TMCnet - World's Largest Communications and Technology Community



July 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 2

Being Contact Centers' Best Friend

By Brendan Read

The media is the best friend of whatever communities it covers, whether specific geographies, academic, ethnic, occupational or religious entities, or business, institutional, and/or nonprofit organizations. By being there for them the media prospers through readership and/or viewership, and advertising and sales.

Being a best friend means believing in those communities and what they aspire to. It also means looking out for their interests, giving them information that will help their endeavors, encouraging individuals to participate and support their activities, and listening to their concerns.

Sometimes being a best friend entails delivering uncomfortable truths aimed at helping those you care about: communities and individuals to do the right thing. You have their interests at heart in part because you are dependent on their happiness and success.

I have become best friends for the various communities I have covered in my 20+ year media career. My longest such friendship has been with the contact center field where I have spent 12 years as a journalist and as a PR/marketing support representative for a contact center firm. And it is an honor to continue that role on behalf of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine, doing my best to support contact center managers and executives, and industry suppliers.

There have been many contact center publications that have come and gone yet Customer Interaction Solutions has stayed with and has been there for the readers and the advertisers the longest, through both booms and busts. At the same time we have grown and evolved to meet their i.e. your needs through enhanced editorial content, delivering breaking news online, offering multiple insights from experts, and by organizing and delivering topnotch events.

I, working alongside the great team at CIS and TMC, will deliver the timely information and insight that you expect and are looking for. We will strive for perfection and may achieve it on occasion.We are continually enhancing our products. For example beginning with the August issue Keith Dawson, Senior Analyst with Frost & Sullivan will be writing a regular column. So will Joe Fleischer, who is a highly experienced writer, editor, and conference content developer. Both Keith and Joe are true best friends of contact center professionals through their many years' experience researching, observing, writing, and speaking about issues and trends affecting them. I have worked previously with these two fine individuals and I can attest to their knowledge, insight, and commitment.

And reflecting the development of customer interactions from mostly voice to include data communications I have changed the name of our back column to 'Logout' from 'Last Call'.

At the same time I and we may reveal viewpoints that where necessary may make you feel uncomfortable but will get you to think, and in doing so reexamine what you are doing to help you make your center and business the best there is. Yet always I/we will be fair and if we are out of line for whatever reason we urge to let us know.

Most importantly we want your ideas, thoughts, and feedback. We can only be your best friend by telling us what we need to hear.

To that end I would like to share these observations on what is typically the most important management issue in contact centers and that is high agent turnover. Nearly every center it seems, unless they are located in community with double-digit unemployment or have small facilities with family-like atmospheres, has this problem.

This is not a just a reporter's revelation coming from talking to dozens of people while researching articles over the past several years. It also arises from being very close to the contact centers themselves.

I live in a community where contact centers are among its largest employers. I see billboards advertising for staff all over town, as well as online and in print and on buses. I hear from people, including elected officials what they think of the centers. My wife and a young student that rents a room from us have worked for contact centers and they have not been exactly shy in sharing their experiences. We also pick up stories from other people.

Based on this not insignificant array of sources my recommendation is this: treat your people well. Hire/promote only supervisors who know how to supervise and managers who know how to manage, and train, supervise, and if necessary fire them too. Provide consistent and sufficient hours for employees to plan their lives around and to survive. Be flexible in meeting their personal needs.

Being an agent is stressful, often mind-numbing and low-status work. They will tolerate it if they are treated well. They will whip off their headsets, curse, and storm out (which my wife has seen) if they don't, thereby leaving one more caller longer in queue, wondering what is going on with your business. The message is this: by looking after your agents you are looking after your bottom line. CiS

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