Are you leveraging your most powerful resource?
For far too long we have tried to manage and lead front-line employees with little or no help. Either budgets are tight, turnover is high or we simply don’t have the process and structure in place to do it right. Unfortunately despite good intentions and enormous effort, the weakest link in most organizations is the front line supervisor and manager. Not enough education either prior to joining the company or after, high ratios and high turnover employees make the job almost impossible.
The reality in today’s world is that front line supervisors can’t perform to the level we desire. As a result our ROS (Return on Supervisors) is low. Their monumental task is to coach, lead and drive change under these difficult conditions. We are talking a good game; we are just not playing very well.
They don’t get much help from the organization itself. The process today is upside down. At the top of the organization, we have MBA’s, college graduates and long tenured employees. The person managing this high profile crew is a peer; well educated, experienced and mature. Anything more than a 7 to 1 ratio is considered crazy. Management at the front lines is just the opposite. The frontline employee in many instances is a high school graduate, very little work experience and very little tenure within the company. The front-line manager is often a former front-line employee with similar education and business maturity. Ratios on the front-line range from 15 to 1 upwards of 25 to 1. You are considered a high touch management if you are 12 to 1. The highly educated managing their peers have low ratios and the lesser educated with peers who are equally immature professionally run at high ratios.
Thus the problem. Everyone sees the problem but to date there has been no successful solution.
Today’s timid solutions include:
More training- Today’s organization does not fully embrace additional training. First and foremost it is expensive to deliver and even more expensive to free up the resources to participate. Unfortunately there is a third problem, it is also not very effective. The main reason? There is not enough time, resources or experience to re-enforce the training. The clincher is the front-line turnover rate. Ranging from an average of 35% to upwards of 200% companies fear training people that will not be there next month. Some wait to see if they will stick around others just don’t train at all. The results are the same.
Quality Monitoring-Trust me, I know about this… Quality monitoring when run correctly can gather tremendous information on the front-line folks. This data when used correctly can identify changes necessary. The challenge is getting the reps to change. The continued re-enforcement of change requires strong management and leadership. It just is not there for all the reasons mentioned earlier.
Data Analytics- The latest and greatest trend today is data analytics. Using technology we pull golden nuggets of customer information. This information either on its own or consolidated with other nuggets helps us to see into the customer’s perspective. Very expensive and ‘visionary” it does not move seamlessly back to the front-line employee nor does it help to coach them.
Walls, Posters, Motivational tools, and Donuts- All great ideas some more fattening than others yet they don’t coach, motivate, validate or instill true change.
Finally, the “bare minimum management” strategy: We do a little training each year, put up some posters, talk about coaching, make the supervisors listen to more calls, yell a little bit, cheer a little bit, ask them to work harder, invest in the FISH book and simply hope complaints go down and morale goes up.
Help is on the way.
It is accurate, passionate, credible, cheap and most important almost infinite. The answer is the customer.
They are accurate: Who better to tell you what they think and feel about the services you are providing them? Who better to tell you the unique attributes about your employees? Who better to help you teach key skills to your employees?
They are passionate: Fielded a complaint lately from a customer? They are passionate about how you treat them, your accuracy, your professionalism, and better ways to serve them. All you have to do is ask…
They are credible: Who would you believe? A person who listens to QM calls all day long that you may or may not respect or the actual customer that just dealt with me? Face it customers are like the old EF Hutton commercial (I just dated myself…) when customers talk; everyone listens from the corner office to the front-line.
They are cheap: Customers provide us feedback at little or no cost. Yes we have to gather the data but we don’t pay benefits, sick time, etc. The price is right!
They are almost infinite: Millions of customer transactions, all the time. In our busy times, slow times, night times, new products, old products, test products, happy, sad, fair, un-fair, you get the point.
Customers work because
A shift to the Platinum Rule:
While it has stood the test of time, the “Golden Rule’ has seen its better day. The concept of ‘Doing unto others and you would have done unto your self” does not seem to work anymore. Customers daily grow more unique and demand that they be served uniquely. Thus the term; The Platinum Rule. “Do unto others as they want done”. Give them what they want. In order to do this we need to know what they want; all the time.
Core part of a Healthy Service Strategy:
Our mantra is “Provide the Highest Level of service for the least amount of cost that is profitable to the client and profitable to the customer. We focus on the “profitable to the client”. This is the area where we can have the most impact. To deliver we must understand what drives the client. What satisfies them? What is important to them?
Supervisors coach: They have easy access to data to help them coach more efficiently. This means a tool to help them in their one on ones, meetings, scheduling, change management, follow up and planning.
Front-line employees get feedback and assistance from everyone including customers and themselves. They have clear goals, consistent feedback and measurement and most important customers helping them get better.
Quality is cheaper and better: We focus on compliance and let our customers drive most everything else. We use customers to better understand customer satisfaction, employee self improvement, and enterprise training. We focus on compliance. Less resources and better more valid feedback is a win-win for all.
Executives get what they want: A synchronized approach to employee management and improvement. Our success depends on staying close to the customer, meeting their needs and building a more talented and professional employee. We build leaders that are synchronized and in touch with their employees and customers.
The call center industry is like no other. This market is built on a premise that a company usually has less than 240 seconds to solve a problem or gain an opportunity, either over the phone, on the Web, or with e-mail, using for the most part entry-level people in a situation with a 30 percent turnover rate. We have to create, delight, and retain customers in less time that it takes to boil an egg. We have to do it millions of times a year and with quality. In this industry, one extra second with a customer or client could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
No matter how much we automate, transfer to self-support, or re-engineer, we are always going to have the privilege of working with customer service representatives. If you are a manager or agent today in a call center, then I am sure you are relieved to hear this. Every time some new form of automation is added, the benefits are usually substantial. In every instance where we automate or eliminate calls we are always left with a group of more complicated calls. This consistently makes the job of supporting, motivating, and training our call center staff more challenging.
Bouquet Training, a module in the Bouquet CDM platform, enables contact center managers to customize agent training courses based on customer feedback.