Here are eight tips for dealing with quick fixes that change contact centre processes.
1. Measure Before and After
If the organisation is going to invest resources in a particular programme, choose the right metrics to measure the impact of the programme before and after it is introduced. If the current metric results are not measured, it will be impossible to accurately determine the impact of the programme.
2. Give the Fix Enough Time to Correctly Gauge Its Value
Organisational change must be more than surface polish. Organisational change needs to fundamentally affect the organisation and be allowed to produce measurable results.
Does this mean that if something is not working we keep at it? No! It means allowing sufficient time and measurement to gauge the application and the organisational change.
Many times, beta-testing the proposed change can identify the business processes, procedures and other trouble points to be mindful of or to correct in beta-testing, to ensure full organisational change may occur with a greater chance for success.
For for information about contact centre processes, have a read of this article: Introduction to Call Centre Processes.
3. Involve the Team in any Transformational Change
Get everyone involved and enthused and encourage them to be advocates for the change. Getting everyone involved is not about producing marketing materials and desk references, it requires explaining why and detailing what in the organisational change.
Getting everyone involved is not about producing marketing materials and desk references, it requires explaining why and detailing what in the organisational change.
It also means there will be feedback, pushback, and rebellion. Expect pushback, but never allow pushback to derail change. Pushback is a healthy action that provides essential opportunities for the leader to explore solutions, answer questions, and evaluate the results.
[Vax’s contact centre invites team champions from across the contact centre to sit in on team meetings and, as end-user representatives, they are part of any proposed changes to the contact centre environment or procedure.]
To find out more about this, read our article: 14 Best Practices from the Vax Contact Centre
4. Teach and Train, Train and Teach
Learning should be a constant and desirable outcome of organisational change. Teaching is not training, training is not teaching, but both are critical skills needed for leaders and learners.
Teaching is helping someone else acquire knowledge. Training is teaching a behaviour or skill. Teaching is usually one-way communication using measurement tools, e.g. tests, to gauge knowledge acquired and retained.
Training should be two-directional communication, is completed through experience in closely monitored environments, and includes 360-degree feedback to improve the training environment.
Never allow teaching and training to become the same confused term; while the terms are closely related, they are not the same action.
5. Get to Know the Team
When was the last time you discussed what you are reading with front-line employees? When was the last time you engaged a front-line worker about what they are reading or thinking and asked for suggestions to improve? When was the last time you asked to be trained on a process, procedure, or organisational action by those who do it all day? If recently, did you ask why, a lot?
Often, contact centre leaders are surprised when they have these conversations, especially since they open up opportunities to explain and expound, learn, change, adapt, and engage with those you lead.
6. Organisational Change Be Easier if You Have a Positive Culture
Organisational change requires enthusiasm from all parties to begin to engage and deepen the change from surface polish to fundamental cultural adaptation.
Enthusiasm takes many shapes, sizes, and colours, including loyal opposition, opinions, and feedback. The leader must exemplify and honour, or support, the enthusiasm around them as a tool for succeeding in changing the organisation.
For more on this topic, read our article: Create and Maintain a Positive Culture
7. Ensure That Everyone Has a Mutual Understanding of the Impacts of the Change
When confusion rears its ugly head, respond with clarification and follow-up, two-directional communication.
Clarify intentions. Clarify processes. Clarify procedures. Clarify by asking follow-up questions and reflectively listen to obtain mutual understanding. Clarification remains one of the most important tasks in organisational change.
When confusion rears its ugly head, respond with clarification and follow-up, two-directional communication. When the comprehension is doubted, ask for feedback as an opportunity to increase clarification.
Clarification is both a tool and an opportunity; do not waste this opportunity and tool by neglecting those needing clarification.
8. Use the Change to Gather Data
Organisational change needs a mechanism for gathering data from many sources, including the employees affected, the vendors, the suppliers, and the customers. Open the valve for data to flow back.
One of the most horrific organisational changes it has been my displeasure to witness was increased because the leaders operated in a vacuum and never allowed data flow that was contradictory to the previously agreed results.
The leaders in this organisation worked hard to refuse hard data which contradicted their bias, and this ruined the business, the employees, and the customers.
What Else Can Contact Centres Do to Make a Success of Organisational Change?
While it cannot be guaranteed that all these points will make organisational change succeed, without them, organisational change that promotes an environment of learning will never be more than polish.
Consider the axiom “Lipstick on a pig”. The lipstick is not bad, the pig is not bad, but placing lipstick on a pig is out of place and does nothing to improve the pig. Flavour-of-the-month changes are lipstick on a pig, not bad, but out of place until the entire organisation is on board and enthusiastically supports the change, and proper measurements are in place to gauge the change.
Business theorist Chris Argyris put forth a model, later discussed by Senge (1994), explaining our thinking process as we interact with the world, as highlighted below.
STEP 0: All the information in the world.
STEP 1: Data – I select data from what I observe.
STEP 2: Meanings – I add meanings (cultural and personal).
STEP 3: Assumptions – I make assumptions based on the meanings I added.
STEP 4: Conclusions – I draw conclusions.
STEP 5: Beliefs – I adopt beliefs about the world.
STEP 6: Actions – I take actions based on my beliefs.
This process is called the Ladder of Inference; according to this model, as we move up the ladder our beliefs affect what we infer about what we observe and therefore they become part of how we experience our interaction with other people. Organisational change can be plotted along the same model or ladder of inference.
Organisational change begins with information output; then collect data, preferably through listening and observation while doing the work; interpreting the data includes deriving meaning and deciphering understanding. Once conclusions are mutually understood, they become beliefs; but don’t stop until beliefs become actions.
If an example is needed, please benchmark Quicken Loans and Southwest Airlines. Both organisations are doing a tremendous job with the ladder steps, especially moving organisational beliefs into motivated organisational action.
Remember, one does not climb a ladder to view the horizon and scenery, one climbs a ladder to begin working, carrying the tools needed to perform the work, and possessing confident knowledge that the work can be accomplished. Climb the ladder of success with the intent to work, achieve, and move forward.
What else should contact centre leaders remember when making changes to contact centre processes?
With thanks to Dave Salisbury, an Operations and Customer Relations Specialist
Senge. P. M. (1994). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.