Systems Thinking

A Call Center Holiday Wish List

Tripp Babbitt
Contributor: Tripp Babbitt
Posted: 12/03/2009

How about if this year we give the gift that keeps on giving...and I am not talking about the "Jelly of the Month Club." A gift that lasts, and not one that slices, dices or can be eaten in a single sitting. Better yet, a gift that can improve service, cut costs and improve the culture of any organization.

Call Center Management, Control and Costs

Costs increase because when we set up functions our need to control the work is supported by targets, incentives, inspection, work rules, written scripts and procedures and other dysfunctional activities to gain control. All of these items demand call center management attention to produce, implement and monitor at great costs. Call center managers learn to manage costs through the financial statements, but few managers understand the causes of costs or the price paid for all this control.

A new role is in order one where we manage the system, end-to-end from a customer perspective.



The Call Center Worker

As a front-line worker in (let’s say) a call center my work becomes scrutinized to "save" money. Targets are set for my average handle time (AHT) and number of calls taken and because I am "coached" based on these numbers the target becomes the defacto purpose of the call center work.

My call center management monitors my phone calls with mystery shoppers, recordings and inspection to make sure I follow the call center’s script and smile when I am on the phone. What I really want to do is serve the call center’s customer, but I know that if I take too long or give something away I am bound to be paid attention to by a call center supervisor.

Everything is measured in the call center from bathroom breaks to unavailable time to days off. My management throws pizza parties, pancake days and has contests that are supposed to make me a happier worker. But here is what I really want from my call center management:

A Wish List from the Call Center Worker for Call Center Management

  • Treat me like an adult, I went through this phase in high school and don’t care to relive it (again) in the call center.
  • Enough with the "spin the wheel" games and other bogus and lame call center motivation techniques that are intended to improve my performance and morale.
  • If you are going to make me responsible, than let me participate in the call center decision-making process. Or at least understand the call center work before you (the manager or executive) make that decision to buy a new computer system or IVR that affects or as you say will "improve" my job.
  • Understand call variation well enough as a call center manager to know when my work is really exceptionally poor or good.
  • As a manager understand that between 25 to 75 percent of all calls I get are failure demand—demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for a customer.
  • Understand that 95 percent of call center performance is dependent on the system I work in (technology, structure, design of the work, customer demand, measures, etc.) and 5 percent is attributable to the individual. So, quit bothering me with inspections and work on the call center’s system.
  • Help me to understand customer purpose and measures relevant to the customer so I can learn to innovate or improve my own call center work through experimentation with method.
  • But most of all, allow me to serve the customer, because I know when good service is delivered that costs go down and I live in a happier environment.


Special note: Do all this and I will never leave you or want to miss work because you have made my work more interesting and I know that few companies would treat me this well.

The added benefit of taking this approach is the customer is the focus. Everyone wins, nobody loses and profits increase dramatically. That is a wish list we can believe in!

Tripp Babbitt
Contributor: Tripp Babbitt
Posted: 12/03/2009

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