Dave Salisbury argues that the modern-day contact centre should have a purpose and a mission, to improve leadership and our relationships with the wider business.
One complex organization currently has six primary call centres conducting business. The complex organization is a US hospital, the government pays the bills, and recent actions by the call centre have mystified and puzzled employees and patients alike.
The mission of the hospital is to provide “One voice, one team, one mission” for the patients, who are a protected population.
The mission of the hospital is to provide “One voice, one team, one mission” for the patients, who are a protected population. But while the hospital has foundational knowledge, it too often fails in the application.
The head of the call centres for this organization is a sub-director-level position. The current administrator doesn’t have professional experience within the industry or skills in contact centre leadership.
Yet, because the core C-Suite leadership team does not know the purpose and mission of the contact centre, leaders can bluff, posture, and abuse. Thus, they need to understand the purpose and the mission of the contact centre – and this principle applies to every organization.
The Contact Centre Isn’t Just Another Business Unit
A contact centre is a tool for improving communication and, as such, must be utilized like any other tool: with care, precision, and purpose.
For more than 20 years, the hospital, has been working on developing and enhancing the doctors, nurses, health technicians and patients into what is named a “PACT” Team or a team of providers who team up with the patient to improve their health.
So, for this organization, the purpose and mission of the contact centre is to be the tool of the PACT team in meeting the care of the patient.
Every business with a call centre fits into this pattern; the purpose of the call centre is to reach customers or provide customers with a tool to contact the company.
The mission of the call centre then is facilitating communication – be that instant messaging, voice calls, email, smoke signals, semaphore flags, etc.
Any action to improve communication is the mission of the contact centre to meet its essential purpose of being the tool for communicating between customer and business.
Unfortunately, the leader of the contact centre hinders communication between the PACT team and patient outreach, as well as slowing inbound communication delivery from the patient to the provider, through the adulteration of key performance indicators (KPIs). This is because the leader is convinced that the efficiency of the representative is shown in how fast calls are handled (AHT), and that every call that exceeds the mandated 360-second AHT is inexcusable.
For this reason, communication among the PACT team suffers, especially when it takes around 90 to 160 seconds to verify the person calling (inbound and outbound).
Thus the problem and the solutions become clear…
4 Lessons to Learn From Other Organizations’ Mistakes
Following on from this example, let’s take a look at four problems that relate to not having a contact centre mission and purpose, and some quick fixes.
1. Create a Contact Centre Mission Statement and Ensure Your Business Leaders Know It
Business leaders must understand the purpose and mission of the call centre in the organization.
Governments think they can forget this concept, but they do so at their peril and to the frustration of the taxpayer.
Clarifying the purpose and mission of the contact centre sets the stage to measure leaders, then to measure agent performance.
Failure to understand and treat the contact centre as a tool leads to organizational distress, chaotic business processes and procedures and, in the example above, causes actual harm to the customer.
When developing a mission statement for an organization, a leader is encouraged to define three things:
- What you do
- How you do it
- Why you do it
Using this pattern, a good mission statement example for a contact centre would look something like the following:
“Our mission consists of three separate objectives:
- To be a strategic link in our customers’ communication processes, committed to exceeding their expectations around the clock.
- To provide our employees with opportunity, giving them voice to express their talent, passion, and commitment to excellence.
- To develop remarkable solutions, using our expertise and consistent, disciplined action to deliver peace of mind.”
2. Know the Meaning Behind Each of Your KPIs
KPIs are tools that help to improve how the call centre is being employed. When KPIs are used to browbeat agents, no one is being served!
If a KPI cannot be understood in an elevator speech – including why it is being measured, how to improve performance and the value of that KPI to the customer first, the agent second, and the business last – it is time to review that KPI.
If a KPI cannot be understood in an elevator speech… it is time to review that KPI.
Remember, one KPI does not make a call centre, but one KPI can destroy a call centre.
The KPI issue can be the single most damaging issue facing the employees in your organization’s contact centres, and the leader is central to the KPI problem.
3. Share Knowledge, Experiences and Information
This should be obvious, but contact centres too often hinder themselves by not openly sharing tips, practices and information sources. Even in organizations where this does happen, it is rarely in a logical and easy-to-use manner.
For example, legislation is the single most significant factor driving change some contact centres, after the individual customers. Yet it can take forever for the lawyers to explain something.
Internal tools for sharing and disseminating information must be easy to use for the agent…
Then the “lawyer language” must be interpreted into customer speak and business processes. Internal tools for sharing and disseminating information must be easy to use for the agent, not the computer programmer and the lawyer.
Currently, in this example organization, several recent legislative issues have dynamically shifted operations. But, after almost two years of planning, the contact centre still cannot answer basic questions about their care and service-related concerns.
The training materials are in “lawyer language”, the trainers are not capable of interpreting the information because the business processes are still in question, and the customer is being affected for the worse. This is all because the knowledge is not shared properly, easily, or in a systematic enough way to meet the mission of the call centre.
4. Lead With Clear Communication
Business leaders, at every level above the team leader, must be focused on leading a call centre.
Yes, this means being open to criticism when failures occur. Yes, this means being able to separate the criticism from the individual. Yes, this means taking prompt and proper action.
If your leadership team cannot explain a KPI, how are the agents going to trust the leadership team? Without organizational trust, how will communication ever be achieved?
The purpose and mission of a contact centre is communication: knowledge transfer from business to customer and from customer to business.
If you are not engaged in communicating, what are you engaged in?
Find out the keys to developing in this area with the advice presented in our article: How to Improve Internal Communication in the Contact Centre
As the famous broadcasting executive Donald McGannon once said: “Leadership is an action, not a position.”
So, what is your action? Surely that starts with having a purpose and mission?
This purpose and mission statement needs to be made crystal clear to all business leaders, as we are careful to avoid the same mistakes that US hospitals are seemingly making.
Then, we need to think about the KPIs that we are reporting on and how they reflect our mission and purpose, as well as how we communicate, with both the wider business and our contact centre team.
Thanks to Dave Salisbury, an Operations and Customer Relations Specialist, for putting together this article.
For more from Dave Salisbury, read some of his other articles by following the links below: