the experience for employees – and ultimately their on-the-phone performance. To be sure, call centers are demanding. Typically, the instant a service rep finishes one call the next one instantly comes up. Call centers are often driven by many intense short-term metrics such as abandon rates, time on a call, first call resolutions and occasionally customer satisfaction. There are differences between outbound and inbound call centers. With outbound telesales, constant rejection is the core of life. And with inbound call centers the callers are mostly angry people with problems. But at the center of both jobs is a considerable amount of tension and frustration. In many organizations call centers are entry level positions and a first job for many of the reps. The turnover rate is usually quite high as well, running in the 40-50% range, mostly because they are brutally tough jobs. We have had success improving call center performance because we were able to get everyone, including the people on the phones to change their work from a transactional view to a more transformational view. We were able to do this through the Wisdom Discovery process which focuses on turning someone into a star performer in a call center. Here are some examples of the reframing. In a call center that focused on responding to client’s problems, the performers thought of themselves as “the last line of defense in maintaining customer loyalty.” In another call center which focused on order placement and management, the reps viewed themselves as “the strategic link between their customers’ needs and their organization’s strategy.” The last call center had a mix of outbound and inbound functions, the performers there described themselves as “owning the customer promise.” None of this feedback had anything to do with traditional metrics, though all led to better performance on those metrics. The workers were all encouraged by a more compelling, powerful purpose. Not surprisingly, people who thought of themselves in these positive ways strived to become better at their roles and connect with their clients. Additionally, to management’s surprise, the people on the phones loved the learning process and embraced the compelling purpose. They were able to adapt the learning tasks in their path to create immediate, tangible value. In one call center, our program was interrupted when a transition to a new billing system broke, creating significant revenue issues because they couldn’t bill their customers. The customer service reps then demanded that they re-start their learning program. Our wisdom discovery processes created great results in call centers. Turnover rates were reduced from 40+% a year to under 10%, escalations were reduced by 80%, first call resolutions were doubled without increasing the time on a call and forecast accuracy and employee “engagement” scores doubled. Call centers have a bad rep for being a terrible place to work. However, this can change if everyone including the management team thinks and act like their stars.]]>

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