Oct 20

Rewarding Contact Center Employees When the Budget is Tight

Thanks for visiting my site! Contact me or visit my company website to start a free trial of our hosted CDM software. CDM allows your customers to help coach and improve your employee's performance. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Sometimes reward and recognition programs take a hit in a downturn economy. We make the assumption that movie tickets or other chachkies are the only viable options for rewarding our employees.

Here are 5 employee reward and recognition ideas that are budget friendly!

1. Serve in the Community – What better way to promote a service driven culture than to allow your employees to serve in the community and represent your organization. Your organization may already have existing relationships with charities in your area. Allowing an employee to build a house with Habitat for Humanity, or serve in a hospital or food pantry organization, are amazing ways to recognize an employee while supporting your local communities.

2. Cross Training – Allowing an employee to learn a new skill while meeting new coworkers in other departments, is a great reward and recognition option. This career development  idea is not only easy on the budget, but also helps improve employee morale – preventing burnout or potential turnover.

3. Solve a Problem – Employees that are due recognition are typically great employees. They are talented and have a drive that can’t be overlooked. A great way to reward a great employee, is allowing them to solve a problem. Look at your to “do list” for ideas, or maybe the departmental goals for the quarter. Move something off of your plate by turning into a reward for one of your employees.

4. Manage a Project – Similar to the 3rd idea above, allowing an employee to manage a project or serve on a business committee is another great recognition tool. (And it helps get great things done for your organization!)

5. Service Ambassadors  – Are there opportunities for employees to attend a meeting or event with an executive from your organization? Maybe a charity event or a new store opening? Enabling employees to represent the contact center organization by serving as a “Service Ambassador” is a great recognition tool – and promotes the importance of service delivery throughout your organization!

Hopefully these help. I’d love to know what reward and recognition ideas you’ve adopted. Send me a note!

Are you customer driven? Do you leverage the voice of the customer in improving your employees? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!
twitter: http://twitter.com/scottothomas | linkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/scottothomas

Oct 20

When the Goal Becomes More Important Than Its Purpose

Call centers have lots of numbers. Tons of metrics. If you like to measure or monitor things, you’ll love call centers! What other department do you know of in an organization that captures and audits employee activities nearly every second of their shift? I mean can you imagine telling an IT Specialist or Marketing Analyst that they are out of adherence? Or that they need to wait 6 more minutes to take a break? Or reminding them that they only have 9 minutes of “discretionary time” each day?

Ok, I  know numbers are important. I realize that in the call center world seconds can easily equate to a significant amount of cost, and in no way am I suggesting we shouldn’t monitor and measure things in a call center. What I am suggesting is that we should be careful to not let the goals become more important than the reason we set them.

Lets think about some goals. I’ll list the first one that comes to mind…

Service Level – % of calls answered in X seconds.

A very important goal. How often do you hear someone asking “What’s our service level?” in a call center? I wonder if there is a goal for how often that should be asked!

Well here’s my question. How often do you review your service level objective to access the value of it? I mean it is an important number for budgeting headcount and creating schedules. It’s supposed to help ensure most customers have a decent experience when waiting for a person to help them. But is it working for you? I can’t tell you how many startup call centers set this at 80/20 because that is the “industry standard”. Well there is no industry standard for service level. Should a tech support call center share the same service level as a reservation or appointment setting center?

And then we can also ask is your service level goal for every hour? Every day? The week or month even? So how does that help the customer experience during the “gap” times of the goal? Especially in centers where its a monthly goal…

I recently worked with a company that had a 50 seat center 2 years ago and 1 product they supported. Now they have 200 agents and 11 different products. They were missing service level objectives and tried adjusting schedules and increasing headcount to hit the goal.

We decided to do a little discovery before they hired more people and found they could actually hit a 70/30 goal without increasing headcount. We did a lot of CDM related research and determined this had little impact to the customer experience. Saved the company the additional cost of headcount and allowed them to keep pricing low for their customers and remain competitive in the marketplace.

So I encourage you to take a look at your goals. Want an easy litmus test to see if a goal has become more important than its purpose in your organizational? Tell your manager you’re thing about changing your service level goal!

Are you Customer Driven? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!

Oct 01

Maybe You Should Increase Your Talk Time

Maybe you should consider increasing your talk time…

If you work in a call center, that’s probably the last thing you want to hear… But if you have a team of people who report to you, that rely on you for coaching, that you evaluate and make salary recommendations for… Maybe you should increase your talk time.

According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 66% of employees say that they have too little interaction with their boss. Most managers spend more time reading emails, working on reports, or simply staying in “crisis mode” that they have little time left over for their employees.

More than 70 percent want (73.9%) their manager to listen, understand, and respond. If you find yourself rarely spending time with your employees, you might want to rework your “to do” list and consider increasing your talk time.

Three Easy Things to Start Immediately to Increase Your Talk Time

1. Be a great greeter. Walk the aisles and say hello to your folks daily. Ask if there’s anything you can help them with. See if there are barriers to success you can help remove. See if there are any resources or tools they are lacking. Hang out in their world for a bit.

2. Implement Huddles. Huddles are quick, regular informal meetings. Let your team give 2 minute updates as you go around the huddle from person to person. Let them share a success, or ask for help on a challenge. When it gets back to you, give some updates on the company, share any important news or company information, then give some call outs to recognize people on their daily successes. End with a little celebration and everyone will gain a little energy before returning to work.

3. Schedule One on Ones. If they aren’t on your calendar, they won’t happen. Trust me, the effort is well worth it. You’ll get more out of your team than you every thought possible by simply meeting and discussing performance and life on a regular basis. Don’t let these become simple or causal. Discuss the tough stuff and acknowledge the positive things too. Make sure your folks get some sort of value from the meetings.

Let me know what you think. I’d be happy to invest some of my talk time with you!

Are you Customer Driven? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!

Sep 16

The Mongoose & the Anteater: 10 Things To Do In Your Contact Center Today

The Mongoose & the Anteater BLOG
Once upon a time, in a garden far away, there lived a mongoose and an anteater.
Each morning they would awake and begin the day finding food in the garden. The mongoose would smell fruit, giggling and sniffing his way to the fruit trees. The anteater would follow behind, flicking his tongue and slurping up tasty insects.

The two went on like this for many years… The mongoose would sniff, giggle, and eat fruit and nuts. The anteater would blindly follow, flicking delicious insects from beneath the fruit trees. They never spoke to each other, rarely even making eye contact. (of course, anteaters have terrible eyesight.)

Each night they would return to their burrows and sleep until morning, repeating the previous day’s rituals, until one day they both were dead.

Ok. I confess… I just made that up.
I wanted to start this post with a great parable about “seizing the day” or “making the most out of work every day” – but alas I could not find one, so I made this one up.

Regardless, don’t be like the mongoose and the anteater. Get more out of every day when working in your contact center.

And now with that out-of-the-way… here are some easy things (in no particular order) you can do in your contact center today that will increase productivity, teamwork, and fun!

1. Lighten Loads
Start with your manager. Ask if there is anything you can help them with. Something you can get off their plate to help lighten their load. Check in with your peers and your direct reports. If you can help one person with something, with anything, it fosters a culture of teamwork and can become incredibly contagious. Try it and see how long it takes for someone to return the favor.

2. Talk to People that Bug You
The people you seem to know the least about are often the ones that bug you the most. Have you thought that if you try to discover a commonality it might eliminate some of the unpleasantness? Think about it for a moment. I bet if you wrote down a list of all the people you work with by memory, and then wrote something you know about each of them (i.e spouse name, hobbies, home town, etc.) … you would find it easy to do this for the people who give you energy, and you might know little about those that seem to take energy away…

So fill in the blanks. Take a moment to get to know them. Stop by and chat after you ask if you can lighten their load. Once you have some common ground you can avoid the things that seem to suck the energy out of you.

3. Upgrade Someone
If they send you an email, call them back. If someone calls you, walk over to their office. You get the idea. It improves communication and can be a fun competitive thing to implement.

4. Be a Supermodel
The best way to create an effective sales and service culture is to model the desired behaviors whenever possible. How long do people hold to get access to you? How’s your active listening? Do you ask “Is there anything else I can help you with?” when you start to close a conversation? Do you follow through and keep good notes regarding your commitments? Try “quality monitoring” yourself throughout the day to see if you can be the contact center’s next top model!

5. Be Silly
Do something silly. If you can’t sing – then sing! If you can’t dance – dance! Get the idea? Sales and service centers can be stressful and tedious, so lighten the mood and bring some energy to your center by doing something silly. I work with a client that occasionally pushes a drink tray down the aisles of their call center on busy days exclaiming “Please remain seated with your headsets buckled as we are experiencing high call volume. In the meantime, the captain offers complimentary drinks!”

Service level stays up – and so does morale! Let me know your silly ideas…

6. Seek Advice
Four powerful words: I need your help. Nothing builds trust and teamwork like seeking out advice. I bet you have a problem that needs solving even as you read this. Seek advice from peers, your boss, your direct reports. Collaboration is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it often strengthens buy in for whatever action you end up taking.

7. Eat in the Break Room
Be where your people are whenever you can. The break room is a great place to start. Nothing brings people (especially sales and service people) together like food! Break bread with your staff and find out what’s going on in their world. Discovery the best cooks. Learn about vegetarianism. I bet you’ll discover some interesting passions among your team. Some of the things may help as you identify resources for future projects or initiatives.

8. Contribute to Nirvana
So often we are too busy to notice our work environment, yet we spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else. So…. notice things and help make things better. Here’s an easy example. If you notice some trash or paper on the floor, pick it up and throw it away, or shred it. If there are paper towels on the floor of the break room, dispose of them. If something needs cleaning, clean it! You get the idea…. I’m not suggesting that we start doing small repairs or projects that we aren’t qualified for. I’m just saying we can do more to contribute to our work environment. Small actions everyday contribute to nirvana.

9. Be a Great Greeter!
Do you speak to employees when they arrive? It’s the opening of every interaction, right? You might even have a score assigned to greeting on your quality monitoring forms. So are you modeling it? Do you greet your employees as they arrive for work? Try using the same elements in your greetings that you want employees to use with their customers.

10. Show Appreciation
There seems to be an alarm or bell that goes off anytime someone does something wrong in a contact center. Maybe they are 2 seconds late, out of adherence, in idle, etc. There are tons of things most employees are doing “right” every day, but sometimes they are harder to spot and rarely do they trigger alarms. So find time to catch people doing something right and then thank them for it. A great call, showing initiative, working late – I’m sure there is something every day.

Also show your appreciation in unique ways. Write a thank you note to the spouses of the staff that stayed late. Wash an employees car. Let me know what other creative expressions of appreciation you come up with!

Let me know what you think… Let me know what I’ve missed… Let me know if you tell the parable of The Mongoose & the Anteater!

Are you Customer Driven? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!

Dec 03

‘Twas the night before Christmas in the Call Center 2012

I can’t believe it’s December 2012! Once again, I thought I would share some holiday cheer in the form of a poem I wrote a few years back…




‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the center

Not a creature was stirring, not even a printer;

The headsets were hung by the cubicles with care,

In hopes that not too many calls would be there.

 

Each manager was nestled all snug in their chair,

While visions of call volume made them each stare;

And I was alone, with a 10 page report,

With too many columns for my poor brain to sort!

 

When up on the reader board there displayed such a sight,

I sprang from my office with all of my might.

Away to the display I flew like a flash,

Tripped over a phone cord, and made a loud crash!

 

And that’s when I saw it, those numbers so high

I looked at that reader board and started to cry,

And finally I shouted, “What’s going on here?”

High call volume for Christmas could be something to fear!

 

Then I heard a strange noise that made me turn quick,

And there right before me was Jolly St. Nick!

He said, “Worry not! I brought help for these calls!

And still we’ll have time to deck all the halls!”

 

And he whistled, and shouted, and rolled up his sleeves

I was rubbing my eyes, I just could not believe

Then he opened his bag, which seemed rather full

And out ran a phone rep towards each cubicle.

 

“Now, Courtesy! Now, Patience! Show Sales Skills don’t wait!

Just some of the things that improve your close rate!

To the end of the aisle! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

 

As each rep signed in, I saw the reader board frown,

And then the huge call volume finally went down,

I went back to my office, and looked at the screen,

At all of those calls blinking from red to green.

 

So that’s why the “Big Guy” had dropped by that eve,

It was just so amazing and hard to believe,

For the gifts he delivered had no whistles or bells

Improved margins per hour and margins per sale!

 

And this gift creates new gifts to give out each day

In the actions they take, and the things that they say

And our customer’s love them, it’s what brings them back

Wonderful reps keep sales and service on track!

 

And then Santa waved, and he gave us a wink,

As only green lights were left on to blink.

But I heard him exclaim, as he walked out of sight,

“MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”

 

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and an amazing 2013! I’d love to hear what your call center Christmas list has on it! Or maybe your contact center New Year’s resolutions!



scott o. thomas
senior partner @ tamer partners corporation

http://www.tamerpartners.com

Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com

May 04

Voice of the Customer as a Leadership Resource

Do you currently have a VOC (Voice of the Customer) program in your organization? Are you or your marketing department conducting surveys on a regular basis? If you are, what kind of data are you receiving? Customer Satisfaction Scores? Net Promoter? Brand Awareness? Product Satisfaction?

All great data, but too often contact center leaders overlook the value a VOC program can bring to leaders. In fact, it can be one of the most powerful tools to help improve employee performance, improve morale, improve turnover, and increase manager efficiencies.

First lets review the 3 basic employee segments you have in your organization.

1. Top Performers. Your rockstar agents!
2. Average Performers. They do good work everyday.
3. Poor Performers: These are the people you wish you could give back to the community!

Here is a typical snapshot of how these employees are allocated across a team or organization.

 

Now lets review how a front-line manager spends their time with employees.

So you see the problem. Leaders often spend 80% of their time with a small percentage of employees – not to mention it’s their worst performers!

And here is the rub… Your top performers are more than likely wired that way. They are motivated to excel, regardless of how much time you spend with them. Don’t misunderstand, top performers need a coach to challenge them or they get burnt out.  A great way to reward top performers is to give them a problem to solve or teach them new things.

The real challenge is that the largest employee segment, average employees, is your largest segment and often most ignored… and  yet they do require attention to improve. They rely on encouragement and acknowledgment, yet simply go unnoticed.

And then we have the problem employees. The folks that have us wrapped up in paperwork and action plans until we start to go insane.

So here is how customer surveying can help. Customers spend time with all of your employees every day. So if you start surveying customers, they can help you encourage and motivate you staff. Especially the average employee segment. The key is to ask questions about the agent they interacted with and then share the data with your employees. The closer you can get to real-time feedback delivery to agents, the more powerful the results.  Ask how the agent did. How was their energy level? Did they seem to care? Did they take initiative? Certainly use some quantitative questions, but don’t lose sight of the fact that employees respond to “words” much better than any number. Don’t be afraid of text response questions simply because they are difficult to quantify.

Think about this: Which would be more meaningful to an agent?

Category: Empathy
Score: 3.87

Or this?

“Julie did help me process the order, but I was so upset about our car being stolen I couldn’t keep from crying. Julie didn’t seem to notice. It made me feel awkward…”

Which will impact Julie more? Which helps Julie “buy in” to the fact that should could be more empathetic?

So if your budget is tight, and your plate is full, consider putting customers to work coaching, motivating and improving your employees. After all, customers show up every day…hopefully

That’s all for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts about numbers!

Are you customer driven? Do you leverage the voice of the customer in improving your employees? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!
twitter: http://twitter.com/scottothomas | linkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/scottothomas

Apr 10

4 8 15 16 23 42 – Are You LOST in your contact center?

I will admit it. I watched ABC’s hit series Lost. It had some great moments, especially in the first 3 or 4 seasons, but once it was all said and done, I still felt lost with Lost!

Because I have spent a lot of time in contact centers, I was most intrigued by the numbers that kept popping up and taunting various characters in the show. Contact centers love numbers!

The numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42 frequently recurred in Lost. If you missed the show, I won’t bore you with the details of the various things the numbers represented… Like how each corresponded with a character that was identified as a candidate to replace Jacob as protector of the Island, or that the numbers also formed the coefficients in an equation that predicted mankind’s extinction. Instead I’ll share my favorite role the numbers played in the show and how it translates to what happens in many contact centers today.

During the second season of Lost, the survivors discovered a computer inside the Swan station which required the Numbers to be entered into it every 108 minutes. A timer set into the wall provided a continual countdown – and an alarm would sound as the timer neared zero. Entering the Numbers sequentially and pressing Execute (a.k.a. pushing the button) on the keyboard would cause the timer to reset to 108 minutes and begin the countdown anew. It was initially unclear what would happen if the button was not pushed.

Can you relate? Do you find yourself chasing numbers with a sense of urgency even though you may not really know what they mean or how to change them? Too often we are haunted by NPS, AHT, FCR, QM, Service Level, and C-SAT numbers. Many contact center managers and supervisors find themselves trapped in their “hatch” pushing buttons and watching numbers.

Don’t get me wrong, numbers are important. The challenge is that too often the numbers become more important, or more of a focus, than what the numbers actually represent or truly mean. So here are 3 simple truths about numbers in the contact center.

TRUTH #3: Numbers Are Not Absolute Truths
Many times I have had someone ask what the industry standard for talk time is. Truth be told, there is no industry standard for talk time. Instead, I would suggest asking: “How long does it take us to serve our customers when they have questions or concerns, in the most effective, efficient, polite, professional, friendly, and accurate manner?”
You can find this by observing the folks in your center that do this on a daily basis. Once you find your Rockstars, learn what they are doing and share that with your team. That is a start at understanding what your talk time averages may be, but these may change when you add new products and services that might change the call flow. Keep in mind, talk time is most beneficial to accurate scheduling, staffing and budgeting. I would recommend that you NEVER CREATE A TALK TIME GOAL FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES. Instead, help the individuals that are a bit too high or a bit too low by addressing their specific performance gaps related to their contacts, and stay away from setting a specific number as a goal.

TRUTH #2. Unintended Consequences of Numbers
Contact Centers are filled with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These are critical to track success and identify performance gaps. The risk happens when people only understand and speak to specific KPI numbers, instead of talking about the actual issues that are impacting the KPI.

Some examples…

Service Level Communication:
“We must answer 80% of our calls in 20 seconds!!!!!”
Unintended Consequences:
“We must rush customers when call volume is high!!!!!”

Average Talk Time Communication:
“We must handle calls in 240 seconds!!!!!”
Unintended Consequences:
“We must ask customers to call us back at the 239 second mark!!!!!”

Service Level Communication:
“We must handle any wrap up time related to a call in 30 seconds or less!!!!!”
Unintended Consequences:
“We must keep customers on the call while we finish notating their account, even though the call is basically complete from their perspective!!!!!”

TRUTH #1. Words, Not Numbers, Matter Most to Frontline Employees
Numbers are incredibly important to managers and executives, and words are incredibly important to frontline staff. The problem is that too often managers try to use numbers when coaching/motivating/training employees. It just doesn’t work. Too often coaching sessions occur like this:

Manager: “You are a 3.37 on your quality monitoring scores. You really need to be at least a 4!”

That never works. What does the number mean? Why is a 4 important? How do they get to a 4? Lets say in this example the employee needs to be more empathetic with customers. The conversation would be much more successful like this:

Manager: “Hey Joe, when we listen to your calls I notice a couple of opportunities where the customer mentions that they are home sick. I think that is a great opportunity to tell them you are sad to hear they are feeling bad, and maybe wish them a speedy recovery when you end the call. That could really improve your quality monitoring scores and help improve your annual review!

That’s all for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts about numbers!

Are you customer driven? Do you leverage the voice of the customer in improving your employees? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!
twitter: http://twitter.com/scottothomas | linkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/scottothomas

Dec 14

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in the Call Center 2011

I can’t believe it’s December 2011 and as I post this, it’s only 10 days, 9 hours, and 55 minutes until Christmas! I thought I would share some holiday cheer in the form of a poem I wrote a few years back…


 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the center

Not a creature was stirring, not even a printer;

The headsets were hung by the cubicles with care,

In hopes that not too many calls would be there.

 

Each manager was nestled all snug in their chair,

While visions of call volume made them each stare;

And I was alone, with a 10 page report,

With too many columns for my poor brain to sort!

 

When up on the reader board there displayed such a sight,

I sprang from my office with all of my might.

Away to the display I flew like a flash,

Tripped over a phone cord, and made a loud crash!

 

And that’s when I saw it, those numbers so high

I looked at that reader board and started to cry,

And finally I shouted, “What’s going on here?”

High call volume for Christmas could be something to fear!

 

Then I heard a strange noise that made me turn quick,

And there right before me was Jolly St. Nick!

He said, “Worry not! I brought help for these calls!

And still we’ll have time to deck all the halls!”

 

And he whistled, and shouted, and rolled up his sleeves

I was rubbing my eyes, I just could not believe

Then he opened his bag, which seemed rather full

And out ran a phone rep towards each cubicle.

 

“Now, Courtesy! Now, Patience! Show Sales Skills don’t wait!

Just some of the things that improve your close rate!

To the end of the aisle! To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

 

As each rep signed in, I saw the reader board frown,

And then the huge call volume finally went down,

I went back to my office, and looked at the screen,

At all of those calls blinking from red to green.

 

So that’s why the “Big Guy” had dropped by that eve,

It was just so amazing and hard to believe,

For the gifts he delivered had no whistles or bells

Improved margins per hour and margins per sale!

 

And this gift creates new gifts to give out each day

In the actions they take, and the things that they say

And our customer’s love them, it’s what brings them back

Wonderful reps keep sales and service on track!

 

And then Santa waved, and he gave us a wink,

As only green lights were left on to blink.

But I heard him exclaim, as he walked out of sight,

“MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”

 

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and an amazing 2012! I’d love to hear what your call center Christmas list has on it! Or maybe your contact center New Year’s resolutions!



scott o. thomas
senior partner @ tamer partners corporation

http://www.tamerpartners.com

Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com

Oct 10

How Does Your Contact Center Garden Grow?

How Does Your Contact Center Garden Grow? Hopefully with an Employee Engagement Plan!

I have the opportunity to speak with one of my clients this week (Amas Tenumah – Teleflora, VP, Operations) at Call Center Demo & Conference is produced by ICMI. You can find more details here : Session details.

We wrote a brief article about our session and I thought I would share it with you here…

Close your eyes and think for a moment about the employees in your organization that speak to hundreds of customers each day. These frontline sales and service professionals will probably speak to more customers in a day than most executives will in a year. Are there some employees in this diverse workgroup that you hope speak to more customers than others? Maybe a few that you hope get the “easy” calls, while others you’d prefer having handle the more complex interactions? It’s been said that contact centers are like gardens, and your employees fall into three distinct categories of flowers. Roses are star employees, daisies are average performers, and weeds are hopefully improved (but sometimes removed) – and to ensure your garden grows, these employees require an employee engagement plan. Let’s take a moment to dive deeper into the characteristics of roses, daisies and weeds. Sometimes it its important to just stop and “smell” the service!

Roses are your star employees. These are the folks that when you think about implementing some sort of contest or recognition program in your center, you immediately imagine they will probably win it. We are fortunate they work for us, and they can really make the difference between success and failure. Like an actual rose, they require plenty of work and special handling.

Our second group of employees is our daisies. This is by far the largest group that we have in our organizations. We all know daisies. They are beautiful flowers, but in most gardens they don’t require a lot of upkeep or get a lot of attention. If you think about your average employees they aren’t much trouble. They show up and do their job. No hassles, no problems, they just simply do their jobs. Often the majority of employees throughout a company tend to fit into the daisy category. Our challenge as leaders is to avoid the tendency to ignore this group. In order to have an amazing garden, we must do something different with this group. Instead of ignoring them, we need to acknowledge and engage them.

That leaves us with the weeds. In most contact center gardens, only a small percentage of employees are weeds, yet often this is the group that leaders spend the most time with. You know who they are, and they know who they are. Unfortunately, this means an inordinate amount of leadership’s gardening time is spent with the people who bring the least value to your customers’ service experience. Now that we know what’s growing in our garden, we must create a strategy that allows are gardeners to let their roses bloom, empowers the daisies to transform, and encourages the weeds to diminish. Employee engagement is the key, and talented gardeners are part of the solution. The challenge is how many individual flowers are growing in your garden, and how much time a gardeners can spend with each of them.

So who are your gardeners? Team Leads? Supervisors? Managers and Trainers? Those are absolutely critical resources to improve employee engagement. How about your customers! Who better to encourage, critique, and motivate employees than the customers they interact with every day. You may have heard that award-winning gardeners admit to talking to their flowers. Our customers do that every day. A direct comment from a customer means infinitely more to an employee than direct criticism from a manager. Join our session  to learn more!

Session 201: It’s a Garden! Tried and True Tips for Growing an Engaged Team

Time: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 2:15 PM – 3:30 PM

Aug 24

The Four Steps to Changing Employee Behavior

One of the primary goals of any leader is to continually develop their staff. Improving employee performance typically requires some sort of sustainable change in behavior. If someone lacks empathy with their customers, they have to purposefully change their actions and statements to successfully close this performance gap. I’ve outlined four key steps to changing employee behavior.

Step 1: Individual Discovery
The first step is Individual Discovery. Every employee has a unique set of strengths, and areas that need improvement. When assessing a team of sales and service employees, quantifiable data is key to identifying individual performance gaps. Typically an assessment can be accomplished in 30 days through observation, or collaborative observations, to identify consistent patterns of employee behavior. This allows you to see the areas where an employee truly shines, their comfort zones, and also the gaps in performance. Time is one of the largest barriers to successfully completing this step. In most cases a manager lacks time to invest in Individual Discovery for one employee, let alone their entire team. One of the most underutilized resources to help in this area is the voice of the customer. Leveraging the thousands of customers that interact with each of your employees every week to help observe during this phase provides the manager with virtually unlimited resources that are not only qualified, but are possibly the most credible experts to participate in this process.

Step 2: “Buy In”
Once Individual Discovery is completed, an employee must “Buy In” to the assessment before any real change can occur. The voice of the customer increases “Buy In” and reduces the amount of time it would normally take to complete this step. When employees are assessed by their customers, they more readily accept the assessment, reducing subjectivity or perceptions that may arise in traditional observations or quality monitoring. The reality is that a customer has more credibility at assessing performance than any internal personal in an organization. Think about it. We pay employees to observe employees, and then we have them talk to each other about what the customer experienced. What’s missing from this process? The customer! So not only can the customers help save time and improve the efficiency of the Individual Discovery step, they are equally valuable at gaining “Buy In” from your staff.

Step 3: Targeted Observation
This step is critical in achieving long term behavior change and employee improvement. Now that an employee has “Buy In” and begins to make appropriate changes when interacting with customers, Targeted Observation must occur to watch for any indications of improvement, while identifying any old habits that might resurface. Once again (do you see a pattern here?) the voice of the customer can provide tremendous value. Customer driven organizations can leverage the voice of the customer in a very targeted manner, allowing customers to observe specific performance opportunities for the individual employees they interact with. This approach allows employee A’s customers to help by observing them as they work on their empathy, while employee B engages their customers to observe them on active listening, and so on for every specific performance area of every unique employee.

Step 4: Targeted Feedback
As an employee begins making changes towards improvement, Targeted Feedback is critical to having long-term results. Typically an employee makes positive changes, and in some cases their manager will notice it, especially if it occurs shortly after the “Buy In” step. The manager will affirm the behavior by encouraging and acknowledging the successful steps toward improvement. The employee might also slip into old habits, and a manger may step in to correct them and get them back on track. The challenge is that over time, or even within a few days, it becomes more challenging for a manager to catch someone doing something right. When the manager fails to notice anymore, an employee may slip a bit and slowly settle in to just being “good enough”. Without successful, ongoing Targeted Feedback, you run the risk of the employee just settling in where nobody notices them. Once again, a customer driven organization leverages the voice of the customer in this final and critical step of changing behavior. The customers show up every day (hopefully) and when permitted, can deliver amazing bits of Targeted Feedback in virtually real time to employees. This creates a momentum where employees are noticed and encouraged every day as they continue to improve over time. Once a performance gap is resolved, customer driven employees then leverage their customers to identify the next challenge they can work on together.

Are you customer driven? Do you leverage the voice of the customer in improving your employees? Are your customers working for you to reduce operational costs while improving employee performance?

Take the free Customer Driven challenge and put your customers to work today. Visit the Tamer Partners Corporation website at www.tamerpartners.com to find out how!

Scott O. Thomas
Senior Partner @ TPC
Customers @ Your Service!
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