Last weekend I received an email from a Contact Center Manager. A Contact Center Manager who, like many with him, feels and understands the world around him is changing, but fails to see his employer adapt to the new circumstances.
I asked permission to publish the e-mail because I feel his e-mail not only represents the thoughts and experiences of many like him, he also clearly shows a vulnerable side, not many would dare to. Enough said. The e-mail, which I publish almost entirely, speaks for itself. Emphasis added by me.
Until October 1st I worked for a large financial services corporation as Customer Contact Center Manager. My experience, within the financial services industry and the experiences I had in the conversations with various other organizations over the past weeks, is that these organizations are mainly concerned with controlling the output (results) side and are much less, or not at all, engaged with how those results have been achieved, the qualitative, input-oriented side.
Within these organizations one sees that they claim victory with good results but have little or no idea what value was added by management or the individual employee. Let alone a sense of how they can produce the same (or better) results next year. If results are not good then the most applied response is to increase pressure through the usual command and control methods.
In addition, I see that many organizations want to score with state of the art WFM (Workforce Management), HR and Knowledge Management Systems or a ECCS (European Contact Center Standard) or COPC certification. But I hear few organizations that take pride in the excellence of dialog between clients and employees and have built their organizations around that. The state of the art systems and certification would be or could be a result of this choice and not the other way.
In my view an organization needs to excel in the interaction between employees and customers and build the organization around it. I believe that this way you will be successful in the long term and will lead to sustainable growth. Personally I therefor believe that management focus should be on the qualitative, input-oriented side. With the belief that if you steer on passion, motivation, skills and competencies and you trust the employee with responsibility and freedom, the results for the longer term will be sustainable.
Employees are generally treated as infantile although they have great responsibilities in their personal lives and make important decisions. If your organization and the board determines the direction in which cost, quality, employee / customer satisfaction and commerce are key drivers for success, why not ask employees themselves what they need for these drivers to make maximum contribution?
The results, the word implies it already, must result from the efforts of your organization / management processes of the employees to enable drivers to excel in this and in dialog with the customer. The results should be treated as an indicator of whether you’ve made the right effort and whether this led to growth.
Although my vision is mainly based on logic and common sense, I have trouble to really convince these organizations. [..]
My question to you is whether you can help me help substantiate my views with a reference to articles or literature. I’m also curious what you think at all of my vision. If you can find the time to give feedback I would greatly appreciate it.
I like to hear from you.
I provided some feedback and literature suggestions. I will publish that later this week, but first I will leave you to it! Do you recognize the above? Do you have tips / suggestions from your own experience, that can help this and other customer contact professionals? The comment section is yours!
ps I can send the name an contact information of the e-mail author upon request and approval by him.
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I am delighted that you found my photograph and used it for your blog post, it is perfect. That is what I enjoy about creative commons so much, that it enables connections across the world that would not happen otherwise.
Thank you and best wishes to you and yours,
I think that the views expressed by this Contact Centre Manager are closely aligned with the experiences and opinions of Lean Systems Thinking. The works of John Seddon in particular emphasise the need to utilise the many skills and competencies of front line employees to enable the organisation to absorb the desirable and natural variety inherent in service demands. Instead, there is often an emphasis on close monitoring and control of individuals, standardisation, and call centre “productivity” (activity) measurement, when resources could better be applied to establishing high level causes of organisational waste, which often manifests in Contact Centre failure demands (customer chases, requests for information, duplication, complaints etc.). (Not “how should we handle this call?” but “is this demand of value to the customer?”)
The author is right to advocate a deeper understanding of the meaning of “quality” which includes the quality of the vital customer-employee interactions which are central to the customer experience.
For more evidence and background, I would recommend Seddon’s work on call centre transformation (The Vanguard Guide to Transforming Call Centre Operations, Seddon. J. (2001), Vanguard Consulting Limited, Buckingham UK. and “Freedom from Command and Control” (second edn. 2005) and “Taylorism, targets and the pursuit of quantity and quality by call centre management” Bain et al. (2002) the latter of which suggests a gradual move towards a more quality-focussed approach to call centre management.The 14 principles of W. Edwards Deming also provide the bedrock for this approach.
I hope these references are helpful
Sue Warner (Contact Centre Manager and process improvement professional)
Please note the American Express Relationship Care concept that was designed, in my opinion, to address several of the issues that the call center manager is identifying:
Just a lonely cowboy who hits the bull between the ass? I suggest the contact center manager to propose an agenda issue for the next company meeting: to discuss the Compan “Mission statement”. And show the board and management a video of “Zappos”. Just to start…. He can be defined as a hero for empowering the awareness, or a pain in the ass… I’m curious