n some call centers, you can feel the energy as soon as you walk in the door. It takes many forms: pride of workmanship, a feeling of community, good planning, coordination and the willingness to make the “extra effort.” Everybody knows what the mission is and everybody is pulling in the same direction. The call center “clicks.” While there are a myriad of factors that go into creating this sort of environment, there are overarching characteristics that emerge in call centers that consistently outperform others in their respective industries….
They Have a Supporting Culture
Culture – the inveterate principles or values of the organization – tends to guide behavior, and can either support and further, or, as some have learned the hard way, ruin the best laid plans for organizational change. While there’s no guaranteed formula for creating a supporting culture, many seasoned call center managers agree that shaping culture – or, more correctly, enabling it to flourish – is a primary leadership responsibility. As a result, they spend an inordinate amount of time understanding the organization and the people who are part of it. How do leading call centers create high-performance cultures? How do they communicate their mission and values in a way that gets buy-in and alignment? Although call centers vary dramatically from organization to organization, there are four characteristics that stand out.
Commitment to Effective Communication
Communication creates meaning and direction for people. Organizations of all types depend on the existence of what Warren Bennis, noted organizational theorist, calls “shared meanings and interpretations of reality,” which facilitate coordinated action. When good communication is lacking, the symptoms are predictable: conflicting objectives, unclear values, misunderstandings, lack of coordination, confusion, low morale and people doing the bare minimum required, to name a few.
Leaders of high-performance call centers are predisposed to keeping their people in the know. They actively share both good news…and bad. This minimizes the rumor mill, which hinders effective, accurate communication. It also contributes to an environment of trust. As Bennis puts it, “leadership…is based on predictability. The truth is that we trust people who are predictable, whose positions are known and who keep at it; leaders who are trusted make themselves known, make their positions clear.” They also work hard to ensure they aren’t sending conflicting messages. Leaders of high-performance call centers also recognize an interesting paradox: too much communicating inhibits effective communication. There is an optimal level of communication beyond which further communication becomes counterproductive. Too many meetings, memos, conferences, electronic mail messages and on-the-fly discussions may be symptoms of weaknesses in the process, or worse, a lack of trust in the environment.