Uniforms?

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Call Centre Manager

NWHSC


Do you wear uniforms in your call centre? Does anyone have data on the effect of wearing or not wearing a uniform? Your help would be great... we have a difference of opinions in our office and if anyone has data that would be VERY helpful in our decision.

Thanks!


Director of Consulting

h2i Consulting Limited


I do not work in a call centre and do not have any hard data on the effects of wearing uniforms in a call centre environment but I have worked in, with and visited many. To date, I have not come across any call centres with a 'uniform' dress code and I believe any company trying to introduce this would have a hard time. I am certain it would generate a lot of resistance from their people.

It is worth considering the reasons why uniforms are worn before trying to implement this type of policy. For example they can be worn;

• To broadcast a wearers rank or level within a hierarchy and that they are part of or belong to a specific group e.g. military uniforms

• To promote and reinforce a brand e.g. uniforms worn by airline crew

• To create an air of authority for the wearer and provide customers with comfort and reassurance e.g. an airline Pilot’s uniform

• To help customers easily identify who works for you e.g. shop staff uniforms

• To create an impression of equality or minimise differences e.g. school uniform ‘we all wear the same thing so we are all equal’

In the majority of cases the impact of a uniform is visual i.e. it is being worn to create a visual message and a call centre is not visible, in the true sense, to your customer. There is no denying that uniforms have non-visual benefits too. For example; they can make the wearer feel part of a group, or create a sense of belonging, and can encourage people to be more aware of their behaviour and conform to a required standard when wearing one. However, you do not have to go to the lengths of asking your people to wear a uniform in order to achieve the same effects in a call centre.

Dressing ‘smartly’ for work within a call centre environment or any office based environment makes sense. Again much of the impact is visual i.e. it shows that you have made an effort and if you care about your appearance you are likely to care about your work and have come to work in ‘work mode’. Other company employees interacting with the call centre are likely to be more respectful seeing their call centre agents as ’Professionals’ rather than customer service or sales ‘agents’.

For an outsourced call centre looking for business, what their people wear can be of critical importance to winning a client. I can remember sitting in the lobby of a call centre that was tendering for business from me, waiting to be taken up to a meeting room. I was early and sat waiting for about 30 minutes. During this time there was a change of work shift and I saw a large number of the call centre agents. Most were very scruffy; hems down on their trousers and skirts, some wearing trainers and most looked like they had been ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’. This made me ask if I really wanted my Company represented by people who cared so little about their appearance. Would they care about my customers? It took a lot of work on the Management’s behalf to enable me to see past the initial bad impression.

I would recommend you opt for a ‘smart’ dress code rather than asking your people to wear a uniform. For more information about the subject of dress and image, I would recommend reading ‘The Image Factor – A Guide to Effective Self Presentation for Career Enhancement’ by Eleri Sampson. I received the book as a present and it helped me get my first promotion from the equivalent of a customer service/sales agent to my first management role.

Hope this helps.


Call Centre Manager

ICS Group UK


We have a uniform in place in our call centre all agents and management are provided with an ICS branded polo shirt and fleece. The management have the option of having branded shirts and blouses instead of polo's but most just opted for the polo.

It was at first met with some resistance but now most staff are happy they do not have to think about what to wear for work or pay for it themselves.

Our visiting clients think it looks much smarter than when we just had "smart office wear", to which i have to agree.



I have also seen uniforms used well to pick out team leaders, team experts, floor walkers either using brightly coloured t-shirts or polo shirts or baseball caps. This is really helpful for new starters on large floors


Sr Manager Operations

Idexcel Ltd


I would say give freedom to your agents on dress code , As Newton said " Give me space and i can lift the earth"... I was particular about dress code at the beginning however the sales dipped as the agents were not feeling comfortable in whatever they were wearing; the team members were more comfortable in jean's and T shirts of their individual choice. When i did revert to their choice, the sales increased!

Occasionally a dress code would be fantastic to boost morale and individual performances but not on a daily basis.... said that i would like my colleague's to look good always and in all ways :)

Cheers

Regards

KM


Customer Service Manager

Watford Community Housing Trust


Hi,

I would actually say that you should consider the overall organisations branding and ethos, rather than treat this as just a contact centre decision.

In some organisations, if there is no dress code elsewhere in other departments, enforcing one in the front line service areas could alienate the staff and make them feel like show horses rather than make them feel comfortable at work.

On the whole I am a big advocate for trying to create a strong corporate image or brand, and to do that you need unity across all areas. This doesn't necessarily mean everyone must be in the same uniform, but it does mean that if your going to have one, it should meet with the corporate image and most of all be consulted on with all the staff involved.

In the team I currently manage they partially did this before I arrived, but only really within the Customer Service Team, and this has now meant that when other departments have opted for uniforms, there are multiple things being worn, ranging from suits with different coloured blouses, to a variety of polo shirts with jeans/trousers. A similar organisation to ourselves did this a little better than us and decided that they wanted to come across as friendly and approachable, so they opted for a single colour branded polo shirt regardless of the department they worked in or what level an employee was at. From CEO to CSO, everyone wears the same polo shirts. I think things like this make everyone in the organisation easily identifiable and united and helps to develop the brand image - it also goes a long way to personalising senior management and avoiding hierarchical issues.

My main point here I suppose is that consulting with staff and empowering them to make the decisions on having a uniform or not, or about which choice of uniforms they would like, is the key to ensuring a smooth implementation and positivity about uniform.

If at all possible (and I know this will depend massively on the sector you work in) consider consulting with your customers and finding out what they value - would they prefer your staff to wear uniform or not? What sort of relationship do you want to share with your customer? Formal/Informal? etc.

Hope this helps.


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