Executive Interaction on the Front
by Jay Minnucci
Interaction with the staff is important in most any leadership position, but it
is absolutely critical in a contact center. The agent's job success depends on interpersonal
skills, and it is the supervisors, managers, directors and top executives who model
the desired behavior.
The amount of time you spend with your staff, and the manner in which you use it,
are two of the factors that differ greatly from one contact center to the next.
We visit some centers where agents do not know, and have never spoken with, anyone
above the supervisor level on the organizational chart. At other centers, agents
are on a first-name basis with all those at the director level and above, including
staff in the C-wing. While engaged, visible and respected leadership is not a guarantee
of success, a disconnected leadership team will almost surely spell failure.
The opportunities to get engaged are likely more numerous than you think. They include
formal communication, such as large group meetings, and informal contact, which
is how you interact during ad hoc situations—walking through the center, standing
in the lunch line and getting on the elevator with a group of people. Because these
are the most common visible situations, they are the ones that have the most impact.
There is no one personality type that defines an executive. We generally think of
executives as extroverts, but many are analytical, serious in demeanor and at least
mildly introverted. Informal "chit-chat" may not come as naturally to these less
outgoing types. No one is suggesting that a personality overhaul is required—in
fact, some of the research out there shows that these types can be the most successful
executives. Yet the environment, assuming that you hired well, will be full of phone
agents who are friendly, engaging, outgoing people with good communication skills.
Their standards regarding interpersonal skills will be higher than what you might
find in the warehouse or the accounting department, so there is an expectation that
you can remember names, exchange pleasantries and, when time permits, hold an engaging
These informal encounters make a difference, and it's difficult for any personality
type to be consistently successful at them without being prepared. Communication
options are limited if you know nothing about the person standing next to you, and
are fewer still if he knows nothing about you. Great leaders in contact centers
go out of their way to set this up—here's a short list of some of the most effective
ways to do it:
Meet trainees early in the training session.
A formal presentation during the class is fine, but also make time during lunches,
breaks and other down time to learn a little about the people who will soon be spending
eight hours a day serving your most important asset—your customers.
Leave a little early for meetings, and take the long way.
Weave in and out of agent workstations, always using a different path. Chat up some
of the folks who are between calls or doing non-phone work.
Drop in on team meetings.
These sessions are usually a bit more informal than committee or project meetings,
so staff are likely to be less guarded and more open.
Attend company-sponsored fairs, picnics and other events.
This is especially important for contact center leaders, since being tied to the
phone makes it difficult to connect with agents during the workday.
Once you have established a connection, conversation is easier to start and the
potential topics are more numerous. Asking about new products or customer insights
is great—no one knows the customer better than your agents. Asking about a recent
trip, hobbies or the family members you met at last month's open house is equally
important. One shows that you care about their input, the other shows that you care
about them. People will forgive a multitude of other company sins if they believe
that they matter and that their opinions count.
Inside View — SciQuest
by Susan Hash
After launching a number of initiatives aimed at improving customer communication
and service, SciQuest's customer support group managed to cut the number of incidents
per customer by 25%, increase resolution time by 20% and achieve a 98.5% satisfaction
rating on its annual customer survey. To ensure that customers are the focal point
of every improvement in customer support and new product releases, the company employs
multiple touchpoints for incorporating their feedback, such as: an online forum
where customers can share their needs with product development; a close partnership
between product development and customer support to ensure that customers' needs
and satisfaction are maintained in product design; regularly scheduled Kaizen events
to improve support processes; and online focus groups and webinars to involve customers
in product design.
full story here.