Off Center
One of the best ways to increase employee engagement and retention is to give staff the opportunity to apply their unique personal skills and interests while on the job. You see, it’s human nature to want to feel individually valuable and valued, despite knowing that we are naturally mediocre and forgettable.

The most successful call center managers I have come across are able to overcome the general unexceptional nature of their staff and find ways for each agent to make an important and personal contribution to the center’s success.

Here are some proven ways you can do the same with your staff:

Look for the write stuff. If you have a few members on your frontline who were born before 1975 and thus know how to spell, consider letting them create a service-related blog for the company, or give them a column in the departmental newsletter. Or, if your company frowns upon such levels of empowerment, consider at least making the aforementioned literate agents complete your monthly expense report for you.

Use “speech recognition”. Let’s say you have an agent with the innate ability to not shut up. Why not let them speak on behalf of the call center at the next inter-departmental meeting? This is a particularly useful strategy if your center has recently been performing badly and you are expecting a lot of angry questions from senior management at the meeting. 

Tap the sadness. Maybe you have some employees with a penchant for being deeply depressed. If so, allow them to mentor some agents who are only mildly depressed and just watch how quickly the latter group starts to feel better about themselves, which will translate into better service for customers and lower outpatient mental health costs for your company.

Rage against the (Marketing) machine. Do you have some agents with anger management issues and a tendency toward physical violence? Put them together on a special task force responsible for seeking vengeance whenever Marketing forgets to tell the call center about a promotion that causes a 75% spike in call volume.   

Give staff starring roles. Got a couple of folks on your staff with some community theater experience? Encourage them to teach the rest of the frontline to act like they care about customers and are being paid a living wage.

These are just a few suggestions – some of which I’ve seen work in actual call centers, and some of which simply popped into my head last night while sipping my third scotch. There really is no limit to the ways you can empower your staff in a personalized manner when you start to think outside the bottle, I mean box.

So the next time you start thinking that you are burdened with a bunch of ordinary – or, worse, neurotic and unstable – agents, remember that with a little creativity you can find ways to help each of them make you look like a much better, more productive manager than you actually are.

Darrel Friedt
1/21/2011 12:34:10 am

It's almost comforting to find someone who has the same thoughts as me. That might be scary to others but that means we astute. Aside from your piece being funny there is a real truth that comes out. As a supervisor,managers etc we do need to find that one skill that each of our employees has and gave praise to that trait so we can use it to raise the level of other skills that will maximize their value. Keep it coming!

1/21/2011 12:48:20 am

Darrel, I'm sorry to hear that you have the same thoughts and sense of humor as me. Who is YOUR therapist?

Thanks for reading -- and for your kind words and meaningful input!

And don't worry... I WILL keep it coming. At least until the people from the asylum come to get me.




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