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Challenge Solved! - An Advice Column For Contact Center Managers
Submitted by Ulysses Learning

May 1, 2021


Challenge Solved!  

An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers

May 2021

Since the year began, Ulysses Learning has noticed a measurable uptick in the number of times we’ve heard prospective clients tell us they are baffled! They coach their team members all the time, but they just aren’t seeing much improvement in their contact center team performance. To weigh in on this topic, we’ve asked Dina Vance, Ulysses’ Senior Vice President and Managing Director, North American Operations, to share her recommendations.

SPOILER ALERT: What Dina shares can be applied to most priorities not only in your contact center…but in life!

Have your question answered in an upcoming Challenge Solved advice column. Email your question to:​ 

Q:  Why isn’t our investment in coaching producing the desired result?   

A person smiling for the cameraDescription automatically generated with medium confidenceOur featured expert for this month’s question is:
Dina Vance
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations at Ulysses Learning

A:      Focus. Everybody has a general understanding of what it means to focus, right? But why is it so hard to get our contact center teams focused on our top priorities—and with that, the very strategies and tactics that were designed to help us accomplish our business goals? 

To answer our Challenge Solved question effectively, let’s first start by addressing what we mean when we tell someone to “focus.” Focus, defined, is simply directed attention. The action of focus (or being focused) is to concentrate your attention or effort.

Easy enough, right? Wrong. Because being focus is a skill, and like a skill, you just can’t wave a magic wand and Abracadabra, you’re focused. You must develop your ability to focus just as you would develop your skill in Yoga or cooking or anything else—with intention, directed effort and regular practice. 

But there is something else going on here that needs to be addressed. I believe that helping our contact center teams to focus is harder than it’s ever been. We are all so distracted because there are so many distractions. Our world is a distracted place and made increasingly so by the wonders of technology. Right now, jot down a quick list of the things that can distract you during an average day. Phones, children, spouses, pets, social media, text notifications, emails, Netflix…all these seemingly small outside distractions add up and can wreak havoc at work because they leave a “residue.” 

Dr. Sophie Leroy, Associate Professor of Management University of Washington Bothell, has developed and coined the term “attention residue” to help explain situations in which people find it challenging to be entirely focused on the task at hand. Her research revealed that, as we switch between Task A and Task B, part of our attention often stays with the prior task, Task A. That residue builds up each day every time our focus is interrupted by too many distractions.

The solution? If you want more focus from your contact center team, focus on where it matters most…in your coaching interactions, and specifically the type of focused conversations you have when coaching.

As Ulysses Learning’s clients know, we train coaches and reps to follow a consistent coaching method called The Focused Feedback StrategyTM or “Focused Feedback” for short. It’s a prescriptive method that takes the guesswork out of coaching and develops specific skills which lead to respectful, inspiring and productive coaching interactions that are focused on one pivotal behavior to ensure the greatest impact.  

The intentional focus on one pivotal behavior is paramount. It’s easier for someone who is monitoring a rep’s call to point out all the things that could have been better. I’ve had people tell me they do this because “we need to talk about the overall call” or “people can handle it if we discuss more than one opportunity to improve.” But easier does not mean effective. 

I love this analogy shared by my colleague, Mary Kurer, a learning and development expert who serves as a Master Coach to Ulysses’ clients. She likens effective coaching to cleaning your house. If your house is dirty and you start cleaning a little bit in the kitchen, then a little bit in the bathroom, a little bit in the family room and so on, you can feel like you’re getting nowhere. The task can quickly get overwhelming with no end in sight, procrastination kicks in and the house doesn’t get clean.

Instead, when we start by cleaning a room that has the greatest impact to us (perhaps it’s the room in which you spend the majority of your time or the room that bothers you the most) and we focus our attention to clean that room first, we feel a sense of accomplishment and that feels good. It can feel empowering and liberating.

The good feeling of accomplishment is our reward and often leads to us wanting to clean another room and then another and another, and before you know it, the house is clean.

It really doesn’t matter where you start. The “pivotal” room could be any room, as long as it’s a room that has the greatest impact to you. Plus, after you clean that first room, you may get accolades from others who may tell you “hey, this room looks great.” That additional reward can also propel your performance further to clean another room. You get the picture.

This is exactly what happens when you have coaching conversations that focus on helping reps improve one, pivotal behavior at a time. It’s the kind of focus that’s been proven to directly contribute to improved customer experience and increased employee satisfaction and reduced turnover because coaches and reps feel more in control, are more positive, develop a better understanding of themselves and each other, are better at problem solving, make more sound decisions and have more clarity.

So, you want a team that’s more focused? Focus on being focused during your coaching conversations…and the rest will follow.   

Interested in learning more. Contact us or reach out to your consultant today!

More on this month’s featured expert…
A person standing posing for the cameraDescription automatically generatedDina Vance
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations


In her current capacity with Ulysses Learning, 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.  Under her leadership, Ulysses has become well known for its work in transforming customer service, sales and coaching cultures through the development of emotional intelligence or “EQ,” enabling reps to confidently, consistently and expertly handle every call.  The company has special expertise in serving the insurance, utilities and financial services industries.  

Before joining Ulysses in 1999, Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two contact centers which led to her accepting a role as call center lead consultant and division manager for an international bank training organization.

Dina can be reached on LinkedIn or at; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit


Description automatically generated  Email us your toughest challenge today!

Managers looking for answers to their toughest contact center challenges are encouraged to Email their challenges to: 

NOTE:  Your identity is protected; we will not publish your name or company name.  

Challenge Solved! is sponsored by:

Ulysses Learning was founded in 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s world renown Learning Sciences department. Since then, Ulysses continued focus on research and development brings clients new, innovative enhancements to its industry-leading training and performance improvement solutions. 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 one of the only training systems proven to build EQ@Work, enabling reps to develop skills to empathize with others, build stronger customer bonds, and improve team dynamics with confidence, consistency, and excellence.

Ulysses Learning is a multi-year recipient of the Gold Stevie© Award for best contact center customer service training.

Begin your contact center transformation now. Phone 800-662-4066 or visit to get started.    

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