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Challenge Solved: Useful Advice for Contact Center Managers
Submitted by Ulysses Learning

March 1, 2023

Challenge Solved: Useful Advice for Contact Center Managers

This month’s Challenge Solved question is one we get fairly often…and one we enjoy answering.  So a big thank you to our reader for submitting this question and another note of thanks to Dina Vance for answering it for us! Dina serves as Senior Vice President and Managing Director, North American Operations at Ulysses Learning. 

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

Q:  I’m interested in your opinion. It’s been a challenging year so far as our turnover rate is much higher than usual and our new hires seem to be taking some time to get up to speed. We recently selected a vendor for training our contact center group so they are better able to handle the growing demands of our business and I want to get a sense of how long it will be before we see lifts in performance.  What would you say is typical?    

Our featured expert for this month’s question is: 

Dina Vance

Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations at Ulysses Learning

A:  There are quite a number of factors that contribute to a business unit’s achievement of targeted results after implementing a training program designed to raise rep performance. And even though I don’t know your particular situation, I do have a few considerations for you that have worked for our clients.

First, let me share a story to help illustrate what I believe may be useful to you. This past growing season, I had a major epiphany—gardeners and today’s contact center leaders have much in common. And by understanding that shared commonality, we can gain incredible insights into handling many of today’s most perplexing leadership challenges, including the one you described. 

Last summer, one of my friends generously shared a couple rather smallish, oddly shaped tomatoes she grew in her garden. She talked about all the work she did to cultivate these prized tomatoes, and I have to tell you my initial thought was “Why?” It’s much easier going to the store to buy them. And then I tasted her homely home-grown fruit, and I was hooked. In that moment, I vowed to grow my own tomatoes once the new growing season began.

So, this past June I promptly shelled out a couple bucks and bought a little tomato plant because as I so naively thought “How hard could it be to grow a tomato?” Ah, the gullibility of the uniformed!

First, you see, you have to create the right environment for the little plant. I needed to put it in an appropriate pot, with appropriate dirt, and appropriate fertilizer. And then I needed to determine the best spot for the plant so it could thrive.  

I was finally ready to reap my harvest but instead I waited…and waited…and, well, waited. Yes, it takes a very long time for the fruit to appear and an even longer period for the little green orbs to turn into beautiful red tomatoes. 

Each day it was a dance between giving my plant the right amount of sunlight and strategically keeping the squirrels at bay. Then, one day, after what seemed like an eternity, a flash of amber caught my eye. While this was progress, it was weeks before I would reap my first tasty tomato.  

Yes, it takes time to “grow and develop the fruits of your labor” as they say, but it is rewarding. While basking in the satisfaction of my newly found success as a gardener, it occurred to me that we, as contact center leaders, have much in common with gardeners. Here are a few insights for you on how to “plant seeds” with your staff to ensure positive growth over time. 

#1 Gardening results take time. Adopt a growth-focused mindset.

So often when we invest in rep training programs, we make that purchase because we want to buy the results the program promises. Makes perfect sense, right?  Ulysses’ programs (for example ServiceMentor, featuring The Call Strategy with all the extra support tools, along with CoachingMentor, featuring the IDEA model, and another plethora of specific tools to help raise rep performance), while scientifically validated to achieve top industry performance targets, rarely produce instantaneous success. As my colleague Mary Kurer often says, “You do not get to plant the seed and eat the fruit on the same day!”

Truly, the key to improving any contact center metric is to adopt a growth-focused mindset. But there is a caveat here. After implementing training programs designed to achieve targeted results, for many, the initial inclination is to focus on the results to the detriment of not focusing enough on what will bring you the results—your team members. Again, with a growth-focused mindset, the people part of the equation is front and center at all times. Remember, if you place your focus there, the results will come, which brings me to my next takeaway.

#2 Feed the seed!

Running a contact center is tough work. We’re all faced with a shrinking labor pool, new and evolving worker preferences, growing complexity in handling customer questions and needs, increasing levels of stress from everyday life, widespread economic uncertainty, and fallout from technological advancements. And yet, one of the best ways to effectively handle these challenges head on is to, “feed the seed!” And this means consistently coaching your team members, even when doing so may feel to be an impossible task given your workload. The truth of the matter is this—the more effective we become as coaches, the more manageable our workload becomes, which enables us to achieve the business results we seek. 

At Ulysses, we love to zero in on coaching and have a rather robust system to develop coaching confidence and excellence. We focus on two types of coaching—more directive or “just-in-time” coaching and more holistic or “collaborative” coaching. Both are needed. Just-in-time coaching is very focused. Here the goal is to help team members change one behavior at a time so they can create a new habit they can build upon, experience the great feeling of success in developing that new behavior, and then feel inspired to move on to develop additional new behaviors. Collaborative coaching is more holistic. Here you work with each rep over a longer period of time, helping them identify their development goals and guiding them as they move towards those goals in their own unique way.  

If coaching sounds easy, there’s a good chance you’re a naturally gifted coach. Most of us are not. Coaching requires mastery and is incredibly difficult work…but when you feed the seed and it produces fruit, the satisfaction and confidence you feel simply can’t be beat! So, what’s one of my favorite coaching tips that can really help your reps blossom into pros? Here it is…

#3 Be curious. What does the seed need?

Gardeners are curious folks. They are always seeking new information by getting into the “heads” of their plants. Why is the plant turning yellow? How can I stop the bugs from eating my plant’s tender leaves?  How can I keep the birds and dreaded squirrels from shoplifting my produce?  Expanding on my previous “feed the seed” comment, when we are curious and interested in our team members, we strengthen their engagement…and our own emotional intelligence as well as theirs. 

This is where it can get tricky though. For example, in Ulysses’ IDEA coaching model, the “E” stands for “Examples.” The notion is to show our reps how they can model a key behavior or element of The Conversation Strategy by sharing with them examples of our own. Yet there is more to the “E” in the IDEA model. A curious coach will approach this step differently by providing their own examples AND encouraging reps to provide examples of their own. When coaching, be curious enough to care. 

Without curiosity, we really can’t get in the headspace of a team member. Without curiosity, coaching feels more like “do as I say” dictating to the rep. If you’ve ever heard a rep sound unnatural or robotic when serving clients, as if they’re parroting someone else, they probably are in need of a curious coach to help them make that connection by offering an example or two AND then asking something as simple as “What response feels good to you?” or “What other ways could you make this particular step your own?” When we are curious coaches, we give our reps the “freedom” to make The Conversation Strategy “framework” their own.  In the process, we are also helping them develop skills to empathize with others, build stronger customer bonds, and improve team dynamics with confidence, consistency, and excellence. 

As Liberty Hyde Bailey, a renowned horticulturist said, “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” 

Thanks again for your question. Remember to reach out to us to discuss further. This is a topic we at Ulysses care deeply about!

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; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit

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 has earned it prestigious awards and recognition and, most importantly, the respect from its clients who rely on Ulysses for innovative performance improvement solutions that change with their rapidly developing and evolving environments.

Contact centers achieve profound business results ahead of schedule with Ulysses Learnings’ artful blend of patented simulation-based e-learning, facilitated exercises, coaching, and technology-driven 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 with its proprietary Framework with Freedom© approach, 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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