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: