The Deadly Sins of Contact Center Operations

Sloth, avarice, and lust aren’t the only deadly sins you need to worry about. The contact center has its own set of seven deadly sins to avoid, according to Penny Reynolds, founding partner of the Memphis-based Call Center School. She outlined those sins during a session at the National Conference on Operations and Fulfillment (NCOF) earlier this month.

Sin #1: Hiring only “ideal” agents. While a good voice and the ability to multitask are good traits to have in a contact center employee, they are not the only ones that make a good agent. “By focusing solely on knowledge and skills we miss some of the personality and people skills that make someone a good call center employee,” Reynolds said.

Sin #2: Neglecting the importance of supervisors in a retention strategy. An effective retention strategy has to have two pieces: a fair and equitable wage, and the right employees—including well-trained supervisors. “People typically don’t leave companies,” Reynolds said. “They leave poor leaders.” Supervisors need to set aside a time to work with contact center reps and ask what the company or the job could do better.

Sin #3: Providing cash rewards for good performance. Cash may be king, but it’s not necessarily the best reward. Employees tend to spend cash on necessities, and once it’s spent there is no lasting memento to remind the employee of the company’s appreciation. “There’s no warm fuzzies associated with cash,” Reynolds said. A trophy, however, can be a continuing source of pride.

Sin #4: Using “common sense” in promoting employees. Many times people are good on the phones because they like the “individual” achievement. If you elevate them to a supervisory position because they’re good on the phone, they might fail because supervisory skills require everyone in the organization to succeed. Even if “common sense” indicates that a superstar CSR might appear ready for a boost to the next level, think about the other attributes required for excellence at that next level. Otherwise you could fall prey to the Peter Principle; promoting people to the level of their incompetence.

Sin #5: Coaching your problem employees to the detriment of your better employees. Every employee deserves the same attention. A common mistake is to spend all your supervisory time dealing with the problem employees; the performance of your better employees often suffers as a result. “We spend so much time to get the bottom ones up,” Reynolds said, “but some of them may not even amount to medium performance, and you’ve wasted a lot of time.” So determine early rather than investing too much time with underperformers.

Sin #6: Giving too much tender loving care. Typically, new supervisors feel uncomfortable in giving bad news or negative performance ratings to CSRs. As a result, the CSRs don’t get a clear picture of what they are doing wrong. Focus on the most important behavior, Reynolds advised, even if it’s bad behavior.

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