Share this content
MyCustomer.com

Coming up roses: getting the most from your call centre staff

by
12th Sep 2007
Share this content

No matter how much we automate, transfer to self-support or re-engineer, we are always going to need customer service representatives. Therefore, understanding their needs and motivations can be the single most important thing a supervisor does for his or her call centre.

photo of roses

By Michael Tamer, Tamer Partners

Take a moment and begin to picture your call centre in a different way - as a garden filled with a variety of plants that make up the floral arrangement you call your company. This floral arrangement is made up of three distinct types of plants: Roses, Daisies and Weeds (Dandelions for political correctness!). These three plants represent the people in your call centre or company. Each type has a unique position and contribution to make to your company.

Our first group of call centre employees is our Roses. Our best employees are just like roses. They are beautiful and inspiring. They also require plenty of work and special handling. Sometimes the most talented people we have are a little ‘prickly’.

The reality is that we can only have so many Roses. Statistically, only about 25 percent of your team will ever fit into the Rose group. So how do you make your roses grow?

photo of Michael TamerOur best employees are just like roses. They are beautiful and inspiring. They also require plenty of work and special handling. Michael Tamer, founder and CEO of Tamer Partners Corporation

Roses are usually motivated in a call centre by being rewarded. We have any number of contests, rewards and commendations that focus on the Roses in our call centre. But without a challenge, your Roses will become bored and less efficient. The top three reasons for turnover are poor pay, another job within the organisation, and boredom.

We can challenge Roses with new areas of competency, supervisory responsibility, additional education, higher commissions, new technology opportunity, and many other programs. The key is to find out what motivates your Roses and build a programme to keep improving their skills and responsibilities.

One of our biggest challenges is that many times our only answer is to reward the Roses by moving them into management positions. In sports, it is usually the poor or average player, not your best player, who becomes a coach. In business we have a tendency to take our best salespeople and make them sales managers. Sometimes it succeeds, but it is always at the expense of pulling our best salespeople from the field. We must be careful that we don’t do the same thing to our Roses in our call centre.

Low-maintenance flowers

Our second group of employees is our Daisies. They are beautiful flowers, and they don’t require a lot of upkeep. This is much like our average employees. They aren’t much trouble. They show up and do their jobs. No hassles, no problems and usually nothing very spectacular.

The majority of employees throughout a company fit into the Daisy category. Our challenge as managers is to avoid the tendency to ignore this group. But we don’t know what to do with them, so we ignore them. We are too busy fooling around with the Roses and Weeds that we simply ignore the Daisies. In order for us to have an intergalactic organisation, we need to do something different with this group. Instead of ignoring this group, we need to reward them. That’s right, I said reward our average performers!

Rewards are a funny thing. They are meant to motivate, but at times they can do just the opposite. For example, contests and challenges that are too short or not well planned out immediately have a negative impact.

Rewards are a funny thing. They are meant to motivate, but at times they can do just the opposite. For example, contests and challenges that are too short or not well planned out immediately have a negative impact. The people competing become deflated when they realise they can’t win because there is not enough time or the requirements are too difficult.

Another way that rewards can backfire is when one individual or group always wins. Everyone else eventually just stops competing and becomes even less motivated.
Some of the most motivating rewards and the ones that get the best results are the team rewards and the awards where there are multiple achievers of the goal. These make the difference and should be one of the first changes that you make as a manager when dealing with the Daisies of your company.

Team rewards have the potential to make a large impact on your call centre and, more importantly, on your customers. This is especially true of call centres where small changes from a large group of people can make a significant difference. One of the great benefits of team rewards is that you can have many winners and multiple categories of measurement. Team rewards can include dinners, offsite seminars, plays, gift certificates, days off, lunch with an executive — just to name a few.

I like Daisies. Don’t you? If you agree with me, start to reward them and quit ignoring them.

The Undesirables

Our third group of employees is our Weeds. This is the group that we spend the most time with and that produces the least for us. Our Weeds are our worst employees. These are the employees that we have the most problems with and consistently are the worst performers.

Our Weeds are our worst employees. These are the employees that we have the most problems with and consistently are the worst performers.

There are four different categories of Weeds:

• Poor performing Weeds
This group is slower, less efficient and massacres our statistics. We pay a lot of attention to quantity because that is what 85 percent of our reports are focused on. These people are clearly not getting the job done when it comes to quantity. They might be performing poorly in terms of number of calls, talk time, low sales, frequency of putting people on hold or adherence to schedule.

• Quality-challenged Weeds
This group of Weeds simply does not produce quality work. They may consistently meet their numbers and have acceptable talk time, but they lack quality. You will see them in order accuracy, returns, loss of customers, lower up-selling, and the other areas. A quality monitoring program is an excellent way to find these problem people and take action.

• Wrong department Weeds
This group of Weeds is simply misplaced. They are not utilising their talents to the greatest potential. Perhaps they lack the people skills to be a successful customer service representative but have great technical skills. In the customer service department, they are Weeds. In the IT department, they could be Roses.

• Attitudinal Weeds
This group is usually the smallest but can be the most dangerous. This is the group in which you tend to find the real bad apple or the singular discipline problem that you get from having to hire so many people so fast and at low wages. More importantly, these Weeds infect other people.

Getting rid of Weeds

The best option we can give our impossible Weeds is an opportunity to work somewhere else, whether it be in another call centre or somewhere else within the company. My former company had many Roses that used to be Weeds in another department.

The other question is how do you prevent Weeds from coming in? Well, that’s not always easy. With 30 percent turnover, the pressure to hire can be unrelenting. Even with all this pressure, there is one rule of thumb: farbage in, garbage out! If you have poor quality, you most likely have poor hiring as well.

If we are going to have to hire ‘warm bodies’, at least use simulation software to help you have a perspective on where you are starting with your new employees.

There are numerous companies and technologies available to help you acquire the right talent for your call centre. If you are going to have to hire ‘warm bodies’, at least use simulation software to help you have a perspective on where you are starting with your new employees. Software that can help you get some input on the level of talent of the employee you are bringing in will give you a head start on the process.

Another answer is to chart and measure your new employees extensively right from the beginning. More monitoring and skill assessment early in the process will allow you to improve their skills or get them out the door quicker.

The reality that you will always have Weeds is inevitable. However, the recognition of Weeds and the role they play in your call centre can be the difference between success and failure.

Growing a better garden

Many call centres try to focus on areas of the agents’ performance that they can really have an impact on. For example, an agent has much more control over adherence, or how close they are to their schedule arrival time and breaks, than they do to the number of calls they actually take. Adherence is totally within their control. Number of calls can be impacted by:

• Traffic for the day.
• How many people are staffed.
• The content of the calls.

Some areas that make excellent targets to raise the bar are:

• Adherence.
• Post-call work-time.
• Up-selling (if applicable).
• Any area of quality.

You’ll find that a commitment to raise the bar in any area will have a domino effect. Immediately, you have to change and improve the process you have in place. That is the great thing about raising the bar; it forces you to look differently at your business and challenges.

We have a tendency in sales and service to consistently raise the bar for sales goals each year. We are pretty strategic and focused when we raise the bar for the Roses. What we don’t spend enough time on is raising the bar throughout the organisation, including the Daisies and Weeds.

How will you know when you are there; when you have made it? When all of your Weeds are better than every else’s Roses! Whether it be a small team or a large call centre, when the people you have are better than everyone around you, you are big time. Your garden is beautiful!

This article is adapted from Michael Tamer’s 'The Four Minute Customer'. Michael Tamer is the founder and CEO of Tamer Partners Corporation. Tamer Partners Corporation re-engineers sales and service organisations using T-CUP™ technology. TCUP is an enterprise management solution that helps Fortune 1000 organisations synchronise their customers and front-line employees to produce an affordable world class sales and service experience. For more information about Tamer Partners Corporation go to www.tamerpartners.com.

Read more features, practical case studies and white papers about contact centres.

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.