North American Customer Service Management Association

Support for Contact Center Professionals

Phase 6 Strategy - Step 1 Creating Contact Center Culture

Contact Center Culture

Most contact centers want to create a customer-focused contact center culture. Setting the tone and determining which values are most important is a tricky task. Getting it right, from the start, is critical. Turning around a contact center with poor culture can take a lifetime—many attitudes and behaviors never die.

Many confuse company culture with the company’s mission statement. A mission statement simply states the mission of the company regarding its quest in the marketplace. The culture is the working day-to-day environment that is created by the management team. Everyone wants to work in place where they feel respected and valued, proud to serve clients, and generally feel good about the work they do. While this is easy to put in a statement, it’s not so easy creating and implementing it.
When agents know, and understand what the brand, owners, managers and their coworkers are working toward, it’s easier to share that message with the customer. Daily communication is key. Constantly drilling in the company messages and giving people an opportunity to connect with the message. Communicate company and site progress daily. Be transparent and share KPIs. Create fun yet informative dashboards that are visible and simple to understand.
The bottom line is that a culture should be a place where people are proud to come to work and want to work with customers. Employees are happy to walk through that door each day. Many managers don’t understand the fact that they work for their team. The manager’s team doesn’t work for the manager. It is the job of management to create an environment that people want to be in. It is the job of managers to reduce and/or eliminate obstacles that prevent team members from excelling and doing their best. When agents are supported and know you are working on their behalf they feel valued. When agents recognize that you’re making their jobs easier they want to come back the next day and they want to do a great job. Don’t let agents down.
Consequences of Poor Culture

It’s simple, especially when employees have options. If it’s not a pleasant place to work, agents will go elsewhere and the turnover will keep rising.

When it’s not a nice place to work, agents get angry and frustrated and take it out on callers, who are customers. This impacts the customer satisfaction scores you so diligently work to improve. Agents disengage, lack commitment to their job and the company and are overall dissatisfied. Some become disgruntled. Many organizations put improving culture last on the list. By making it a top priority and consciously creating a purposeful and positive culture you will find many other issues will take care of themselves, like turnover. A poor culture will increase the turnover rate and that costs money.
Causes of Poor Culture

In new contact centers, many times the management team is thrown together at the last minute and thrown into the fire. This hastiness ignores the importance of a new management needing time to “gel”.

Team building for the management team should happen prior to the opening of the contact center and should include the site manager, all the contact center managers, down to all floor supervisors.
Team building doesn’t mean heading out to the ropes course, but it does include time to get acquainted with each other and discover skills, knowledge and experiences of each team member. It is critical that top management teams share the mission and vision to their teams and that everyone hears it from the horse’s mouth, putting the new team on the same page. Eliminating “I thought we were doing...”. Everyone has a different interpretation. Synching the entire management team must happen prior to the opening. An unorganized management team will be seen by the front line and will undermine success. Management team building is a time to align personal values with company values. If managers are new to the company, this is a critical time to learn company values to walk and talk those values daily.
This new management team is the foundation of the site culture. How this team evolves, works together, provides direction, when unified and organized, will determine and set the tone for the contact center culture. Get your act together before show time.
Creating Culture is Work!

An inspiring contact center doesn’t mean expensive benefits, activities or over the top surroundings. People want to feel valued at work, they want to connect and build relationships and desire a positive environment to do it in.

Make time to connect. Daily team huddles give people time to connect with each other. Agents pretty much work individually most of the day with little interaction with their teammates. Have a “stand-up” meeting which sends the message this is going to be short and helps you keep the energy high. This is a time for the team manager to take a pulse check of the team and each team member. Check in with each team member. Who is feeling stressed, overwhelmed, excited, or challenged? Who needs extra motivation? When you identify how people are feeling you can look for ways to help them manage those feelings. Why are folks stressed or overwhelmed? Is there something you as a manager can do to help that agent? Do they need help with an account but are afraid to ask? What obstacle is in their way? Who is excited and why? Positive energy will spread and there’s no better way than in a team huddle. It is far more difficult to spread one person’s positive energy when everyone’s working alone all day. Make team huddles fun, informative, and high energy. You’ll set the tone for success everyday.
This is also a great time to review team results, acknowledge and recognize team members, reiterate company values and messages and give heads up on anything that is taking place that day. Make time to connect. The beginning of each shift is a perfect way to set the tone for the day and over a short time your team will enjoy the connection time and you will enjoy the team productivity.
Lead by example. Too many management teams send the messages “its ok for me but not you” and create this “us against them” mentality. We are all on the same team. Say it to them! “We are all on the same team. As the manager of the team I have a different role, but I am on the same team. I want the same things as you and your numbers are my numbers. What can I do to help you?” When was the last time you took some calls? Show your team you still got it and are not afraid to work in the trenches with them. You will earn their respect and trust.
Leading by example—It’s just that. It’s not “We have a smile policy. When I see you in the hall I expect you to be smiling.” Guess what? If you are smiling when they see you, they are more likely to mirror your smile! Lead by example not by your mouth!
Ask the People when you take the time to ask the agents how to improve a process, procedure or policy they’ll have first-hand suggestions. Ask the people who it impacts the most. Ask the people who have the most interaction and activity around it. Ask them “what can WE do” not “what can YOU do?” They will overwhelm you with suggestions, understanding that not all are feasible, but you listened and can submit to the management team practical suggestions.
Raise expectations it’s ok to have a high standard. Too many managers are afraid to hold their teams accountable and therefore never meet performance expectations. Employees want to be on the winning team and that is done by having high standards. Achieving those high standards creates pride. Expect to win and win every time. Don’t expect anything less and your team will run to the finish line every time.
Appreciation this is free all day long. Appreciation is a human need. Your kids need appreciation, your spouse, your Mom/Dad, and your friends. Everyone needs to be appreciated for who they are and what they do. Don’t be afraid to show it. Too many managers are fearful of being too vulnerable. Be looking every moment for a reason to “high five” someone, or to say “I appreciate the extra effort” or write a short, handwritten note expressing your appreciation. Those notes will be valued so much they’ll end up posted on the cubicle panel. Have fun with it. Hand out “Awesome Bars” from See’s Candies when you see a team member doing something awesome! Catch agents in the act and recognize them immediately. This is the best motivational medicine out there.
Rewards, Recognition and Incentives feed people’s need for belonging. Agents show up, put in a good day’s work and want to be recognized when they do something great – something that is above expectation, perhaps a bit better than others. Taking the time to recognize agents is free gas in their tank. This fuel will motivate them better than any incentive you put in front of them because it is pure. Agents see behind the incentives and many will just ignore them, when you recognize agents and give them a reward they will continue to perform.
Rewards don’t have to be expensive but they do have to be appropriate. Get creative in deciding on rewards. Discover what gets your team excited. What does each person on the team appreciate as a reward? Handing out rewards that don’t mean much will not give you the results you hope to achieve. The owner of an insurance broker shop once awarded top performers with t-shirts from a Sturgis Motorcycle rally he attended that summer. While the owner was excited about those shirts, the agents saw it as a thoughtless reward. They had no interest in motorcycles and therefore the t-shirt went in the trash. It wasn’t a bit motivating to be a top performer.
Return on Culture Investment

The ROI because of great culture is high performing workforce and lower turnover.

How much can your contact center team produce if they love coming to work everyday? Companies on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For outperform the market by three times. A great place to work is not just nice for shareholders, but it is nice for employees, too.

Tips!

1. Control the first 30 minutes of the day. Set the tone and energy. Greet your team with enthusiasm and your team will mirror that same enthusiasm.
2. Use positive reinforcement and get away from “write-up” enforcement

Take the Next Step!

Site culture is more important then people realize and creating culture in a new center from day one is paramount. Creating culture starts with the management team. How unified and organized are they on the company mission, vision and execution of plans? Too many chefs in the kitchen will ruin a good meal. Too many managers clamoring for all the power will destroy the management team. Get them on board prior to the center opening and provide a plan to get them to gel as a team. Every manager needs to clearly understand their role and what they provide to this new venture.
Building culture is work and it does take time and energy. Make time to connect with your team and peers. Take the time to ask team members for suggestions and show appreciation for everything they do. Lead by example and agents will follow your lead even when the expectations are high. Everyone wants to be on the winning team so create one today!

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