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.