Supporting Agents through Change
by Rebecca Gibson
Today more than ever, an organization's survival is dependent upon its ability to respond to the near-constant changes that impact businesses from every direction. When it comes to making changes of any kind, from a simple policy adjustment to a complete strategy overhaul, your success rests on how well your agents understand and embrace change.

What can you do to effectively support your employees through the next change that you implement in your contact center? Follow three simple, but not always easy to execute, steps:

1. Examine all aspects of the change implementation.
Whether your change is large or small, you should be clear about its scope. You want to have a clear picture of the entire scope of the project so that you can proactively anticipate agents' concerns and answer their questions. For instance:

  • What is the change? Succinctly describe the change in two sentences. This ensures that you can clearly explain it to others.
  • Why are you making this change? What are the driving forces behind the change? Customer demand? Operational efficiency? Finances?
  • What are the benefits of this change?
  • How will you measure whether the change was implemented successfully?
  • Who is affected by the change and how will they be affected?
  • What are the skills and knowledge employees will need to implement and support the change? How will you prepare your employees for this change?
  • What are employee objectives and measurements for this change? How will you know if employees embraced it?
  • How will you recognize or reward success?

2. Identify and anticipate employees' concerns.
While it's not a given that employees will avoid or reject change, it is true that a shift in how work is done can spur a determination to hold on to the familiar—when you need them to embrace the new. It's natural for employees to be preoccupied with questions, such as: Will this result in more work or stress for me? Will I be given the tools to implement this change properly? Is this going to change how my performance is evaluated? What does this change mean for the financial health of my company or my department?

While the previous questions reflect common responses to change, it's important that you explore your employees' unique perspectives about their work environment and specific concerns associated with change initiatives. Using the simple exercise of assuming your employees' perspective, do your best to predict how your employees will react to the change, what their immediate questions and concerns will be, and arm yourself with the responses necessary to help them process and embrace the change. Like a salesperson anticipates a prospect's resistance, your goal is to anticipate employee objections so they can be adequately addressed.

3. Communicate the Why, the Who, the When and the How.
Regardless of the size of the change, once the plan is solidified, it's time to start crafting the message. The time you've put into examining how the change will affect employees and how they will perceive that change shapes how this information is communicated. For instance:
  • Why is the change necessary? What is the business need that is driving the change? What are the benefits—to the company, the contact center, the employee, the customer—of the change?
  • Who will be affected by it? And when will it happen?
  • How will the change be implemented? This is where you describe the plan—training, support, tools, internal and external communication, measurements and rewards for successful implementation. Provide your employees with a clear vision of success, so they can easily see themselves as a part of it.
Whether you communicate the change in a simple email message or develop a multistage communication plan that incorporates web, print, bulletin boards and employee meetings, you need to make sure your employees receive the communication they need to successfully embrace their role. Regardless of the scope of the communication strategy, stay on message about the positive aspects of the change and the steps the management team has made to ensure that the change will be implemented successfully.

Inside View — Jitterbug
by Susan Hash
In an time of complicated, multifunction communication gadgets, Jitterbug offers its customers an easy, straightforward alternative: a cell phone that is first and foremost, well, a phone. You can't play Pac-Man or watch a movie on it, but you can hit a single button to have a call placed by a live operator. Jitterbug doesn't use automated voice systems, and it doesn't outsource its service to an offshore site. Each call is handled by a U.S.-based customer service associate, and live assistance is available 24/7. Because personalized service is one of Jitterbug's top customer benefits, the company recruits and screens for contact center candidates who demonstrate genuine care and concern for the customer, and who understand that the products and services are designed to make a difference in people's lives.
Read the full story here.


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