One Way Contact Centers Cause Disengagement
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One Way Contact Centers Cause Disengagement

Jeremy Markey, Director of CS Operations / Workforce Experience, Hunter Douglas
Jeremy Markey, Director of CS Operations / Workforce Experience, Hunter Douglas

Jeremy Markey, Director of CS Operations / Workforce Experience, Hunter Douglas

We’ve all read a lot of content on how to get our staff to be engaged. After 25 years of this I’ve come to the conclusion you can’t get your people to be engaged. You either hired an engaged active person or you didn’t. It’s our job to avoid causing disengagement.

Let me take you back to when my children all still lived at home, 12, 9, and 4 years old. Not to brag, my kids are good kids. Kind, respectful, and give me just the right amount of lip. And they were these good kids except when we’d drive somewhere. It almost didn’t matter where we were going. No matter how excited my children were to go, in the car it was a fight.

Aspen touched me! Zidane farted! Hunter won’t stop looking at me! No matter what I did I could not get them to behave in the car. At one point it got so bad I wanted to pull over and perform a roadside exorcism in the middle of rush hour. Yet as soon as we get to our destination, everyone is fine again and back to being good kids.

My wife and I were looking to upgrade our family car from the Toyota Camry. We test drove a handful of SUVs and my kids were a handful each time. It was nice when the dealership wouldn’t send the salesmen along with us, less to explain and apologize for. My wife convinced me to test drive a Honda Odyssey that was right at the top of our budget and immediately my kids were well behaved. No fighting, no yelling, no exorcism needed. We bought the minivan immediately. Having the space to be separated between two captains chairs and a back bench instead of being squished together in the back of the Camry was all my kids needed to be themselves.

The lesson is that my parental management wasn't the issue. My children's behaviors were a product of the system (the Camry). Nothing I did was going to change the disengagement and discontentment of my children as long as they were in the wrong system. Once I changed the right things in the system I got the behaviors no other parenting technique or set of consequences could get for my wife and I. I learned that if you get a behavior from the majority of the people the majority of the time the problem is most likely the system not the people or the management.

In contact centers one of the ways we cause disengagement is through a metric called adherence. Before you get the pitchforks hear me out, we can get the result we want AND stop causing disengagement through our system.

As a refresher adherence is a measure of whether your phone is in the right state/code at the right time. There are variances to this metric along with various names like compliance, accessibility, and so on. Adherence causes an agent to think “do I go to break closer to on time and cut this call short risking a bad monitor OR do I do what is right by the customer relationship and take the hit in adherence.” In either case the agent loses through a lower adherence score or risking a poor call audit. The agent can’t win!

The purpose of adherence is to have the right amount of people in a productive state at the right time of day so our customers get an even delivery of service regardless of the time of day they call. By allowing our agents to take a break/lunch when they want within boundaries you’ll achieve the result of having the right amount of people in a productive state AND stop causing disengagement with our agents.

“The purpose of adherence is to have the right amount of people in a productive state at the right time of day so our customers get an even delivery of service regardless of the time of day they call.”

Here are some example boundaries we’ve set at Hunter Douglas; no break/lunch in the first hour of the day, at least two thirds of our staff must be in a productive status every interval of the day, and the agents total productive minutes must average at least 95percentof scheduled for the week.

By doing this combined with schedule flexibility we’ve reduced our average speed of answer by 7percent,reduced our in/out of center shrink by 3percent,reduced our annualized attrition by 8percentall while other metrics like average handle time and contact volume have remained flat.

The worry has always been agents will all take their breaks and lunches at the same time and no one will be on the phones to answer calls. What we’ve found is that the variety of break/lunch times has spread out further than we had with scheduled break and lunch times by avoiding the snowball effects of long calls. The feedback from our agents and our management has been unanimously fantastic.

As with the Camry and Odyssey, no amount of management or discipline changed my children. But once I implemented a better system everything changed. We continue to challenge our systems here at Hunter Douglas to solve problems. I recommend you join us and do the same!

To dive deeper into the subject I’d recommend reading The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman, Atomic Habits by James Clear, and Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.

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