Contact centre work naturally attracts talkative people, but they can be hard for team leaders to manage. Here are 7 tips to help you get the best out of extroverts.
1. Stop treating extroverts like “the class clown” – and they’ll stop acting like one
We reflect back the behaviour people present to us. If they are serious, we tend to be serious around them. There is the golden rule – “treat others as you would have them treat you”. The platinum rule – “treat others as they wish to be treated”- may be better still.
When someone is known to be fun and outgoing, they often get treated as the class clown. They may even play up to this, but it’s not necessarily the full story.
It can be tiring and frustrating for naturally extroverted people to be thought of as a joker all the time. They may begin to feel that they are not taken seriously or given due respect because of their personality. This is a sure-fire way to breed resentment.
Although inclined to be light-hearted, extroverted people take cues from their surroundings just like everybody else. If you approach them on a serious footing and treat them with respect, they will respond in kind.
2. Play to their strengths and allocate extroverts to calls (instead of webchat)
The increasingly multichannel contact centre poses new challenges. There is no longer one kind of work to be done, nor one kind of worker to do it.
Extrovert agents often have difficulty working in isolation and rely on the social aspects of their job. This can put them among your best workers when it comes to taking calls, but may make it tricky for them to engage with social media or webchat.
What’s more, highly extroverted people are not just talking for fun; studies have shown that many people speak their thoughts aloud in order to process them. Because of this, you may find that some of your staff find it much harder to help customers in text-based formats.
Encourage people to be outspoken about their confidence and skills, and use their personality as a positive.
3. Point them towards group projects
If you have members of staff who are brimming with energy, point them towards group projects in your work environment.
Their sociability will be a boon to the team, and giving them an extra investment in the company will help them reflect on their role.
If you hired them because they were extroverts, why punish them for it?
4. Reward extroverts for getting through the day without error
Rather than trying to humble the individuals, allow them to self-promote – but only when they get through the day without error.
You may find that they take that challenge and focus their energy on every task.
5. Discuss their leadership potential
Support agents in thinking about their future. Their exuberance might mean that they are well suited to certain positions within your business. Future team leaders, for example, certainly benefit from being comfortable with a lot of face-to-face interactions.
Alternatively, they might be in prime position to head up a staff forum for agent feedback. That way, even if they are talking a lot, they are at least talking about work.
Ask them what they would do given the choice. They will often come up with the best ideas as to how to serve customers.
6. Don’t make assumptions about their productivity
If your first impression of an agent is that they are loud, you may make assumptions about the quality of their work. Perhaps you think they get less done or frequently seem distracted.
Extrovert characteristics are useful, but the contact centre environment often stifles them. Whenever you feel that you may need to address a staff member’s attitude to work, it is important to first establish the facts.
Have other staff members complained about this colleague? Does their work record show that they are taking fewer calls? Does their attitude undermine management?
If the answer is yes, then of course you need to take steps to influence their behaviour. However, you might well find that although they are talkative, they are getting plenty done.
Let a person’s work speak for itself. By looking at their output you will get a much better idea of their capabilities than you will from casual observations.
7. Reassess your recruitment criteria to look for a proven attention span too
If you’re having difficulty with staff members who exhibit certain types of behaviour, is it because you are not recruiting the right kinds of people? Extroverted behaviour comes across well in interviews because you want to find staff who are outgoing. But perhaps there needs to be more to your approach than this.
Contact centre staff do of course need to be comfortable talking. However, the kinds of experience you should look for should also indicate a level of comfort working in isolation, performing repetitive tasks and working to strict deadlines.
The simplest approach to recruitment is to look at the behaviours and competencies demonstrated by the candidate. But if you recruit solely on this basis and ignore what people need to be comfortable in a call centre environment, you are asking for – and getting – a problem that you then have to manage.
It’s not enough to be broadly ‘good with people’. A good attention span and a proven ability to focus are just as important. One way to strike a balance is to ask yourself what the characteristics of your best agents are.
There are always a lot of different people in a contact centre. The question you must ask yourself is, how can this person make the most positive contribution to our workforce?
What have you tried to harness of the energy of the extroverts in your contact centre?
With thanks to Jack Barton, a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper
With additional thanks to:
- Liam Hambridge, Contact Centre Manager at Spotless
- Paul Allen, Planning and Outsource Manager at UCAS
- Rick Rude, Experienced Contact Centre Manager
- James Spreadbury, Director of Leveraging Difference Ltd.