When I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I once watched a rowing team make their way down the Tennessee River. They moved in perfectly synchronized motion, speeding down the river in a straight line. They were a well-oiled machine, each person aligned with the rest of the group. This seamless alignment, when perfected, could make them the winning team in a race.
You need this kind of alignment in business, too. You don’t meet team goals with every person moving in their own direction. What if a rowing team tried to do this? They’d all be pushing towards different directions and not move anywhere! If each department in the company gets tunnel vision, the broader company vision gets blurry. What is this all for again?
Stuck in Tunnel Vision in your Contact Center
In a contact center, it’s easy to get stuck zeroing in on day-to-day tasks. Pick up the phone, answer an email, check the right boxes, and put in the right notes…then repeat. You’re siloed off from your teammates in a cubicle or by your headset. You’re siloed off from the rest of the company, generally ignored by upper management.
In the contact center, this tunnel vision mentality can be the death of productivity. One of the biggest stressors of being in a customer service job is the tedium of everyday tasks. It gets tiresome, and it demotivates hard work. With a high turnover rate between 30 to 45 percent in contact centers today, trends of isolation and tunnel vision are clearly a problem.
So, what’s missing?
The struggle with retention and absenteeism in most contact centers becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders take on the mindset that employees are only going to stick around for a couple of months, so why bother making them feel like they’re part of the company?
This thought process actually pushes your agents away and encourages them to leave. It makes sense. It’s hard to pour energy into something when you don’t have a reason to invest, and when you’re not being invested in.
What’s missing for many contact centers is a vision, a purpose, or a connection to the larger company strategy.
Before your employees can truly go above and beyond in their service, they need to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Something bigger than the small, tedious tasks that tire them.
Let’s consider, together, how to drive alignment in your contact center by rallying your employees around a broader purpose and common goal.
Build a Foundation: Creating a set of core values to drive the decisions you make
It’s likely that your company already has a vision and a set of core values, but how does that impact your work in a contact center? It’s important to set a foundation that’s specific to your team. What are the core values in your contact center? What is your philosophy of work? Of customer service? What’s your strategy for agent engagement and empowerment?
Create a foundation your agents own because it’s personal to them and their roles in the company. Have a meeting with your employees and come prepared with a rough framework you’ve brainstormed. Get their input and invite them to edit and adapt the values, so they can get on board. This foundation determines how you approach difficult customers. It guides you as you establish team goals and team culture.
With a unique and personalized vision created, your employees can align with your company’s broader vision. They can sense how they’re a part of both a smaller mission — caring well for customers daily, and a larger mission — solving a deep problem through advocating for your product or service.
Be Clear: Set a destination and clearly communicate what your steps will be to get there
Communication is crazy important when rallying your team. Your strategy needs to be incredibly clear and intuitive. If you use ambiguous language or list steps that aren’t clear, agents won’t know where to go next.
From day one on the job, your new employees should know what you stand for. What are your expectations and goals? What is the purpose of your team in relation to the product, service, or company direction? By including your goals and vision in the onboarding process, goals get adopted right off the bat. But, as you work to keep your team aligned, make every single step clear.
Harvard Business Review offers some helpful tips to make strategies and goals incredibly clear:
- Keep your message simple, but deep in meaning. It needs to be rich, yet easy to grasp. Don’t use ambiguous language that’s hard to pin down or define.
- Build behavior based on market and customer insights. Your strategies need to be built on real data, your audience, and your brand’s place in the market.
- Put on your “real person” hat. Take off your management hat. Cut out corporate speak and industry jargon and write strategies that are approachable and easily applicable for your employees.
- Tell a story. Use storytelling as much as possible. Data and facts don’t stick! But, a narrative that can be swallowed does. Using stories of real-life examples in your goals will bring humanity into your contact center.
Find the Sweet Spot for Each Team Member: Take advantage of each individual’s strengths
You know the skills to look for in every contact center agent — knowledge retention, attention to detail, empathetic listeners. But, each of your agents has something unique to contribute and particular skills where they excel. The best way to encourage every person to be personally invested in your purpose and goals? Play to each employee’s strengths.
Use a personality test like the DiSC test or the Enneagram while on-boarding employees, so you know how each agent fits into the team. Personality tests help agents grow as they understand their strengths and weaknesses. And, it guides you to understand how to better manage and coach your agents. Understanding personality types cuts out toxicity or resentment in your contact center by revealing how everyone ticks. Now, you can understand where you need to show grace to one another, and where some of your team members may misinterpret actions. When you know the strengths in each person, you have a clearer path for how to empower them, and how to shape their roles to use those strengths.
Take advantage of each person’s strengths. Maybe your agent Mark has a Type A personality and is good at organizing. Put him in charge of keeping your CRM system orderly. Perhaps your teammate Jane loves event planning. Put her in charge of all team social and professional development events.
When you play to the strengths of your agents, they perform better. Play to strengths and see your contact center team grow and effortlessly work together towards common goals. It encourages them to work harder because, hey, they’re succeeding and loving it!
Build Trust as a Team: Advocate for one another as you move towards goals
Lastly, and most importantly, to rally a team, act like a team! What better way to bring your employees together than by being friends with one another. Make your contact center a positive place where your employees can find encouragement, friendship, and personal development.
Advocate for one another as you strategize and complete goals. Learn from one another’s strengths. Be open to feedback and offer daily feedback to your team so they know how to improve. Build up your agents and encourage camaraderie.
Trust your agents to work hard and stay engaged. By showing them you trust them, your agents will want to meet your standards. They’re all adults. They should all be capable and trusted to work hard without you hovering and micromanaging their every move. Plant the seeds with your core values and strategies, and see your team grow into the roles you’ve built for them. Let them be innovative and creative. Trust that they are there for the right reasons.
Your contact center needs to be aligned to a common purpose just like the rest of the company. By constructing a philosophy together and helping your agents step into their personal strengths, your team will zoom down that river, perfectly in sync, just like the winning rowing team.
Find more ways to empower your contact center agents to be more engaged in this recent blog.