Off Center
Many of you probably read the title of this post and thought, “Oh great, another rant from some self-important rabble-rouser who feels he has to constantly question authority and shake things up.”

That was my intention, at least.

I know, I know, there’s enough negativity in the world as it is, what with the lagging economy and the cancellation of All My Children. But I feel that I must express my angry views on several irksome issues and trends that currently plague the call center industry – not just because I feel they are detracting from our collective success, but also because I crave attention.

Overly decorative terms for frontline staff.  There has never been a universally accepted term in our industry for the “folks on the phones”. Agent. Rep. CSR. Associate. I don’t really have an issue with this per se, but I do feel that some call centers have taken things too far – using such terms as “Customer Contact Engineer”, “Headset Hero” and “Service Level Soldier” to describe frontline staff.

Instead of trying to make agents feel important by giving them ostentatious monikers, try making them feel important by paying them what they are worth and installing a window or two in the call center.

I encourage creativity, just not in this instance. If I write an article on your call center and you ask me to change “agents” to “Customer Ambassadors” in the final draft, I might just have to take a swing at you.

Deceptive conference session (and webinar) titles. While attending an industry event a few months ago, I sat in on a session whose title caught my attention in the conference brochure: “10 Surefire Ways to Obliterate Agent Attrition”. Sounded pretty exciting, but when the speaker opened his presentation with a complex mathematical equation to calculate turnover and some motivational quotes from his high school guidance counselor, I knew he wasn’t going to deliver.

Using deceptive session titles to attract conference (and webinar) attendees is unfortunately becoming the norm in our industry. Therefore, I recommend we create a law that requires all sessions to have short, unappealing titles like, “Quality Monitoring: An Important Thing”, or “Agent Training: Why Not?”. This will help to lower attendees’ expectations and increase the chances that the speaker will make it back to his or her room without being flogged by fruit.

An unhealthy obsession with “best practices”. How do you get 100 call center professionals to jump off a cliff? Tell them it’s a best practice.

I must get 20 emails a week from managers and supervisors who want to know what’s “best practice” (or “industry standard”) for things like service level objective and call abandon rate. I used to try to explain to such people that industry-wide best practices don’t exist, but they threatened to harm me and my family if I didn’t help. So now I just make up answers to appease them and get back to my nap. My standard response is: “Every world-class call center I have ever encountered answers 108% of calls within three seconds and has negative 1.7% abandonment. They also require all agents to wear Lederhosen on Fridays.”   

My advice is for you to ignore so-called “best practices” and instead focus your attention on determining what is best for your specific center based on what your specific customers and agents want and expect. But if you don’t want to take my advice and choose instead to continue your mad quest to uncover as many best practices as possible, then purchase my ebook – it’s chock full of them:

9/23/2011 01:24:08 am

Glad I wasn't drinking coffee during my read of this or I would need a new monitor from the coffee spray. I love this post so much that I may have to RT several times on Twitter, LinkedIn, et al to make sure that the people who need to seen this do. Thanks for another laugh out loud post, Greg.

Signed, Melissa K (Chief over everything because I work for myself and can make up my own title) :-)

9/23/2011 01:30:17 am

If that kind of monitor damage ever occurs while reading Off Center, just send the bill to me. I'll take full credit, I mean responsibility.

Thanks for the very kind words, Melissa!


Laura Grimes
9/23/2011 04:03:45 am

Greg, when did you start channeling me? Couldn't agree more on "Best Practice". It implies that there is NOTHING better... and there is always room for improvement. Until the next greatest thing, Laura

9/23/2011 04:54:21 am

Laura, I have ECCCSP -- Extra Contact Center Consultant Sensory Perception. I'm able to read the minds of any consultant in our industry and foresee results. By the way, that thing you're thinking about doing with the headsets made out of marzipan, it doesn't work out.

You are totally correct about "best practices". The only true best practice that exists in our industry is Propeller Beanie Fridays.

Thanks for your comment, and have a great weekend!



karen wenborn
9/25/2011 09:00:58 pm

Just found you Greg - it's going to be a fun (if one sided) relationship. I can just tell.

9/25/2011 09:53:12 pm

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the call center, Karen.

Glad you found me -- I look forward to dominating the conversation.


9/28/2011 02:53:34 am

greg... Spot on with the recent webinar false advertising. You just can't make this stuff up!


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