People Management

by Niels Kjellerup, editor & Senior Partner of Resource International.

These articles & ideas are based on the know how and experience gained over the years working as a consultant with companies all over the world. The problems and issues always seem to be the same. If you can understand the ideas, they become yours to work with. All I ask is that you acknowledge the source. If you want to discuss issues raised or let me know some of your own insights please do contact me. The thorny issue of copyright means that you cannot commercially use my materials, issue them in any form as your own. Hopefully that won’t prevent you from applying the ideas to your Call Centre.


People Management

a. Defining People Management

b. Motivation is getting another person to ...

c. Motivation - Do’s and Don’t

d. How to develop your Coaching skills

e. Tips for Training and helping your People Improve

f. Developing People Potential

g. Empowerment relates to One’s ability to Respond

h. Empowerment - really means trust

i. A study of Employee Turnover

j. The 4 Biggest Mistakes a Supervisor can make by Stephanie Goddard Davidson CEO of Call Center Solutions

If you liked these articles have a look at The Managers Bookstore .

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People Management 

People Management, or lack of it, is the real barrier to productivity in any Call Centre.

In most Call Centres, the pressure to improve productivity tends to keep management away from the people. The focus is on meeting budget procedures and searching for other shortcuts to beat the system and pretend improvement .... which is only real on paper.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the Call Centre is being managed like a Galley Slave; and despite all the visions and dreams about customers and how important the front-line people are, many Call Centres are not very nice places to work.

What goes wrong? Management goes wrong. From Supervisor to Centre Manager, they don't know how to cope with the productivity pressures from senior management .... and go for the quick fix of measuring quantitative results and using those measurements to try and show that productivity is improving.

What is lacking is giving Call Centre management the know-how and tools to build real productivity increases!

First of all let's define productivity .... Call Centre productivity must measure the improved value of customer interaction with the organisation.

The Call Centre adds value to the rest of the organisation - so this value needs to be defined and measured in terms which make it relative to the cost of the centre.

How well is the Call Centre doing?

Is it adding more value than it is costing?

How can we increase that value at a reduced cost?

The importance of customers to a company has been greatly under-rated and only in the last 2-3 years have some senior managers started to walk the talk of getting customer focussed. Call Centres are attempts to provide customers with easy access to the company at a reasonable cost.

There is a need for a workable definition of what is a customer .... A customer is someone who buys your products or service more than once; or who given the option, is willing to go through the experience again.

The cost of selling becomes prohibitive if a company has to start all over again each time a sale takes place; so repeat sales help keep sales cost down.

In financial circles within the organisation, the role of the call centre is to provide cheap customer access - and it's this view of the call centre which too often dominates. It is far more important for the Call Centre to provide a measurable revenue increase at a reduced cost; while at the same time helping the organisation get to know the customers better and build a usable database.

Recent research from the USA by AT&T Global Information Services(now NCR) shows that 81% of CEO's feel they don't know their customers and 51% say that Information Technology hasn't helped.

So the big future role of call centres will be to provide a cost effective way for the company to get to know its customers.

It used to be a joke among Call Centre experts that one could measure a company's real customer focus, on a numerical scale, by the number of floors senior management was removed from the call centre! However it is no joke that Dell Computer in Austin Texas has management on the seventh floor and the call centre on the sixth floor - and Michael Dell spends as much time as possible on the phone.

Not knowing your customers and what they want is the ultimate in corporate no-no in the next century.

So who's ahead? Companies that allow their call centres to feedback customer know-how into the organisation - and use it!

Does it increase productivity? Yes ... because it takes time out of the sales process; we don't have to start all over again with each sale.

This benefits the customer and helps to improve sales productivity; all thanks to our friendly call centre. So why do we find Galley Slave call centres in Australia? Management doesn't know any other way and no-one demonstrated a call centre could prosper and still be a happy work place.

Galley slave centres are always a disaster ... your people will treat the customers exactly how they are treated.

So Call Centre management need to be shown that there is another way .... by developing the potential of their people's and trusting them to become "Customer Intelligent".

What is Customer IQ? ... Customer IQ is intelligence displayed by company employees in a given customer related situation.

Research has demonstrated that companies make their front-line employees feel stupid in customer situations by predefining rules and regulations which take away the employees own judgement.

Rules are often used to "kick the brains out" of a service or sales rep - so that all they have left to offer the customer is the artificial friendship of a stranger who cannot help.

Stop! Customers are not out to rip off the company and the rep is probably the person best positioned to judge how the situation should be handled without giving the shop away.

The true problem is that managers have seen their role as rule givers and then as rule benders ... but this adds time to the sales process and inconvenience to all involved.

Solution - let's let the people use their customer IQ and the managers spend their time looking after the people!

The real definition of Customer Intelligence (CIQ) is ... The ability of an individual employee in a given situation to differentiate relative importance of rules, policies and regulations and do what is right for the customer and the company.

With customer IQ in mind, it is easy to redefine the role of call centre management as helping their reps become more customer intelligent by encouraging the questioning of rules and regulations which impede the customer interaction and relationship building.



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Motivation is Getting Another Person to Want to .... 

In an automated Call Centre, every second of every minute of the telephone person's working day is monitored. No other job is subject to measurement of this extreme nature. Combine this with the fact that, in many centres, people do not feel that what they do has any real value, for themselves or to the organisation. So motivation becomes a rather difficult task.

It is critical that people feel that there is a value to what they are doing

The article by Professor Fredrick Herzberg "One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees" is the most re-printed article in the history of Harvard Business Review. This offers some views on motivation which are quite contrary to many widely-accepted ideas.

Herzberg tells us that all motivation usually comes down to KITA, meaning "Kick In The A..."; which may be either positive and negative. Negative KITA occurs when we induce action through fear of what will happen if it's not done. Positive KITA gives the same result but we think it's OK because we offer a carrot instead of a stick! In either case, the results are short-lived and we have to keep thinking of bigger KITA's to maintain action.

Neither positive or negative KITA will create what is known as the "self-motivated" person. KITA may charge and recharge the batteries, but it is only when a person has their own generator that we can talk about motivation!

Herzberg also shows us the difference between what he calls motivation and hygiene factors. His research points out that motivation factors are the primary contributors to Job Satisfaction while hygiene factors are the primary cause of Job Dissatisfaction. It is also interesting to note that factors which have been commonly believed to be motivators are, in fact, hygiene factors. Such things as salary, status and working conditions commonly used as motivators, are in fact, hygiene factors.

As these factors are quite different, the obvious conclusion is that the opposite of Job Satisfaction is not Job Dissatisfaction, but rather no Job Satisfaction. Just as the opposite of Job Dissatisfaction is no Job Dissatisfaction.

Herzberg concludes with the advice that Job Enrichment is the only real source of Job Satisfaction and motivation.



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Motivation - Do's and Don'ts 

It seems that most managers feel (or hope!) that there is a quick fix to the motivation issue ... a pixie dust dispenser which simply turns people into motivated workers. The truth is that the work environment which you create is your pixie dust ... it's the need to continually recreate this motivational environment which seems to drive most managers up the wall.

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with Professor Frederick Herzberg's article One More Time: How Do you Motivate Employees, it is suggested that you read and study this article from Havard Business Review.)

We need a working definition which will tell us what motivation is and what it isn't ... Motivation is not charging and recharging somebody else's batteries. It is helping the person locate and operate their own power generator.

So please make a list of the incentive schemes and other "bribes" you use to motivate your people ... and please look at who is doing the recharging of the batteries. The question to ask yourself is ... "If I stopped this incentive today, would they still keep going?"

In a practical sense, it could be said that to motivate is "to make a person feel valuable when they are; and to help them become valuable when they aren't."

So motivation definitely demands a very active hands-on type management. The opposite is the Galley Slave type management style; where managers issue decrees, memos and rulings in order to keep the staff at arm's length - this kills productivity as well as motivation.

You should scrutinise any initiative aimed at motivating people by looking at ... 1. who is charging the batteries and 2. if the motivating initiative is ended, will the activity continue?



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Developing Coaching Skills 

Learning is finding out what you know ...

Doing is demonstrating that you know it ...

Training is identifying and overcoming barriers to doing.


To become a good or excellent coach you should ...


• know there is something valuable for your people to know

• be excellent in application of what you coach

• know the information you have to coach with is valuable

• want your people to apply it well

• be willing to allow inadequate application by your people as they learn

• help your people identify their barriers to learning

• by drilling and doing, help them to overcome barriers.




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Tips for Training and helping your People Improve 

The purpose of training should be.. to help each individual overcome their own personal barriers to excellence and productivity. These barriers, unless identified and addressed directly will prevent good communication results.

So the first point in any training is to show that everyone, including the trainer, has barriers to learning. And only by realising that the barriers must come out in the open and be confronted, is it possible to tackle each individual barrier.

Before any learning can take place, people need to realise that they don't know what they don't know; in other words, they must be able to feel that there is something for them to learn.

It is the ability of an effective trainer to take people over their barriers that distinguishes training from education.

Five rules for tackling barriers to communication ...

1. Training sessions must be highly disciplined activities with no interruptions permitted

2. A coaching system must be in place which encourages each student to take responsibility for the progress of another (a mate system)

3. Training must be on a gradient to prevent students being over-whelmed by their own barriers.

4. Lots of two-person communication drills designed to help participants identify and overcome barriers.

5. Encouragement and support are the key tools - invalidation and intimidation are banned as training tools; they only make individual barriers more difficult to confront.




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Developing People Potential

One would have a hard time working in a Call Centre environment without noticing how results and productivity depend on the people and how they are managed. Experienced Call Centre Managers will tell you that running a centre is 75% people, 15% systems and 10% integration.

Why, then, does it seem to be so difficult to establish on-going training programs for people in a Call Centre?

Two answers come to mind...

1. Without a direct link between individual productivity and the training, any on-going training program appears to be extravagant.

2. The training isn't particularly good or valuable - it's looked upon more as a morale booster to get people out the doldrums; so it's hard to measure return on investment!

So, if we cannot truly measure and document marked improvement in individual performances, any training would be short-lived due to lack of support ( and funding) from senior management.

Nice, but not needed is US-slang for on-going training.

The three rules for establishing an on-going training program in a Call Centre ....

1. The Training must actually work - and benefit the individual attending.

2. The Call Centre Manager must know the training works. Not wish, not hope but know from experience.

3. The Call centre Manager and Training Officer must measure and document, individual by individual, the positive results of the training, both quantitative and qualitative.

If you can't do these three things, then the training is either done badly or isn't working - and more dramatic measures are called for.



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Empowerment Relates to One's Ability to Respond 

Empowerment becomes no more than a word if the environment is not created where people are able to act. This encompasses both technical ability and work environment.

General Electric Business Information Centre (GEBIC) is known world-wide as one of the most successful implementers of Staff Empowerment. This has been the result of many years of true dedication to the philosophy, many hours of practical demonstration of commitment and unshakable support of senior management.

GEBIC has identified several critical factors to this success. Among these are ....

1. Focus on people. Knowing and understanding the unique qualities of individuals and appreciating how each complements the others. Empowerment then instills individuals with the confidence and freedom to effect change.

2. Create a team spirit. Focusing on the team as well as the individual ensures that both will succeed. "Give" and "take" come into balance, while "we" replaces "I" as the most important word in the process.

3. Build a caring sharing environment of trust. The first essential is an open mind by all people at all levels. Views are volunteered not forced, and receive an honest hearing.

4. Get management support. Management has to believe in and be a part of the process.




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Empowerment - really means trust 

Staff empowerment has becomes one of the "buzz words" of the nineties. Articles in magazines, speakers at seminars and business development consultants will all confirm that staff empowerment is a critical step towards improving customer satisfaction, increasing productivity and growing company profits ... it's what all the successful companies are doing!!

Truth is, however, that very few companies understand (or want to understand) what staff empowerment really is.

It's a huge cultural change; and one which many managers are reluctant to embrace or, more truthfully, are afraid to embrace. After all, if we empower the staff, what's left for the managers to do? The answer is quite simple.

Manage the people ... not enforce rules and sign pieces of paper! Helping people grow and develop becomes the primary function of the manager. This, of course, requires managers who are confident in their own ability and don't feel threatened by working with good people.

It often happens that front line people are expected to handle the responsibility of dealing directly with customers - but are rarely given the authority the aligns with that responsibility.

Wherever there is a lack of balance between authority and responsibility, there is an "impossible" job. The person becomes frustrated and disheartened because they are never unable to really do their job.

The manager must trust the people with the appropriate authority to do their job properly and act in the best interest of the customer and the company.

It's an on-going journey ...

When working towards staff empowerment, the people must learn to be comfortable with the authority and responsibility ... and the managers must learn to "let go".

After working on this for many years, GEBIC tells us that there are two things to remember constantly -

1. Take your time. Don't expect too much, too fast. The journey towards self-direction generates conflicts and set-backs. It's normal to fall back and then inch ahead again; to feel uncomfortable before feeling comfortable. Take whatever time is needed to do it right. It won't be easy or fast ... but it will be worth it.

2. Enjoy the journey. It's an on-going process that daily offers new challenges; don't rush it' and keep it fun!!


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