Industry News

[February 16, 2005]

Builders, Cutters and Maintainers:

Builders, Cutters and Maintainers:
How to Strike the Right Balance in Your Contact Center

by Kim Davis

Your customer relationships often hinge solely on the performance of your contact center agents. But who are these people on your front lines? How can you be sure they're handling your customers with proper care?

In any contact center environment, agents fall into three main categories: builders, cutters and maintainers. Identifying who's who and striking the right balance means the difference between success and disaster.

Behind the Categories
Builders are ambitious achievers who thrive on contributing. They champion management decisions and encourage others to do well. They're enthusiastic about solving problems and making a difference. They need challenging work, freedom to innovate and recognition for their accomplishments. Builders expect to rise through the ranks.

Cutters live at the other end of the spectrum. Pessemistic and cynical, they do just enough to get the job done. They're prone to water cooler gossip, rumor-mongering and criticizing management decisions. They're quick to blame others and are rarely accept accountability for their own actions. Essentially, they undermine the fabric of an organization and negatively affect productivity and morale.

Maintainers are the constant. They arrive and leave on time. They do what's required - no more, no less. What they lack in ambition they make up for in reliabile, consistent work. However, they can be positively influenced by builder behavior - or negatively swayed by cutters.

“Right” Versus “Best”
So it's a no-brainer. Just fill your center with builders and collect your profits, right? Wrong.

Even if you could hire only builders, you wouldn't have enough time to keep them perpetually challenged. Adding a few sales responsibilities wouldn't do the trick. And you couldn't possibly nurture every single one for succession into leadership positions.

In short order, a large proportion of your agents would become dissatisfied. And disastisfied builders either leave your company for a better job - adding to attrition woes - or worse, they become infectious cutters.

Meanwhile, if you just hired maintainers, your bottom line would sorely miss the value that comes only from ambitious agents eager to show initiative, go the extra mile for customers and improve team performance. Plus, you can't underestimate the cost and time benefits of filling supervisory roles from within.

One thing is certain: There is never room for cutters. But it's unrealistic to think you can stay cutter-free. Instead, you can strive to build a successful contact center with the right mix of builders and maintainers, while keeping the number of cutters to a very manageable minimum.

You Need to Know
Achieving harmonic agent balance begins and ends with knowledge. First, you have to know your contact center's growth capacity. When you determine how many supervisory positions you will have at any given point, you can calculate the number of builders you have room for.

Second, you have to know who is who - how to tell builders and maintainers from cutters. Nothing gives you this foresight like assessment testing.

With automated tools like SACS assessment software, you can accurately predict how well people will perform in any given job in your contact center, from inbound service to outbound sales to collections. Your own holistic interviewing can then determine their willingness to do the job for you.

You have too much riding on your contact center to leave anything to chance - especially the people responsible for keeping your customers satisfied. Sustaining the right mix of the right agents will produce the right results for your organization.

Kim Davis is president of Select International Canada. Select's SACS is the agent assessment software proven to help contact centers cut attrition and boost productivity. Launched in October 2004, is now the only site dedicated to helping contact centers tackle attrition and other critical issues through accurate assessment.

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