Lately, I’ve been getting asked a lot about how to create a culture of teamwork in the call center. Maybe it’s because so many of us are being asked — or required — to work remotely. Maybe it’s the social distancing expectations at work.
Regardless of the reason business owners are asking me about this, a team culture is vital for everyone’s call center. That’s because: 1) Teamwork is productive; 2) Teamwork is fulfilling; 3) Teamwork is fun.
Ask yourself: is your call center as productive as you’d like it to be? Do your call center representatives feel fulfilled at the end of the day? Does your call center seem like a fun place to work to those that walk by? If your answer to any of these questions is “Nope,” well, let’s figure out why!
Empower Your Call Center
Last year, my company, Nexstar Network, held our annual Super Meeting in Phoenix. Super Meeting is a big event that allows member-owners in our organization to come together to network and learn together. A main topic from keynote speaker Jocko Willink was how to establish one mission within a team.
The idea is simple: when a common goal is created and focused on, everyone on the team should be encouraged to do whatever it takes to get to that goal. They should be empowered to do what they need to do to produce that end result together.
Have you empowered your call center employees to be productive together? Or just individually obedient?
At the same Super Meeting, Jocko and one of the other keynote speakers, Patrick Lencioni, talked about the concept of empowerment.
Jocko called it “decentralized command.” He spoke about the importance of ensuring that every person on the team truly knows the mission. Jocko went on to suggest that – with the right leadership in place, and the right mission in front of a company – every person in the organization should be empowered to do what it takes to accomplish that mission.
Pat Lencioni said, “The best way to give freedom to our employees is to draw the boundaries and turn them loose.”
Can you say that you’re doing this? I would estimate that 90 percent of the individuals in leadership I speak with regularly aren’t comfortable with empowering their call center to this level. If that’s you, ask yourself, “Why aren’t I comfortable with that?”
- Are you hiring the wrong people?
- Are you expecting too little out of customer-facing employees?
- Do you have a hard time trusting people?
- Are you untrustworthy?
No part of me is suggesting that you should empower your CSRs to make $10,000 decisions. However, if you suggest to them that they should consider themselves capable of making big decisions, and then set the stage for them to contribute as if they were…well, who knows what might happen?
One of my mentors told me once that the seven most powerful words in leadership are, “I don’t know. What do you think?” When was the last time you were vulnerable enough to ask your call center team what they thought about a higher-level topic that they could play a major role in?
The Importance of Why
If you’re like many other leaders, you talk to your call center team. You tell them what you need. Maybe you even feel you’ve explained what you need a thousand different ways, and you’re certain they’re just ignoring you at this point.
Have you stopped to ask yourself why you’re not getting what you need from your team? Do they understand the reason — the why — behind your requests? Or are you just taking the nodding from your team as a sign that they understood, and then moving on, hopeful that they’ll just “get it this time”?
Where are your fingers pointing? What ownership are you taking in this?
I’d like to suggest that you begin having “why” conversations with your employees and, as Jocko suggested, asking for a brief-back (a repetition, in an employee’s own words, of what you just said) when you’ve had your conversations. Take a moment to learn from your past failures before moving on again, only to make the same mistakes.
This way, you’ll gain insight into your employees’ understanding of the topic and your own ability to explain the “why.” Pay attention to what you hear from employees, rather than just getting frustrated and explaining things louder the next time around.
With a common mission that everyone on the team really understands and believes in, you’ll start to see teamwork in your call center evolve naturally. When your call center employees individually stop being “just a CSR” or “just a dispatcher” and start becoming high-performing, valued members of a team, they’ll want to work together even more. With that real understanding of the “why”, along with a newfound appreciation for empowerment and teamwork, previously undoable things start to happen.
Ready to go have a conversation that you know you need to have? Let’s go!