Why Mindfulness Belongs in Your Call Center
Feb06

Why Mindfulness Belongs in Your Call Center

  Practicing mindfulness has been a popular concept in western society for many years now. Introducing mindfulness in the workplace has become fairly common, especially for corporate leadership teams. These tools are not just for the leadership any more. Successful mindfulness and meditation programs have been integrated at every level in major companies like General Mills, Ford, Aetna, Google and Procter & Gamble, just to name a few. Customer service and contact center staff need the tools to reduce stress, increase focus and productivity, as much, if not more than the average office worker. It is a tough job emotionally. Unfortunately, many of the workplace mindfulness programs available require a commitment to downtime for participation that is just not practical in a contact center situation. The good news is that introducing mindfulness on a smaller scale, in a less intrusive way to the work shift still has a positive impact! Case studies have shown improvement on just about every KPI with the contact centers that simply gave instruction on mindful breathing and encouraged agents to practice it throughout their day. Better metrics, happier customers and more engaged agents are results we all want to know more about. Without doubt, there is a place for some level of mindfulness in your contact center.   Let’s back up for a minute and make sure we are on the same page about what mindfulness is and what it means. There are varying degrees of misconception, not only about what mindfulness is but how accessible it can be. Simply put, mindfulness is focusing on and living in the moment. That’s it. Being here and now, giving attention to this moment in time. Easier said than done. Mindfulness techniques are used to work toward achieving the state of being in the moment and focused on one thing at a time. No one is ever completely mindful 24 hours a day, every day, hence the term “practice”. There are effective and positive benefits to practicing mindful techniques whether you spend hours or merely minutes a day on the process. So, now that we understand what it is, how and why does it belong in your call center?   There are three main ways I have seen the introduction of mindfulness to a team of agents affect positive change:   Retention – Investing in an agent’s EI (Emotional Intelligence) creates a loyalty and desire to excel at their jobs. A small midwestern call center I worked with last year was really struggling with attrition. This was compounded by being in a location with a very limited pool of candidates. It was important that they retain the...

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Lead With Authenticity
Sep09

Lead With Authenticity

It used to be that leadership created an intentional barrier between themselves and their people. A manager would not risk compromising the clean simplicity of working relationships by dragging in the messiness of real life. For better or worse, these days are far behind us. In order lead your employees well, you’ve got to put yourself out there. Your people want to know you, the real you, and share meaningful life experiences in and out of the office. It is possible, however, to go too far into the personal realm and lose your ability to effectively manage. How does the 21st century leader find balance? How can we relate as messy, imperfect people, but still command the respect required to produce results? The following is a collection of simple tips to help you find balance and lead with refreshed sincerity. These are leaders who greatly value human connection, and have used the power of relationships to ultimately improve both the employee and the customer experience.   A great rule of thumb is to envision a model of great customer service and deliver that to your team members. They are after all your internal customers. Listen to them– deeply. If they share about a personal struggle or challenge, take note and follow up with them to see how they’re doing. Do your darndest to be flexible around what’s most important to them– whether it’s taking a longer break to see their kid perform at school or taking off a little early on their birthday. That stuff goes a long way to show transparency and build deeper connection with your staff. – Jeremy Watkin   Being a 21st-century leader means periodically putting away the technology and asking better questions. What’s going on in your home life? What motivates you to come to work every day? What drives you to do well in your job? We have such a tendency to focus on metrics, and KPIs, and goals, and we forget that there is a human behind all of it. I was chatting with Russ Laraway from Candor Inc. recently and he mentioned that leaders are having too many imposter conversations with their teams. They need to be having better conversations. “You have to understand someone’s past and someone’s future in order to know what they will do in their present.” It all starts with better questions. – Sarah Stealey Reed   The best leaders I’ve met are the ones who give employees time and attention before problems flare up. These leaders make themselves available to employees all the time. They hang out. One excellent leader I knew volunteered to serve as a scribe during problem-solving...

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A Promise of Positivity
Mar20

A Promise of Positivity

  I took my promise of positivity on January 30th, 2014.  No, I don’t wear a special promise ring like the Jonas Brothers.  I do, however, require a “mind check” coming in the door each morning. If you were to leave your work environment today, would it be a better or worse place tomorrow?  So many of us detract from our environments in ways we don’t even realize.  It’s easy to take a “victim” mentality to the things around us we don’t like.  We owe it to ourselves, our families, and our coworkers to do better. There will always be frustrations at work.  This is the constant….your  reaction is the variable.  You can either choose to make the situation better and build up those around you – or you can fade into the ever popular realm of negativity and mediocrity.  Don’t settle for the later.  If you feel truly incapable of bringing positive change to your work environment, it’s time to move on.  If, however, you can be an agent for positive change then it is time to commit to making a difference.  Here are some recommendations from my “promise of positivity.”  You will need to customize yours depending on yourself and your environment: I will value relationships over results.  There is no metric or revenue goal that is worth dehumanizing another person. Providing it is not in conflict with my integrity and values, I will support the leadership of our organization. I will pursue excellence in everything I do.  I will take great pride in my work. I will find solutions to problems to make the work experience more meaningful for everyone. I will not cause harm to my co-workers through conversation that tears them down, whether they are present or not. As Kevin and Jackie Freiberg describe in their book BOOM!, your most powerful attribute is the freedom to choose.  I have not been perfect on keeping my promise, but it reminds me that I am not a victim of any situation.  To take your commitment to the next level, have a signed document between you and your mentor holding you accountable to the change.  I would love to hear your own “promise of positivity” in the comments.  Let’s make each other better!  Return to Customer Centric Support   Share...

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Become An Organic Leader
Mar14

Become An Organic Leader

Whats one thing you don’t need to be a leader?  Written permission from your company. Traditional hierarchy leadership models serve an important purpose; they clearly identify managers and create a ranking system for decision making.  What a hierarchy leadership model will not do, however, is determine who the true leaders are.  This post is for those who wish to expand their impact and influence, but feel stick in role or defined set of responsibilities. I remember learning the principles of organic leadership the hard way.  Early in my support career I was awarded the designation of “team lead.”  At first I thought it was an official position that carried with it authority and power; I couldn’t have been more wrong!  While the “position” was completely unofficial, the responsibilities and expectations of the role were very real.  I had to find ways to lead my peers on common ground.  The year that followed was one of the most frustrating, yet beneficial, periods of growth I’ve experienced in my professional career.  If you’re waiting for a promotion to start demonstrating your leadership caliber, don’t!  You can begin establishing yourself as an organic leader at any time.  Learning early on to lead without hiding behind a title has made me a far more effective manager today. Here are seven ways to become an organic leader regardless of your “official” role: 1)      Relationships – This is first and will always be first.  If you do not sincerely care about the people you work with, you cannot lead them.  You must earn the right to lead the people around you through authenticity and example. 2)      Start a Toastmasters Club – Toastmasters provides an outstanding opportunity to develop leadership traits and practice them in a safe environment.  You will be amazed at the correlation of becoming a better communicator and becoming a better leader.  There’s bound to be a club near you, and if there’s not, start one. 3)      Become a Mentor – Help a newer peer on your team.  Not only will it help you to learn through the process of teaching, but it will send a powerful and positive message to everyone around you. 4)      Have a Mentor – There will not always be someone in your organization available to challenge you.  Don’t let that be a stumbling block to your advancement!  Find out who the thought leaders are in your community and engage with them. 5)      Pursue Knowledge – In the support world there are so many great certifications that are relatively inexpensive…HDI, Service Strategies, ITIL, Lean / Six Sigma Green Belt, Microsoft…the list goes on.  Knowledge is a powerful form of leadership...

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Survival Mode Kills You (And Your Team)
Mar01

Survival Mode Kills You (And Your Team)

“The strong survive, but the courageous triumph.” –          Michael Scott, The Warlock   Have you settled for survival?  Does your everyday become a fire drill that leaves you emotionally barren?  It’s time to stop.  Not only does survival mode prevent you from moving your team forward, but it will inevitably lead to collapse.  It’s time to shake off the victim mentality and become something more!   In the illustrious words of Miley Cyrus, “We run things, things don’t run we.”  Leaders do not let situations manage them; they manage situations.  This can be especially difficult in service management, where fire drills are just part of the gig.  Break the cycle.  Take a few minutes and leave the demands of your work environment – give yourself an opportunity to rise above the immediate needs and anticipate what problems are soon to happen.  Identify trends that steal away your time and energy.  Instead of walking right back into the same old trap, think of how you can eliminate the root cause.  It is far easier to prevent the fire than to put it out once it starts.   The Victim Mentality A person ruled by a victim mentality is always looking for something to blame.  If there is not a fire burning, they will find one.  Not having a situation to absorb their time and energy will put them a scary place – they will have to get out of reactive mode and face themselves.  This is very difficult for most people.  It is much easier to appear important through managing various fires then it is to actually think strategically. Constant fire-fighting may make you feel busy and important, but this is an illusion!   Here are a few critical actions that a victim is generally incapable of: Investing In People– If you are a manager, it is critical to note that you are not the only casualty of the fires you allow to burn.  Your team pays a heavy price for these distractions.  You will have good intentions of developing your direction reports, but can just “never find the time.” Thinking Strategically – You can not move from a reactive environment to a proactive one without intentional effort.  It will require carving out time free of distraction and fire-fighting to look beyond the now and see the big picture.  Only when you take the time to envision your improved future-state can you take steps to raise the bar and get there. Eliminating Recurring Frustrations – One of the biggest causal factors in turn over is having a “thorn in the flesh” that never goes away.  Do you understand the pain points that your team...

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