An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers
With pandemic-related restrictions loosening up, more and more contact center teams are transitioning back to their contact centers once again after months of working from home. What can contact center managers do to ensure a smooth transition back? Plenty.
Read what Dina Vance, Ulysses’ Senior Vice President and Managing Director, North American Operations, has to say on this timely and pivotal topic.
Have your question answered in an upcoming Challenge Solved advice column. Email your question to: ChallengeSolved@ulysseslearning.com
Q: After months working from home, what can we do to help transition our team members back into our contact center environment?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations at Ulysses Learning
A: You did it! You led your team during an incredibly stressful and challenging time in our planet’s history. And while the pandemic is far from over, congratulations on beginning to transition all or a large part of your team back to the office after a year of working virtually.
This is not an easy task.
Here are a handful of some of my favorite tips I’ve shared with clients, that I’m happy to share with you now. And please, if there are other tips that you’re considering, let me know. We can all learn from one another during this promising…yet action-packed time.
Before you return to your work environment:
1) Conduct one-on-one engagement/business calls with your agents. If it has been a while since your last one-on-one call, make it a priority to conduct calls now with each of your reps before you return to your contact center. Also, I encourage you to ask a blend of questions that build strong emotional bonds with your agents and capture best practices that can improve your business going forward. 1) What can we do to help you make a smooth transition back to the office? 2) What are you hearing from our clients that can help us improve our service delivery? NEXT (and this is important), make sure you end your call by telling your agents how they are performing. Pick a small, pivotal, and positive behavior. Be specific. For example, you could say, “Hey, I want you to know I’ve listened to your calls and I think you’re doing a fantastic job of acknowledging customer emotions. I also like how you’re staying calm and being present for our clients.” This last bit of personalized feedback helps to show agents that you respect their work and care about them…and takes only seconds to deliver.
2) Anticipate and respond to team members’ return-to-work attitudes in a special return-to-work prep call. As you get closer to your return-to-work date, have a mini video conference call with your team. The goal of this call is to acknowledge how people may be feeling about returning to your contact center environment and to offer information and suggestions to help them with the transition. Remember, not everyone will feel the same as you. Perhaps you remember the tale of three people who each responded differently to seeing the sun after going through a long and enduring storm. The first person said, “That storm was so bad, I’m not even going to bother going out because as soon as I do, the sun will go away and it’s going to storm again.” The second person said, “It’s been storming for weeks so I’m going to pack my umbrella, stay close to home, and not stay in the sun too long.” And the third person’s response was, “Yaaay, the sun is out. I’m going to take advantage of the sunshine, go for a walk, and get my vitamin D.” You must respect everyone, no matter how they respond. You have to answer their concerns and help them adopt a positive mindset. You must engender a spirit of hope. Doing this in a group call before team members return to work, is an ideal time to discuss any concerns your people share, reinforce your plan to keep everyone safe, and set the tone for a successful transition back to your contact center.
3) Have a random drawing for a “Positive Perspective Prize”. This prize drawing is fun and helps quickly spread positive messages throughout your contact center. Have your team post to a message board or send a group email describing one thing they missed most about being at work and/or will appreciate even more when they return. Everyone who participates is automatically included in a prize drawing for something fun (a smiley-face vase of flowers, a new extra-large coffee cup, a cookie bouquet, whatever you think they will enjoy). And encourage them to take stock of the little things they missed, such as looking over their cubicle to say “hi” to a colleague or chatting with friends while walking in from the parking lot at the start of their day.
4) Give agents an opportunity for a “fresh start.” Give everyone 30 minutes to spend on a work-related activity that will help them “clear the slate” or get a fresh start before coming back to work. This tip can be a game changer, too. Encourage your team to filter through their emails to see what they might have missed and clean out what they already read or addressed. Or suggest they spend time on their follow-up work or call lists. Others may have been meaning to go through refresher training on a topic or two of interest. Let them choose to work on whatever tasks have been weighing on their minds. NOTE: No matter what they choose to do with their 30 minutes, have them report back to you what they did and how it made them feel. When we complete a task we’ve been meaning to do but just haven’t had the time, we feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. This is a quick way to raise your team’s positive emotional energy and prepare them for their return.
5) Address a concerning process gap. If you are like me, there is always at least one vexing process improvement on which you want to focus, but just never seem to have the time. Yet one thing the pandemic has brought me, is more time to focus. With that said, each day I now make a commitment to myself to take ten minutes to, as one client recently said, “move that process-gap-closing project up the hill.” Think about a process or procedure that you have been wanting to tweak and just take small actions each day to do something about it now. Then, when you get back to your contact center, you’ll have a leg up and will be able to finish more easily what you started.
I hope you found these tips useful! I have plenty more so please connect with us if you’re interested.
Learn more. Contact us or reach out to your consultant today!
More on this month’s featured expert…
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 email@example.com; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit www.ulysseslearning.com.
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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 www.ulysseslearning.com to get started.