When we are consulting in another call center, there is a list of questions that are asked every time. We discuss them ourselves at least once a year at Expivia. If we came in for a consultation for you, we would talk to reps, managers, HR, upper management; honestly, we’d talk to everyone. We would ask each person what things stink and what things are great. Then, we’d create a plan to help you correct the weak stuff so you see more of the good stuff. Use these questions to find a few areas your center needs to work on. You will be surprised to see what a difference it can make to just put a couple of these ideas into action.
What is tolerated or not tolerated on the call center floor?
This covers a broad spectrum of topics but is a huge piece of your organization’s culture. This question can be a great starting point when consulting. From here, we launch into several different areas that can be broken down to discuss in depth.
Do your supervisors care more about their reps than themselves?
Consider the culture of your management team. Are the actions being taken by your supervisors actually helping to push their teams forward, or are they more interested in pushing their own agenda? Is that manager helping their reps succeed or are they just trying to make themselves look good and possibly get promoted?
Have you talked to HR about the type of rep that you want in your center?
Define the job attributes for any position that comes open. It will really help your human resources team to find the perfect people for a position if you explain to them specifically what you need that new hire to do for you. You don’t want them to just fill your seats. Are you looking for salespeople? Do you want people who work better as a team or individuals? Help HR help you.
How do people speak to each other?
You normally sound quite different at work than when you are home tucking your preschooler into bed or when you are out for a happy hour. It is up to you to coach your middle management to know and use the appropriate tone when working with their staff. How should a supervisor speak to reps? How are reps expected to speak to supervisors? What is specifically allowed or not? Define those points and then teach your team to use them.
How does management treat peers?
This is discussed a lot. If you have a middle management issue–you have a call center issue. Along with how they treat their reps, we need to know how our management team treats each other. Have they split into cliques? Have the cliques started to bash each other or their teams? Do they talk down to the newer or younger supervisors? Your management team needs to understand that their reps see everything. If supervisors are being rude, the reps will begin to think they can do the same.
Do you engage floor leaders?
Are you having daily meeting with your supervisors, do they know the exact KPI’s that they need to push their teams to hit? Are you doing Team vs Team motivations?
Do you let things slide?
You’ve got that one person who comes back from break late at least once a week. If you don’t stop the behavior, you are letting it slide. By letting things slide, you are also allowing those things to become the norm. Be sure everyone is on the same page with where you draw the lines for your norms.
How strict is your center?
This isn’t as much about the policies or rules themselves, but how we all engage with those policies. When policies are enforced, your staff needs to know you are not doing it to be a jerk. You are demonstrating that you have expectations and will do what is necessary to have them met.
Do you tolerate poor attitudes or lack of effort?
At Expivia we are all about Attitude and Effort from our teams. What do you do when someone comes to work with an attitude that is screaming “I just don’t want to be here today…”? It is too easy to get sucked into that kind of attitude, which then spread. Poor attitudes can lead to a lack of effort. If someone is in a foul mood, their work often suffers. When effort is lacking on a call, it can lead down a dangerous rabbit hole. You need to teach your management about how to handle these situations. Your supervisors need to know, and the reps need to understand, what will and will not be tolerated. They need to know what the repercussions are, too. Will they be sent to HR? Will they be written up? They need to know what steps will be taken and if any leniency will be given.
What do you do when a rep rocks a QA score?
This is something that we love to celebrate on the floor! Give high-fives and announce to the room that Steve just hit his goal. You’ve got to celebrate the victories and all the awesome things that happen. Create a list of specific things that you are going to celebrate each time they happen on the floor. Don’t leave it up to a supervisor to wonder if they should do it. Teach them to do it every time. Really define those victories, so there is no confusion.
What really happens when a rep is late?
The beginning of a shift is really key to how the day will run. The first 30-minutes of each shift is really important, so we want to be sure we are getting off on the right foot. If someone is late are they written up the first time? Are there any exceptions to this rule? If exceptions exist, they need to be written down and specified.
Do you play games on your floor daily?
Contact centers can be boring, brutal places to spend a day; make yours a fun environment that makes your reps want to come to work. If your personality is more laid back and you like to watch things unfold, your floor will be a very different scene than one where the manager is a cheerleader for the team. Your team will take on the personality of their coach. As a manager, you might need to step out of your comfort zone to do what is best for your team. You need to play games daily. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but as the days go on you will see the positive results. Positive reps lead to much happier customers which leads to happy clients!
Is there music and an upbeat vibe on your call center floor?
We believe there should be music on the floor when reps come in for their shift. Every single day there has to be something going on that is a little bit of fun to distract from the negatives they may face later. Light music in the background and games being played all day long help to make the call center fun. It simply cannot be miserable for your reps to be there, or they will go somewhere else.
Do you take pride in your equipment like chairs, headsets, etc.?
When you take the time to connect with your reps regarding their equipment, it shows them that you care about them. They can see that you are trying to make their jobs a little bit easier or more comfortable simply by asking for their input. When it’s time to replace headsets and you’ve found a few pairs that you like, let several people try them and use their feedback to pick the new ones. If you can’t decide between three different chairs for your floor, ask the people who sit in them all day which they prefer and why. They will see that you care, not just about the job, but about the people who do the job.
Do you correct reps on the floor or off?
At Expivia, we do not coach on the floor. Just like coaching a basketball game, you praise the players on the court. But, you wait until you get to the locker room to point out what they could have done differently to get a better outcome. Your team will appreciate that you care enough to give that corrective feedback off the floor away from the crowd. They will also have the chance to really focus on what you are saying to them because they are not being chastised in front of everyone they know.
Are you investing in new technology?
If you are a high-end customer support center, you are going to have to look into upgrading to some of the things coming down the road. It will be really important to the culture of your organization for several reasons. If you live in an area with several contact centers, your reps talk to people who work at the other places. They all compare notes. If one of the other centers has better technology and better work culture, you are going to lose staff to that center. The culture of your organization, the technology being used, and the overall feel of your center is really important. It will help with turnover and with the overall customer experience.
Do your supervisors all manage differently?
Every manager handles things just a bit differently due to their different personalities. There should be policies that explain how it will be handled when something good happens or when an issue arises for the team. There must be continuity from the management training program that you have. You need a training program no matter the size of your call center; it doesn’t matter if you have two supervisors or fifty-two. Consistency in your management teams comes from training.
Are you investing in rep education or is your center “too busy”?
Almost every call center has WFM that says your occupancy is too high and you are too busy for rep education. You need to make time. It is really important that you schedule at least half an hour for education weekly. Remember, your reps don’t talk to each other a lot. As the workforce gets younger, fewer employees use their phones for talking to people. You have to actually teach people how to talk on the phone now. Your weekly education time should focus on soft skills–people skills. Centers that put the time in will reap the benefits in customer satisfaction scores.
Do you calibrate quality and KPIs with supervisor evaluations?
Hitting KPIs should be a goal for your reps. It only makes sense that supervisors should be evaluated on that as well. In order for a supervisor to be considered successful in working with their teams, their teams need to show the KPI’s that are program goals consistently.
Are you taking the time to onboard new associates properly?
You are doing your organization zero favors by rushing people through a shoddy and onboarding period. They need to be given the time and attention necessary to learn the job, your culture, and engagement skills. You will continue to have a high turnover rate if you are not onboarding properly. Do it right the first time.
Do you love your job?
If you have (or are) a miserable manager, you are never going to have a high-end call center. People who don’t love their job are not as successful as those who do. Someone running a call center has the ability to change things. Tell upper management what you need to help everyone succeed. As a manager, you set the tone for your team. Your team ultimately wants you to succeed, because that means they have succeeded. Everyone loves success. Make it happen.
Every center will answer these questions differently. There is no one right answer; there is only the right answer for your call center. Communicate with all your stakeholders and start finding the answers to these questions for your organization. When you find areas that are lacking, you can use these ideas to strengthen your call center.
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