Call Center New Years Resolutions: A Two-Sided Coin

Customer Management IQ’s Editor Blake Landau wanted me to write a column regarding New Year’s resolutions that call centers could consider for 2010. She suggested that I write something that Emily Post might put in one of her columns. You know, lists such as, eat less, exercise more, stop cussin', etc.

Now, readers, that is not easy for me to do. If you have been reading my call center columns, you should know by now I don’t write about cures, solutions or procedures which are largely self-evident. I’m much more interested in the less obvious or not immediately transparent to call center managers. Hundreds of other call center industry writers already do that. So, if you are expecting to read on and find a list of resolutions to make in 2010, stop reading now, it isn’t going to happen!

But I decided to read what other writers had to say about New Year’s resolutions for call centers. There are some great ideas, almost all of them obvious.

Here are a few of my favorite.

Five Popular Call Center Resolutions

  • Give call center representatives quiet time
  • Let call center representatives be involved in the call center decision making process
  • Train call center representatives to reach out to customers
  • Recognize call center representatives when they do good work
  • Let call center representatives choose their own head-sets.
  • And my favorite one, "I resolve to do a better job of recycling because my call center representatives will respect me more."

Now, these are all good resolutions and I support them. The basic theme is be nice to your call center representatives! On the surface there is absolutely nothing wrong with that premise. If you are not treating your call center representatives respectfully or like children, stop it! You really don’t need to make a resolution to change these behaviors in the call center. Just quit doing it.

However, it struck me there might be a sinister assumption behind these lists of nice things to do for your call center representatives in the New Year. Here’s what I mean. To me, there is an underlying assumption in these resolutions that call center managers are misguided and ignorant and must recognize and change the errors of their ways in order to reach the full potential of call center enlightenment and harmony.

OK, I’ll grant you that this state of affairs may be true in some cases but consider this: Maybe nothing is significantly wrong with your call center. Of course, there is always room for improvement and there should always be an effort to strive to be better. But, if you read the resolutions I read, you would think all call centers are teetering on the brink of disaster. For example, I didn’t find a single resolution suggesting that call center representatives resolve to live up to their end of the "psychological employment contract."

The Psychological Call Center Employment Contract

The psychological employment contract is a well-documented workplace phenomenon wherein both call center representatives and call center manager each have unwritten obligations to each other.

The Wikipedia definition is:

A psychological contract represents the mutual beliefs, perceptions, and informal obligations between a call center employer and a the call center representative. It sets the dynamics for the relationship and defines the detailed practicality of the work to be done. It is distinguishable from the formal written contract of call center employment, which, for the most part, only identifies mutual duties and responsibilities in a generalized form.

When it comes to call center New Year’s resolutions, I maintain there is another side of the coin! Just as call center managers have obligations to their call center representatives, I think call center representatives have obligations to their call center managers. It is a two-way street. So when considering your resolutions for 2010, I encourage you to consider the following:

Most Resolutions, Even in the Call Center, Are Eventually Broken

According to very informal research only 10 percent are actually kept for a year. A broken resolution may do more harm than good to your call center.

Maybe you don’t need to make any call center resolutions as things are already OK. Perhaps some minor tweaking and adjustments in the call center will suffice. You need to do some honest in-depth soul searching to determine if this is indeed the case.

If you do decide to make significant changes to your call center management policies and call center procedures, I suggest you do so in consideration of the "psychological employment contract." For example, "We (call center manager) resolve to make a sincere effort to improve our pay and benefits scale to become more in line with similar call center jobs. In return, we expect our call center representatives to improve their call center tardiness, attendance, and adherence to our call center work place goals." What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

This column is dedicated to H.L. Mencken who once said:

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

What do I mean by this? You figure it out! If you can’t, send me an e-mail and I’ll explain it to you.

I hope you had a happy and psychologically-balanced New Year!