How to transform your Contact Centre: start with the purpose

Having a team that understands and believes what are they there to do for an organisation is probably the first and most important step in transforming contact centre operations.

Everyone who wakes up, goes through the pain of peak morning traffic, to get to work wants to know that they are doing it for a reason. And that reason can’t be just money. We all want to feel that what we do every day contributes to something, and people working in contact centres are no different.

In fact, understanding the purpose of a contact centre is usually quite simple. In many organisations will be simply,  to “serve customers”.

So, if it is so simple, why do we see low engagement and high turnover in contact centres? In my view, it is mainly because of a lack of connection and correlation between the purpose of the contact centres (what they are there to do) with the measures (how do we know how we are doing).

Many contact centres have developed some sort of purpose or team mission around servicing customers; something along the lines of “delight our customers”, “deliver excellent service”, etc…but in most cases the metrics used to measure the team will be based around managing calls or activity - Average Handling time, Calls answered in many seconds (Grade of Service), etc. – making the purpose absolutely meaningless for the people working there.

Another reason why I feel some contact centres will be struggling with this crucial part is because sometimes the purpose of the team would be just a bunch of words crafted by the management in the company and cascaded down to the team for them to believe.  To make a purpose really meaningful to team members, the team must be part of the creation of the purpose.

So, what is a good way to do this? How can you achieve a purpose led team? If your organisation has a company purpose, that is great start. You can use that as a guiding principle. Then, bring together a working group that is equally represented by both team members and leaders. This will ensure that what they come up with will genuinely represent what the team is there to do.

So now you have a team developed purpose. The most important part of the process is to get buy in from the rest of the team on the purpose. A really good way to achieve this is by having a session with the entire team where everyone describes in their own words what that purpose means for them in their day to day job. This really connects the team to the purpose by changing it into powerful and meaningful words. You'll find that people come up with statements like: “be a source of enthusiasm and knowledge”, “supporting one another”, “be the example that drives improvements”, “be positive and happy to help”, etc…

Finally, make sure you keep all those descriptions and stick them up on a wall around the team. Make them very visible for everyone. Keep that as the “team purpose wall” and when things go wrong in the team or when times are tough; don’t try to rectify them by focusing on meaningless metrics. Take the team to the Team Purpose Wall and remind them why they are there. 

At the end of the day, stuff gets done when people care to do it. There is no plan or method that changes that equation.