An Advice Column Only for
Contact Center Managers
Ulysses Learning’s Dina Vance answers our reader question for this month, and it’s another challenging one! We want to share a big “thank you” to our reader who e-mailed it. (If you have a question, e-Mail it now to ChallengeSolved@UlyssesLearning.com.)
Although Dina has been a senior executive in the contact center industry for over 20 years, she remembers with great clarity her experience as a front-line contact center representative. We think you’ll see why her dual perspective helps make her uniquely qualified to address this topic.
Now, here’s this month’s question:
Q: Our company’s learning and development department is exploring new training that helps our reps better understand the different personality profiles of customers who call into our center. While the training topic is interesting, I’m thinking it’s going to be a challenge to apply it. I’d like some ideas on how to guide my team through the implementation of the training if the company decides to go forward with it.
A:(Dina Vance, Ulysses Learning)
It sounds like you might have had a similar experience with this type of training in the past and that’s why you’re concerned with its application in your contact center. I get it. From my perspective, it’s not that the concepts of personality profiling are not worthy of attention – they are – it’s just applying them to the contact center environment can be exceptionally difficult to do with any degree of accuracy, and may also result in an unnecessary distraction for your reps which may not provide the intended benefits. Let me explain this further.
I believe any training that helps you better understand yourself or another human being is valuable training. From my experience, the problem with most training programs that focus exclusively on personality or styles profiles is that you need time to really get to know a person before you can determine his/her personality and effectively apply what you have learned. For example, for decades companies have been using personality tests based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type approach. Tests developed using Jung’s and Myers’ approach can be excellent tools for leadership and staff development, team building, and career counseling, but I would not advocate using them (and the training around them) as a means to determine personality types of customers calling you.
In a contact center environment, there is a greater risk of not assessing the customer correctly. As I noted earlier, to effectively apply the knowledge gained from personality profile training requires time to get to know the person with whom you are interacting. Even if your contact center allows additional time for call handling, it will not be enough to effectively and accurately apply personality type training in the heat of that customer call. There are other techniques that will serve you better. Again, if you can make a case to your learning and development department to use personality profiling for internal team building purposes, you will most likely have better success.
I’d like to leverage this idea further, by suggesting you share with your learning and development partners what life in the shoes of a contact center representative feels like and ask them for specific types of training to accommodate your reps’ and your environmental reality. If you started your career as a phone rep, there are four things that you probably remember quite vividly. First, as we already covered, you did not have the luxury of time. Most calls are done in 500 seconds or less, which is simply not enough time to assess a customer’s personality and come up with a specific way to work with that customer based on that assessment. (Typical personality assessments work with 16 personality types – that’s a tremendous amount of complex information to process and apply…on top of everything else we ask of reps.)
Second, as a phone rep you probably wanted to do a good job. You didn’t always know what that sounded like or looked like, so you relied on your quality score to give you insights. But the score is just a number, and you really did not know how to change that number to do a better job because you needed something more. You needed to have that number defined in terms of observable behaviors. (This is a good place to ask your learning and development team to assist you in actually showing your reps how to engage in the practical behaviors to get the results you want.)
Third, reps are on the phones every day, all day, and they receive very little feedback on their performance. Think back when you were a rep. If you were like me, all you wanted was just a moment of your supervisor’s time to sit down with them and hear what you were doing well and why, as well as what you could improve upon. Again, ask your learning and development team for support in providing training to supervisors so they can provide this type of experience for your reps. And, please, encourage them to seek out training that provides this type of supervisor/rep interaction quickly, while focusing on one or two development or conversation points. Sure, there are some terrific programs out there, but they use a format that takes over an hour to complete per coaching interaction! Again, we simply do not have that amount of time in our busy contact center operation and we are managing more people than ever before making this even more difficult to achieve. Personally, I’d advocate for a conversation approach which gives your reps just want they need to know at that particular moment. It’s a technique called just-in-time feedback.
Fourth, we need to help our reps work smarter, not harder. Remember from your days of being a rep the astounding amount of information and knowledge you needed to amass just to handle a customer call. You needed to have a solid understanding of all the company’s products and services, you needed to figure out complex technology platforms and systems to navigate to get answers, you needed to be equipped to handle anything the customer might throw at you in a respectful, caring and well-informed manner. Think about how you would have felt if you were asked to do all that all day and learn 16 or more personality profiles and how to apply them in a conversation with an irate caller. This would not only be incredibly difficult to do well, but you would probably have felt quite frustrated by the additional activity…no matter how interesting the topic may have appeared initially!
Again, my recommendation is to encourage your learning and development team to create or provide you access to training that helps make your reps feel more confident and in control at work. Training that helps them work smarter and not harder. I have found this type of training will go a long way to creating your ultimate customer experience and give you a quicker and more lasting return on your investment.
This month’s featured expert is….
Dina Vance,Senior Vice President, Managing Director North America for Ulysses Learning
Dina Vance is a widely-respected thought leader on developing and leading contact center customer service, sales, and coaching staff, and a pioneer in optimizing contact center performance through a focus on results, people, and process. In her current capacity with Ulysses, Dina is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and also serves as the chief client relationship executive, working with Fortune 100 clients and other progressive organizations to redefine the way customers are cared for. Before joining Ulysses in 2001, Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two inbound and outbound contact centers in the Chicago market. Her success in establishing and leading contact center operations led to her accepting a role as call center lead consultant and division manager for Financial Training Resources, an international bank training and performance consulting organization.
Under Dina’s leadership, Ulysses Learning has received numerous accolades and industry awards for its work in transforming customer service, sales, and coaching cultures through the development of emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently, and expertly applied on every call. In 2017, Ulysses won top honors at the 11th annual Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. Ulysses received the prestigious Gold Stevie® Award in the category of Customer Service or Call Center Training Practice of the Year. Judges providing comments on Ulysses Learning’s solutions noted the company’s innovation, evidence-based and validated results, as well as their “deep dive” into developing the emotional intelligence of contact center agents and coaches. They additionally gave Ulysses accolades for their patented simulation-based e-Learning products which deliver more realistic and meaningful learning experiences that produce desired results in a shorter period of time. Ulysses Learning was founded 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s Learning Sciences department and is a trusted partner to contact centers representing the insurance, utilities, and financial services industries.
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UlyssesLearningwas founded in 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s Learning Sciences department and continues to bring clients new, innovative enhancements to its industry-leading training. Contact centers achieve profound business results, ahead of schedule, with Ulysses Learnings’ artful blend of patented simulation-based e-learning, facilitated exercises, coaching and tools, that redefine the way customers are cared for and transform customer service, sales, and coaching cultures. Ulysses has the only training proven to build emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently, and expertly applied on every call.