Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Contact Centers Need a Balance Between Flexibility, Discipline

December 31, 2012

I used to work in a call center. And I admit there were times when I felt like just a unit of human resources, when sitting in my cubicle answering calls felt dehumanizing.

It wasn’t inherently the job, but it was when I was not treated like the person I am.

We all have our job to perform, but we’re all also human beings. So let’s give each other a break, even while we do need rules.

The balance between flexibility and rules hits home in a recent post in Contact Center Express.

“Call center agents appreciate a call center that maintains a balance between discipline and flexibility,” noted the blog. “In employee surveys, one of the most common sentiments is that call center agents really appreciate managers who understand their busy schedules and allow them to leave early if they asked.”

This doesn’t mean agents are lazy. They just want to be treated like humans.

“At the same time, those agents are more likely to alert their managers to any extra time taken at lunch or on breaks, so it could be ‘docked’ from their time cards if applicable,” noted the blog.

Flexibility should not come at the expense of rules, however. Is there anything worse than the ambiguity of ill-defined company policy, when you don’t know if you’re following the rules or going against it?

“For management, the hardest part of developing rules is that those rules may not be clear to the people who actually work with them: the agents,” according to the blog. “All channels of communication culture must be open so that there is no ambiguity between call center management and call center agents.”

This means meetings must be held, e-mails must be sent out, flyers must be passed out and bulletins must be made so the rules are clear to all customer service representatives.

Once the rules have been clearly articulated, management must leave the door open to future questions in case complication arise, noted the blog.

The chain of command in the call center should be clear, too, so when there are complications it is understood who should answer them.

“In many call centers, agents report to a supervisor. If the supervisor is off on a particular day, they are referred to someone else who acts in charge of the floor,” the piece said.

“It’s important that agents communicate clearly with their floor supervisors, rather than try to skip through the upper echelons of management,” the blog noted. “The reason call centers implement a chain of command is to allow everyone time and space to do their jobs.”

“A supervisor’s job is to manage his or her call center team. Upper management then manages the supervisors. This is how the channel of communication must work and agents must be clear on this point.”

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Edited by Braden Becker

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