I was recently asked if I would write about the six qualities to improve call center performance. As I thought about what I would say, I thought “Well, it really depends.” It depends on what you mean by performance. It depends on what you mean by improving. Is performance related to revenue, margin, client ranking, personal goals, internal goals … what? Is improving changing the way you hire, the way we work, how we work, what we work on, what we train … what?
So I’m not really sure how one would answer this question without someone outlining and creating a run-on question that outlines every specific detail you would need to answer the question. So, I will answer with, “It depends.” Almost like answering the question “Why?” with “Why not?” To make it less complex, I’ve taken an approach that works for not just call centers, but for whatever business you’re in.
1. Assess your functions and alter as needed – In a call center this may mean that you have to remove or change a compliance piece that is killing you in law suits. In a taxi service, it may mean that you need to have nicer cars. In any case, what are you trying to accomplish? Just keep in mind that no matter what the operation is, the more you try to put on your people at once, the less that will get done. There is some truth to “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” But that doesn’t mean be complacent. Focus, achieve, change, adapt, adopt and move to the next one.
2. Inspect what’s expected – If you’re expecting your call center agents to be productive,
measure it. If you’re expecting them to take more calls, measure it. If you’re expecting them to collect the most information possible, measure it. Whatever it is you want to accomplish, you have to measure it. WARNING: Not everything comes without trade-offs! So, make sure you know what those tradeoffs are or risk swinging too far in one direction.
3. Face Time (and no, not the iPhone app)! – Be in front of your teams. I can tell you, they KNOW who you are, but do you know them? According to Simon Sinek, people who know their leaders and trust their manager do more for their leaders. Why because they know their leaders would do it for them.
4. Help – I’m not asking for it, I’m telling you to help your team. If they can’t figure something out, help them. If they are having trouble taking that next step to be better, help them. Too often, in call centers (and it’s very easy to get caught in this trap), it becomes a churn and burn mentality. If you take the time to ask questions and help, you help yourself. And it doesn’t matter the business, if I run a restaurant, I have to ask and help. If you don’t they will find someone, or worse, someWHERE that will. It’s up to you to balance the needs of your business and the time to give to coaching.
5. Accountability – It’s such an overused word, but an important one. The one piece most people forget about is that it goes both ways. If you’re going to hold your team accountable for delivering certain things, you BETTER be expecting to be held accountable by your team to deliver certain things. If you have a call center and they need new phones, don’t tell them to call more with broken phones as they are expecting you to deliver better equipment, technology or systems. In a shoe factory, don’t ask them to work faster to put laces in the shoes if you’re not willing to find a way to help them do it faster.
So, as I said, it depends! Whatever you are trying to accomplish, you have to be willing to deliver what’s expected of you if you want your team to deliver what’s expected of them. Don’t sell out! Don’t trade! Don’t spin! Just do and they will too. Oh, one more thing, whatever you do, never let ‘em see you sweat. People need a leader. Just like children need stability, your team needs a rock on which they can stand.
6. One more thing … break their trust and you might as well consider it done!
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