Useful Advice for Contact Center Managers
Hello! As we start off a new year and another series of Challenge Solved articles, we want to begin with a topic that can greatly influence 2022 results and is top-of-mind for many contact center manager’s right now—cultivating positive teamwork given the disharmony in the world around us. Here are several refreshing insights to start your year off strong, from Dina Vance, Ulysses’ Senior Vice President and Managing Director, North American Operations. Please enjoy.
Have your question answered in an upcoming Challenge Solved advice column. Email your question to: ChallengeSolved@ulysseslearning.com
Q: With all the outside distractions in the world today it’s getting tough to keep our contact center reps focused. What recommendations do you have to get 2022 off to a good start?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations at Ulysses Learning
A: I was talking with a close colleague about this very topic recently and she reminded me of a story I heard many years ago about how geese can work together to benefit the flock. To help answer your question, I’ll share this “goose story” with you now. Even if you’ve heard it before, I’ll share with you a new nugget of insight you may not have heard!
If you’ve ever seen geese flying (and many other flocks of birds for that matter), you’ll notice they fly in a “V” formation. And for good reason. You see, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range when they fly together rather than alone. This “goose” story has received great mileage (yes, pun intended) over the years as a metaphor for teamwork.
As the story advances, we learn more about what happens when a goose falls out of formation and chooses to stop flying. It will start to squawk loudly to get other geese to fall out of formation with it so they can tend to its needs. Now sometimes the goose who has fallen back is injured or sick and really can’t move on. The geese that tend to their fallen flock mate (there’s usually two of them) will stay with the goose until it feels better or dies. All throughout this process the three geese will squawk most loudly. It is really quite the commotion…and disruption!
But sometimes, yes sometimes, the fallen goose isn’t really injured at all. It just wants to stop flying and begin squawking. Maybe it’s fed up. Maybe it had a fall out with the lead goose or a flock mate. Maybe it just likes to hear itself squawk and get others to squawk as well. Misery does like company after all.
And isn’t that how it sometimes “works” with teamwork?
I believe in listening and respecting all team members. And yet, there is a fine line between constructive and unconstructive squawking. Unconstructive squawking can take the whole flock down.
As we head into a new year, here are a few ideas to consider as you work to lift your team above the squawking, ultimately, to gain more enjoyment and meaning from their work and each other.
Get involved in your team member’s daily work and routine. Chronic squawkers thrive in environments where the manager operates at a distance. When you tune in to their issues, accomplishments, and valid concerns, the squawking often dissipates. Plus, it’s far easier to determine whether or not a complaint is valid when you’re involved.
Help them frame issues. Some people simply don’t know how to address the issues they see. Others might have had good ideas in the past, but felt no one listened to them, so they complain to be heard. In both cases, people tend to be very emotional in expressing themselves. Show them how to address issues by focusing on the facts and not the emotions. When they can strip the emotion out and focus only on what they absolutely know (and have evidence) is true, they can be a part of the solution as well.
Be willing to “honk” and call out continuous complaining. Indicate how constant complaining can damage the individual’s career and show them positive ways to offer constructive feedback on workplace programs, policies, or activities. Do NOT attempt to win chronic complainers over by selling your ideas to them in advance, trying to turn them into your friend, or ignoring their squawking. While chronic complainers seem harmless on the surface, they can be manipulative and cause damage that may become irreparable.
Use a direct approach—coach first, counsel second. Start with coaching to elicit positive change in behaviors by offering guidance, encouragement, and specific action steps. If the complaining does not change, it’s time to move on to counseling. Counseling offers clear feedback that the behaviors are unacceptable and identifies the implications of failing to change them.
Be planful. When counseling, you can help yourself by considering the following: a) work with your human resources manager to structure a counseling approach and plan; b) ensure you document all of the feedback from coaching and counseling; c) present the employee with a performance improvement path that clearly defines the outcomes for improving or failing to do so; and d) follow up with your team member at the established times and measure their performance only against the agreed-upon parameters.
Tune in to the non-squawkers. As managers, we have a tendency of focusing on the loudest complainers in our search for effective solutions. However, when the squawking decibel level is high and you feel like you’re taking every possible action you can to calm the commotion, one of the best actions you can take is this: tune in to your quiet team members. Yes, you want to make it your priority to encourage your more soft-spoken reps to share their thoughts and ensure their voices are being heard, too…and then listen to what they have to say. Doing so will help provide numerous benefits, including the potential to help lower team attrition and strengthen engagement (and we all know how that boosts results). Plus, quieter team members often have excellent insights because they can be wonderful observers and listeners, insights which often can help you transform complaining into practical solutions.
Leverage the power of positive squawking. Recognize that humans, just like geese, are social creatures and will always squawk! The behavior plays a pivotal role in how we get work done and develop our team. AND because squawking is highly contagious, we need to make sure our team has plenty of positive and helpful information to squawk about. Let that positive information spread far and wide! During a time when so many are working from home, it’s even more important to make sure the information we exchange is fruitful and accurate. Misinformation is deadly and harms everyone on the team whether they believe the misinformation or not. A great way to keep your team well informed is to frequently (repetition is key here) share reliable data, as well your successes and vision for your team and contact center.
Ultimately, we want to help our people engage in squawking that brings the flock forward rather than drag it down. As 2022 kicks off, now is the ideal time to consider activating just one of the above recommendations so your team can soar in 2022!
Learn more. Contact us or reach out to your consultant today!
About Dina Vance
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations at Ulysses Learning
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit www.ulysseslearning.com.
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 www.ulysseslearning.com to get started.