Is it Time to Invest in Your People?


Ladies and gentlemen, I would like for you all to clear your desks and walk out onto your call centre floor. Stand right in the middle of it and ask yourselves the question, what is the one item in your contact centre that, if it broke, or disappeared, you could not replace.The answer is your people, of course. But why is this one facet still overlooked in the majority of contact centres I visit? So many managers and directors are being brainwashed by colossal marketing messages promoting the benefits of new technology and whiz-bang gadgets, that we are forgetting about the one component which is not only expensive to replace, but will give you the competitive advantage. It is the people issue, which I believe will separate the men from the boys this year.

Too much technology

Enough with technology already! I’ve seen some glorious operations running on little more than tin cans and fishing wire. Anyone can crack open their wallets and buy some kit to route a call quicker or make a report easier to produce. The hardest challenge for a business is the investment in their people. This is despite the potential simplicity of it all. And there are so many ways to make a change.

Invest in your management

Let’s face it, you have an open team leader position, and it is between the college graduate in business management who has been there for two months, or the ex-prison officer who has been there for three years. Who would you choose? Then ask yourself where the pressure would be for you to choose?

Our industry needs to accept the fact that we will have management issues, due to the inherent dynamics that exist, such as turnover of staff. From the call centre manager and above, it’s not too much of a problem, but I have seen too many team leaders who simply were not correctly coached to manage a team of 20 personalities.

Yes, there is an investment involved. Yes, there is a risk that the team leader that you spent money on training could leave you in the next three months. But your operation will be better for it, and it will pave the way as to how to manage people, not only for your team leaders, but for your aspiring team leaders as well.

Balance financial controls and corporate pressure

However, always bear in mind that there will be a balance to be struck between financial controls and corporate pressure, the cost of deploying additional customer empathy and emotion and the processes and procedures required to keep the company moving. I am not advocating giving away the shop every time someone complains but, as with anything, each case needs to be evaluated and the decision of the agent supported by the business. In the end, there will be a historical trend you can work towards.


Keep it fun

Aim to make your environment fun. The same principle applies to work. Be driven to perform and achieve, yes. But if you become humourless and joyless in the process, customers and colleagues would rather be somewhere else. Your organisation can have a perfect system but a colourless personality. Even if you work in a serious business, you have no excuse: last year I heard the retiring chairman of the Inland Revenue in conversation with Jeremy Paxman. ‘What’s the one piece of advice you would give?’ asked Paxman. ‘If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right’, answered the taxman. If you think your business and your people have to come over as serious and intense to be considered professional, you’re really playing last century’s game.

Gene Reynolds

Gene Reynolds is a  Director at Blackchair

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 6th Aug 2008 - Last modified: 22nd Nov 2017
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy,

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  • I to agree in a friendly environment and the comment you have given so very true “perfect system but a colorless personality”

    Andrea John 7 Aug at 11:29
  • While providing simple advice this was a very good article. A lot of companies forget to invest in their people and of course have fun. We should all take something from this article.

    Marc Bowers 7 Aug at 14:37
  • The essence of call center telemarketing is training.

    From day one, our new agents go through our specialized Early System Programming (ESP) where we train agents in increasing their level of intensity and persistence of behavior. Many courageous people initially display an interest in making cold calls, but not everyone has the ability to be a professional telemarketer. A person may be highly intelligent according to a
    more conservative definition yet unmotivated to dedicate this intelligence to certain telemarketing campaigns.

    The Psychology of selling over the phone is the initial topic covered. The trainee’s mind is focused on how to prevail over rejection and to uncover a physical stamina to handle a minimum of 8 hours of quality phone calls a day. Each trainee’s fear of telemarketing is addressed openly and resolved with compassion. Prevention for burn out is discussed and will be closely monitored daily for each trainee. This key observation will filter out potential quitters while promoting career team members for your company.

    Phonetics is often discussed and is encouraged as an ongoing study for mastery. Tape recorded practice calls are made during every training session and will cover level one (easy close) to level five (non-stop rebuttal) types of calls. An analysis provided from a detailed checklist will judge the tone, rate, pitch, duration, pause, pregnant pause, delivery and timing of open and close-ended questions. Video taping a phone call in progress involves the same phonetics study along with non-verbal communication to understanding how body posture, facial expressions, hands as an illustrator and motion can dramatically improve a voice and projection Trainees must be a third party observer in order to make the necessary mental changes themselves. The only way anyone can make great strides in self-improvement is to be humbled by their own criticism. Self monitoring and reflection is what will make your telemarketing team rank among the most proficient sounding in the business.

    The telemarketing script will be transferred on to a second sheet known as a call map for easy call navigation and training. We use a straightforward flowchart to highlight critical decision points and familiar objectives during the structured conversation. Acknowledging when they ask a good question is used methodically and is essential in promoting additional conversation. Silence can be instrumental when used tactfully on the phone. Deliberate pregnant pauses are incorporated in our pitch and highlighted on the call map as an advantage for encouraging the client’s participation.

    A mandatory quiz at the end of every training program is necessary to make sure that the agents know how to handle our system and have a confident understanding of your material taught that day. The campaign information plus advanced rhetoric are a minimum of two written and oral exams that must be passed by all team members. As the training is near completion, several test calls will be made to you for final approval of the script and our team members’ ability to properly speak for your company.

    We operate all training sessions in a low pressure environment. In the beginning it is very important to build a comfort level with our processes before they are on their own. During this stage, they have to get comfortable handling issues very quickly before they are approved to make a single call for your company. The faster the agents get on the phone and take a call will improve their learning curve, become more efficient faster and would decrease their ramp-up time.

    Richard Blank 8 Aug at 22:05