The Call Center world is an intense pressure-driven environment continually being shaped by pressure to ensure steady profitability and a secure competitive advantage.
Accountability and a basic fundamental understanding of Performance Management serve as two of the most power tools a Call Center manager has at his/her disposal. Specifically, accountability when used properly with practical down to earth communication can change the way a group performs and takes responsibility for their performance.
To understand accountability, think of it as a focal point of pressure and let's view pressure, as synonymous with the "demands of the business". Nothing exposes a strength or flaw like raw pressure. It is pressure that has the ability to create, empower, challenge or fracture, crumble and destroy. Pressure helps fuel the momentum and vision of an organization to fulfill obligations to employees, clients, and investors with high standards, clear-cut expectations and decisive accountability.
In the hands of the unworthy, accountability can be a tool for self-preservationist, a weapon for the positional manager, or simply a replacement for development. Used with skill, accountability can represent a turning point in any organization, and the corner stone of an improvement initiative.
Let me give you an example. One of my most successful leadership teams consisted of 10 core members, 8 of which were on some form of progressive action. Usually, you don't associate that level of performance management action, as descriptive of a successful team, but that's exactly what they were -- successful.
It was clear they all understood the expectation, knew the consequences, and made a choice, which in turn, didn't leave me one. I had an incredible relationship with each of them; they appreciated the honest, direct dialogue and they always knew exactly where they stood with performance. Their success made them grow personally, and professionally. I'm confident that if I didn't hold them accountable for their actions, they would not have realized their own potential. There were no hard feelings, no misunderstandings, only expectations, accountabilities, and total situation awareness.
Accountability should not be negative, but rather represent the strength behind the expectation. It is the empowering factor behind a directive or standard. John Maxell, Author of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of leadership, said that change could only occur when one of three factors are met: the person truly understands the big picture and why the change is needed to such a degree, they willingly change, or they hurt badly enough that the change must be accepted. So, hence we see the birth of the easy way, or the hard way. The fact is if everyone took the easy way, there would be no such thing as the hard way.
With that fact understood, as a manager you must accept that your expectations will be ignored, follow-up will not consistently occur, and the process, vision, and company mission will be challenged. You must accept the inevitable, and make a decision. Your options: Lose control of your staff, and exist in the land of mediocrity until your business fails, your client is lost or you become the new focal point of all that "pressure"; or challenge and develop your team to increase their abilities, set high standards and expectations and expose them to their own potential. The choice is yours.
Believe in your team, and expect them to accomplish great things, and they will rise to meet the challenge. If your culture lacks a solid Performance Management process with clear-outlined accountabilities, resistance should be expected. An entire team with average or below average performance will defy change easier because when you apply pressure, it's evenly dispersed because they are all on the same level. Set a clear expectation; raise the bar. Your stronger associates will break rank and begin to rise to the top. These reps are motivated by success, and only need a cause to rally behind. Praise them, recognize them, and use them to establish your benchmark. Once you have proven that one can do it, you can then more confidently expect more results from your remaining staff.
Ensure that your conversations are direct, honest, with no sugarcoated words, or reserved dialogue. This level of communication will ensure that the message you send is the message received. If you ever proceed to progressively document an employee, and they are surprised, you must evaluate your communication process. Surprise or unawareness that he or she is not meeting standard prevents the employee from being mentally prepared, diminishes the effectives of the process, and will most likely not be a learning experience for the employee.
Be consistent, and be fair with your expectations. Inconsistency leads to frustration, issues of favoritism, and also diminishes the effectiveness of the entire process. What would be the end result if a child touched a hot stove, and sometimes it burned them, and sometimes it didn't?
Remove emotion from the process. If you take how you personally feel about an employee into a progressive counseling situation, it could impact what decision you make, which in turn could affect your ability to be consistent. View accountability as the end result of a process. An example would be how 2+2 will always = 4. Not sometimes, or most of the time, but all of the time. I'm not suggesting you disregard your judgment on the situation, but you must stay focused on the facts at hand and not irrelevant external variables.
I had a boss bluntly address the team after each social company outing. He would pull us together in his office and state very directly: I personally like each of you, but I hope you don't take how I personally feel and doubt for a second that I wouldn't make the call and whack you if I needed to. That type of communication might sound harsh, but we never had any questions on what his expectations were. There were no hard feelings, no misunderstandings, only expectations, accountabilities, and total situation awareness.
Aubie Pouncey has been in management for the past several years. In doing so he has developed his perofrmance management skills resulting in incredible success. He is a contributing writer for http://www.righttolead.com and he has developed a very success performance management process: http://www.accountabilityprocess.com
Whats For Lunch?
As an entrepreneur, I'm always intrigued by small businesses, home-based or not, that exceed the expectations of their customers in a big way.Let me tell you about one of them.Recently I spent some time with my daughter in her college town of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We were spending the day getting her apartment ready for her return to school in the fall. When it was time for lunch, she wanted to take me to a restaurant in the small town of Northport, just to the north of Tuscaloosa.Northport is one of those typical south...(related: Customer Service)
Become A Customer Enthusiasm-guru!
One thing all successful small business owners have in common is the knowledge that their business is based on enthusiastic customers. Despite their multi-tasking titles of bookkeeper, service provider and sales-manager, their most important title is Customer-Enthusiasm Guru.Your question, undoubtedly, is how do I find time in my unbelievably over-loaded schedule to become a customer-enthusiasm guru? Following are a few quick steps you can take to focus on your customer in everything you do:1. Evaluate your customer base. Who are your best customers and why? What similarities do they share? What are their core needs and how do you solve ...(related: Customer Service)
Sales Marketing: 10 High Impact Ways To Improve Your Customer Service
If you want to last a long time in business and succeed, you must learn how to make your customers happy.You have to know who are your customers, what they want and keep in touch with them and their needs.Let me suggest to you 10 ways to succeed in doing this.1. Stay in contact with customers on a regular basis. Offerthem a free e-zine subscription. Ask customers if theywant to be updated by e-mail when you make changes toyour Web site. After every sale, follow-up with thecustomer to see if they are satisfied with their purchase.2. Create a customer focus group. Invite ten to twenty ofyour most loyal customers to meet regularly. They will giveyou idea...(related: Customer Service)
Small Business Customer Service Can Work Against You
Is the special treatment you designed specifically to keep customers coming back working against you?A local jeweler offers free lifetime battery replacement for any watch he sells. It's a good hook to keep customers walking back in the store on a regular basis and increases his sales volume.But, it's backfired on him. And he's lost at least one customer because of it....(related: Customer Service)
The 3 Rs Of Customer Service
What I am about to tell you may seem very obvious - you may even say DUH!!! but the fact is, - many company's forget the 3 R's of good customer service- Respect your Customer, Take Responsibility for Your Actions and Products and give your Customers a Full REFUND when it just isn't right. I promise you that if you follow these 3 simple rules you will never have to run after the same customer again!Respect the customer! Just about as plain as the nose on your face Right? Wrong!How many times have you been greeted in a less than courteous manner or worse yet- not at all!! Never lose the opportunity to make a great first impression- very rare...(related: Customer Service)
Dont Give Your Customers What They Want!
One of the mantras we hear repeatedly in business is "The customer is always right." I'm here to tell you ...(related: Customer Service)
The Consumer Power
While most companies talk about consumer friendliness, customer centricity, customer relationship etc. more often than not they are mere lip service or ...(related: Customer Service)
Difficult Customers - Theres No Such Thing
A couple of years ago I had a call from a Customer ServiceManager working in the paper industry. He wanted me to run aseminar for his team, on "How to Deal with DifficultCustomers".I had several telephone conversations with this managerorganising dates, times and getting to understand hisbusiness. If I was to describe his style on the telephone Iwould use words like, businesslike, cold, curt and somewhatimpatient. I started to realise that if I was one of hiscustomers then I might have been a bit "difficult". Hecertainly knew his business and I don't think he was a badperson but warm and friendly - forget it.There are actually very few genuinely difficult customers inthe world. And I hear you say - "we've got all of them".However the majority of customers in the world arereasonable people. They may not think the way, look ...(related: Customer Service)
Wholesale Buyers Versus Retail Customers
Are wholesale buyers and retail customers really different? Frankly, there are two answers to this question: yes and no. Yes, because they are different from the buyers and those selling to buyers' point of view and no, because the principles that apply are the same for both types of buying.There is only one real difference, aside that one buys at wholesale prices and the other at retail prices, and...(related: Customer Service)
How To Transform Your Voicemail Into An Effective Medium Of Communication
"Hi this is Randy. Leave me a message after the beep and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks and have a great day."Garbage.This is an example of a typical outgoing message that makes callers feel like they really are talking to a machine. Now, we've all heard this cookie cutter message about a zillion times, but honestly ? it hurts me more with every call.This doesn't make a voicemail message bad. It simply means that the voicemail is not totally leveraged. So, for the sake of your callers and my ears, I want to share six techniques that will transform boring, robotic voicemail into an engaging, fun and personable medium of communication.No...(related: Customer Service)
More Customers - Watch Those Little Things
Two situations, two perfectly acceptable experiences, but in one case, an excitement about great service and in the other case, just OK.The LaptopI have ...(related: Customer Service)
Listening: The Foundation Of Communication
Listening is the #1 communication skill for leadership, selling, customer service, and even romance! The problem is, most of us don't listen very well. We're not trained to listen and we don't even realize that listening is a skill. Peop...(related: Customer Service)