Several years ago I took an assignment as a Manager in an outsourcing Call Center. Shortly after I started it became clear that several areas within the department needed improvement; absenteeism was high (19%), call takers lacked the enthusiasm about the programs to deliver quality customer service and seemed unconnected to the goals and metrics.
With the overall morale of the center in a less than pleasant state the management team weighed our options. We determined that any new rules rolled out by management may be perceived as “us vs. them” by the call taking teams.
Rather than try to manage down with force we decided to get the people who were doing the work involved in the improvements.
It was clear, in order to make positive changes the call takers had to embrace the existing goals and embrace any changes we tried to make. What better way to do that then to include them in the process of making the changes. From this idea the P. R. I. D. E.
team was formed.
People Really Involved in Developing Excellence
The first step was to roll out the concept of the P. R. I. D. E. team to the supervisors. I explained how the team would work and what we hoped to accomplish with it. The supervisors then rolled out the concept in their team meetings.
Basic Roll out:
Each team on the floor votes for a representative from their team to attend the P. R. I. D. E. meetings.
P. R. I. D. E representatives gather issues, concerns and ideas from their teams and present them at the P. R. I. D. E meetings. The P. R. ID. E. Team will take action for improvement based on the ideas and discussions from each meeting.
Meeting minutes will be distributed to the floor.
Once the roll out was complete and the teams elected representatives, the first meeting was called to order. We congratulated the new P. R. I. D. E. team representatives for being voted in by their teams and broke the ice by getting to know each other.
The group agreed on some ground rules and established time limits for discussion.
I reiterated that the meetings will not be a gripe session; we will focus on improvement. We began discussing the issues challenging the center.
The high rate of Absenteeism (19%) was the issue we chose to bring to the table first. We asked the group why absenteeism was so high and asked what we as the management team could do to help.
The representative’s answers provided insight and ideas to improve attendance. Suggestions ranged from things as simple as being welcomed to work in the morning, to more challenging tasks such as supervisors building better relationships with their team members.
The ideas and thoughts we tapped into gave us direction to improve this metric. Instead of pushing an elephant up the stairs, we were following the lead to reach our destination.
After listening to and acting on the P. R. I. D. E. Team’s suggestions we started to see some very impressive changes. Over a three month period Absenteeism dropped to 3%! People were more excited about doing their jobs and finding ways to improve. There was a general buzz around the center.
Communication was one of the keys to our success. In addition to the P. R. I. D. E. Team members discussing the meetings with their team members and other co-workers, we documented the conversations from the meeting then distributed them to the floor to ensure no “behind closed door” perceptions. If time allowed supervisors would bring the P. R. I. D. E meeting notes to team meetings for discussions as well.
The meetings evolved. The more meetings we ran the more root causes we discovered. We listened to every issue big and small. We created subgroups to focus on large issues. Sometimes there were issues we could not do anything about, but we always provided an explanation on why action could not be taken. Listening to the representatives’ ideas and making changes based on them created buy in for change. The call takers were more apt to make the ideas work because they came from them.
After the P. R. I. D. E. program was well in place, I turned it over to the senior supervisors to run. It was a great development opportunity and helped build relationships throughout the group.
Overall the P. R. I. D. E Team created a paradigm shift in the center. The existence and actions of the team sent a message that everyone in the center was part of the same team. The representatives realized their importance. There was only “us” instead of “us and them”. The program created involvement, strengthened commitment to the company and opened communication gateways.
Greg Meares is the author of P. R. I. D. E. Teams and the President of Interactive Quality Solutions, Inc. If you are interested in reading more about PRIDE Teams then I recommend you visit: http://www.prideteams.com If you are a call center professional you will enjoy http://www.callcentercafe.com