Off Center
 
In contact centers, AHT is an acronym for a common (some would say too common) productivity metric: Average Handle Time. At Israeli outsourcing agency Call Yachol, AHT could very well stand for Average Hug Time.

Agents openly embracing one another is a common occurrence in Call Yachol’s contact center, whose “culture of warmth and caring” drives the center’s success both internally and externally. Whether interacting with one another, with management or with customers, Call Yachol’s agents’ words and deeds are guided by a strong sense of kinship, compassion and mutual respect.

Such camaraderie among peers is all the more impressive when you consider the fact that the center’s frontline is comprised of two distinct factions who have historically had their differences.

“We have 220 religious Muslims and Jews working together in harmony,” says Dr. Gil Winch, Founder of Call Yachol and CEO of the consulting firm Tandem.  

While it’s nice to see everybody getting along, what’s even more notable about the people at Call Yachol is that the vast majority of them have some form of disability. That said, it’s hard to consider them “disabled” – they’re the very reason the organization is going so strong.

“Our call center representatives are all highly motivated, willing to work for many years, and exceptionally loyal to the task and the client,” says Dr. Winch. “Due to the higher than average level of job stability, we are able to reduce the costs of personnel turnover for the client and offer a high level of professionalism, thus contributing to providing excellent service.”



“Able to Do Anything”

After listening to Dr. Winch describe his staff – and seeing them in action – it becomes evident why he named the company Call Yachol. “Yachol” in Hebrew means “able to do anything”.

Few of the centers agents had been given the opportunity to show their abilities prior to being hired by Call Yachol. People with disabilities are often overlooked or outright discriminated against by hiring managers – not just in Israel but the world over. Dr Winch, however, fully understands how capable such individuals are and how valuable they can be.

“There is no reason for these employees' mental or physical limitations to keep them from excelling on the job. But most have suffered from being shunned by mainstream employers, and lack self-confidence in their potential.”

This is where the hugging comes in. To help qualified agents regain their confidence, Winch implemented a parent-based management model where employees are given affection and have scheduled time for team fun. The unusual approach has been very effective – and has garnered interest from organizations in several countries looking to replicate it.

Hugs aren’t the only thing Call Yachol does well. The company’s CEO, Amir Bar-Natan, has 12 years’ experience managing service and sales centers. He and his management team work closely with clients to select, develop and manage staff.

“We recruit employees according to our customer's needs, train them to meet the demands of the job, and take care of whatever administrative and technological needs they require – such as special software for the visually-impaired – so as to create an ideal work environment,” says Bar-Natan.

But you don’t have to take his or Dr. Winch’s word for it. Plenty of praise has come from the one-of-a-kind outsourcer’s corporate clients.

“Call Yachol meets all our needs and we receive numerous 'thank you' letters from satisfied customers,” says Danny Zur, V.P. of Human Resources for Israeli cellular phone provider Pelephone, which uses approximately 130 Call Yachol agents in various areas of telephone service and sales.  Zur points out that companies shouldn’t consider using Call Yachol merely because it makes sense from a social responsibility standpoint, but rather because it’s a smart business move. “From our point of view this is a pure business consideration – this is not a favor nor is it philanthropy.”

Nurit Kantor, VP of Service at telecom giant Bezeq International, will never regret exploring the untapped workforce that Call Yachol offers. “The representatives prove that nothing stands in the way of what you really want,” says Kantor. “They are optimistic, fiercely motivated, and have an excellent awareness of service. We are proud to have trained them to join our ranks.”



A Proud and Fearless Front Line

Glowing reviews from clients certainly speak volumes, but perhaps the best way to grasp the power of what Call Yachol has accomplished is to hear directly from its agents.

“After four years of unemployment, hundreds of résumés, and many interviews without result, I arrived at Call Yachol,” says agent Yossi Zeidovitz. “Much has already been said and written about the family atmosphere at Call Yachol, but for me, Call Yachol has provided many things beyond work. First and foremost, I can hold my head up high and have pride in my disability.”

Another agent, Limor Gotlib, credits Call Yachol with restoring her confidence and a sense of normalcy after she suffered an eye injury that severely impaired her vision and forced her to leave her previous job eight years ago. “The Call Yachol call center is a business in every respect – it does not give its employees any extra privileges because of their disabilities. This gives the feeling of being in a regular workplace, one that has given me the opportunity to realize my talents. I recommend other people, no matter what their disability, to join our family and not to be afraid of joining the workforce.”

There may soon be plenty more openings for such individuals. According to Dr. Winch, Call Yachol plans to open centers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the near future.

“We are already the largest employer of people with disabilities in the open market in Israel. Our vision is to employ thousands of people with disabilities in a countrywide distribution of call centers, leading a much-needed and important revolution.”



Call Yachol – the Big Picture:
Location: Rishon LeZion, Israel
Hours of operation: 7:30 am-10 pm
Number of agents: Approximately 220
Products/services provided/supported: Outsourced contact center/customer care services for a variety of corporate clients.
What’s so great about them? A truly unique and successful customer care organization staffed with a culturally diverse team of agents – all of whom have some form of disability – working harmoniously in an open and caring environment.

For more information on Call Yachol, visit their website at: www.callyachol.co.il (click the “English” tab in the upper-left corner to convert the site from Hebrew to English.)

Also, be sure to check out this short video on Call Yachol’s unique operation:
http://goo.gl/XW4bP





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