Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Customer contact center performance: Better attitudes, better bottom-line results come in three steps

By Bob Davis

How many people who work with you really love their work, or for that matter, love life? Many of us work with people every day who hate their jobs. So the question is, what can be done to help them feel better about themselves, what they do for a living, and life itself?

Harvard professor William James once said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” Now, I realize that believing that this statement is true and being able to change one’s own attitude are two different things. It is even harder to change the attitudes of one’s employees.

I have given this subject a great deal of thought, because my consulting organization has a couple of high-profile culture change projects going on right now. How does one go about changing the attitudes of an individual, or the attitudes of many individuals, within an organization?

Maybe your company has gone through challenges such as layoffs and furloughs. These trying times can really drain morale from a company. Or maybe you are trying to transform the culture of your organization to drive higher sales or more proactivity in customer service and retention. In any case, I’ll bet the ideas discussed below will be of significant interest to you.

Hugh Downs once said, “A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Yet sometimes we think that to help our people love their jobs, we need to change the circumstances. Maybe if we just provided free snacks or other perks, or gave them all a raise, our people would be happier. This might help in the short term, but not for more than a few weeks.

So how do you move team members from “I hate my job” to “I love my job, and I love life?” One thing I have learned, having accomplished this in many organizations over the years, is that you can’t do it in one big jump. People need to move through steps to get to the point where they can say, “I love my job.”

Step one: Know you can control your attitude
The first step toward being able to control one’s attitude is to know you can do it. In my experience, many people have never thought about the fact that we are as happy as we make up our minds to be, and that it takes just as much effort to be miserable as it does to be happy. Once accepting this truth, a person has taken the first step toward loving his or her job.

Step two: Feel good about yourself
The second step is improving self-confidence. We could all use a little more self-confidence at times, but most people who hate their jobs could use a lot more. It is very hard to feel good about your job when you don’t feel good about yourself.

Step three: Have a positive group of peers
The third step to improving attitude is to have a positive group of peers. This is why changing a culture within an organization is so hard. We rely on our peers to support our beliefs, and if our peers hate their jobs, too, it is a vicious cycle.

My consulting practice addresses these three steps in head-on. We run workshops on attitude control and let people know that they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to controlling attitude. Many times this is truly eye-opening for the individuals in class.

Next we work on self-confidence. Our confidence comes from our successes and our successes come from our skills. For example, I am working with a call center now that specializes in handling customer service calls for several newspapers. As you might expect, they receive calls frequently from customers wishing to cancel their subscriptions, and these calls are hard to handle. One customer service rep was not very good at keeping these customers from quitting (winning saves), and this was just one more reason why she hated her job.

As we worked on her skills at winning saves, she had more successes. She started feeling better about herself. In fact, on my last visit, she bragged to me, “I am one of the top savers now!” She said this with a big grin on her face.

A powerful number for teams
I have seen the power of teams of three. Whenever possible I put three people together to work on a challenging problem. This process leads to everyone in the group feeling better about themselves. However, you have to be careful not to put more than one person with a bad attitude about his or her job in the group. For example, I was working with a division of a large national company helping them rebuild morale after rounds of layoffs and cutbacks. In one of my groups of three people, one person was feeling bad about herself and her life, while the other two were ego-driven individuals who had the attitude that they are great at what they do. The project at hand was to win an account that had eluded them for years. The results? The person who had the bad attitude blossomed around the two with the positive attitudes, and the team won the account.

I am sure that as a leader, you are always looking for ways to grow and develop your people. The techniques discussed in this article will make a huge difference. If you would like to discuss them in more detail, I will be happy to help. I can be reached at bob@robertcavis.net or 678-548-1775.

Bob Davis is the president of Robert C. Davis and Associates (www.robertcdavis.net), a consulting firm in Alpharetta, Georgia, specializing in improving sales, customer service and retention results in customer contact centers across North America. Bob is also co-founder of Surpass (www.surpasscalls.com), a highly specialized outsource customer contact center serving the needs of business clients across the country.

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