People….Yes I’m sure they must be quite important!

I’m sure most of you have been inside a call centre. I’ve certainly been in my fair share. Some pretty good, some not so much. The public’s perception is not great but I think today this is somewhat misplaced. The days of the “battery hen with a headset” are largely behind us although some are still trying their best to cling onto this unfortunate image.

One thing I would say about a lot of call centres is that you could walk from one end of the floor to the other and have absolutely no idea what people are doing. Sure you would see a lot of people sitting in their seats and talking to people, presumably customers. But you would have no idea what they are actually doing, what they are trying to achieve. And this for me is one of the fundamental problems of working in a call centre. The people feel very dis-connected from the Purpose of their role. But let’s come back to Purpose in a moment.

Let me very quickly describe the role of a call centre adviser. After a few weeks of training they’re off to the call centre floor to talk to customers to hopefully solve their problems. The times at which they do this are very structured and highly directed. “Don’t be late now” the customers are waiting to speak to you. Once in their seat they start talking to customers. Now this isn’t nice little chit chats these conversations tend to come with at least 4 or 5 personal targets some of which can be conflicting. Forecasting how many of these customers will call can be difficult, particularly when you are trying to keep your costs low, so the calls just keep coming in. There isn’t much time for anything else. Oh and one final thing…..we are going to record everything you say. So be on your best behaviour now!

In his book “Drive” author Daniel Pink says there are three factors that are fundamental to increasing employee satisfaction, motivation and performance :-

Autonomy – Our desire to be self-directed

Mastery – The urge to get better skills

Purpose – The desire to do something that has meaning

In my view the typical call centre doesn’t cut it against these criteria. Now things need to get done and as in all businesses there are some rules that need to be followed but creating an Environment that gives people more say in how they go about their day, is building a Culture that has their development at its core and has a Vision that makes them feel part of something bigger are all things that can be achieved. But if, and only if, leaders want and know how to make it so.

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