Call Center a Case Study in
Employees who are trusted and given more choice over how they do
their jobs are more engaged, committed and productive. People
who know they are being trusted to be responsible do not want to
let the organization down. The foundation of an
accountability-based workplace is a high level of trust. To
create a culture where employees want to take ownership of their
jobs, managers need to trust employees.
Companies are realizing significant savings and increased
customer satisfaction from automating their customer contact
solutions. West Interactive leads the way by providing highly
skilled services, in-depth knowledge, and state-of-the-art
technology to optimize performance and return on investment.
To increase employee productivity, business leaders could learn
from employees in the technical assistance center (TAC) for a
diagnostic equipment manufacturer in Newark, Del. They took
responsibility for their own performance.
Responsible employees are more engaged and productive. They
willingly accept accountability for producing results and
continually look for ways in which they can improve their
The customer service representatives in the TAC, a call center,
took their company from last in the industry in customer
satisfaction to first place, in less than two years, because
they decided they were responsible for customer satisfaction.
They have retained that first place position for six years in a
Leadership Makes a Difference
Despite the fact that managers at the TAC were holding employees
accountable for customer satisfaction, they had not accepted
that accountability. Holding people accountable does not work.
The reason it doesn't work is that people cannot be held
accountable by someone else. They have to choose to be
accountable. People will only be accountable for what they
choose to be accountable for.
Accountability requires ownership, so for employees to be fully
accountable for the results they produce, they need to have a
say in how they do their jobs, and have input into their goals.
Get Employees Involved in Goal-Setting
Many business leaders are afraid that if they allow employees to
set their own goals, they purposely will set them low to make
life easier for themselves. But that is not what happened at the
TAC. When the management team got employees involved in
discussing what needed to be done to increase customer
satisfaction and to set a goal they thought was achievable, they
set the goal far higher than their managers thought was
realistic: 96 percent satisfaction.
Not only did they achieve the goal -- they exceeded it. Almost every
month for the past five years, TAC has achieved 100 percent customer
satisfaction. The reason is simple: employees own the results.
They understand that they have control over the numbers, and they
have a say in what they can do to fix problems and improve systems
to increase satisfaction.
Employees who are trusted and given more choice over how they do
their jobs are more engaged, committed and productive. People who
know they are being trusted to be responsible do not want to let the
Trust Is the Foundation
The foundation of an accountability-based workplace is a high level
of trust. To create a culture where employees want to take ownership
of their jobs, managers need to trust employees, and believe they
will do the right thing by the organization.
It is also important that employees trust management, otherwise they
will not choose to be accountable. Employees need to know they will
get the support they need to learn how to excel, and that mistakes
will be treated as learning experiences rather than opportunities
for blame and punishment.
The most important factor in building trust with employees is for
managers to understand that being trustworthy does not mean that
employees will trust them. Most business leaders are trustworthy in
a moral, ethical sense, yet many go to work every day and diminish
trust with their people, unintentionally. Building trust is a skill
that must be learned. There are four behaviors that must be present
for trust to develop:
1. Congruence: Employees know what is expected of them,
disagreements are discussed and resolved in a constructive way,
individual performance is discussed and agreed on without having to
rely on a formal process and everyone behaves in an honest, ethical
2. Openness: Information is exchanged freely, feelings and opinions
are openly discussed and people do not have hidden agendas.
3. Acceptance: Differences are valued, employees feel respected for
their contribution, and have input into how the organization can be
4. Reliability: People keep their commitments, strive for excellence
in everything they do and can count on each other for support.
All four elements of trust must be present for trust to develop
and be sustained. If any one of them is missing, trust is
diminished, along with personal responsibility and
Most managers focus primarily on congruence and reliability --
running an honest, ethical organization and achieving results.
What managers at the TAC did not realize is that while employees
want their senior team to be honest and ethical, and run a
financially sound organization, congruence and reliability are
not as important to them as are acceptance and openness.
First and foremost in the employees' minds is acceptance ... how
their managers treat them and their coworkers. They need to feel
valued and respected, know their work is important and that
their ideas will be valued.
Once managers at the TAC began to treat the customer service
representatives as partners and listened to their ideas for
becoming number one in customer satisfaction, things changed
very quickly. Most employees want to be responsible, and they
want to give their best performance.
Confront the Brutal Facts
Jim Collins, author of the best-selling book Good to Great,
addresses one of the factors that contributes to the success of
many companies: their willingness to confront the brutal facts.
Are there any policies, procedures or practices in the
organization that send a clear message to employees that they
are not trusted?
For example, a five-star hotel in Melbourne, Australia,
regularly purchased behavioral profiles from Integro Leadership
Institute LLC. The director of training's purchases were never
more than a few hundred dollars, yet every purchase order had
four signatures on it: the director of training, the HR
director, the CFO and the general manager of the hotel.
This practice not only demonstrates a lack of trust in the
director of training by assuming that she was not able to be
trusted to operate within budget, but it also demonstrates a
lack of trust in the HR director and the CFO. The general
manager had to sign off on every purchase order produced in the
Behaviors That Diminish Trust
Many managers diminish trust every day. Here are some of the
more common behaviors that managers do not realize are
· Being solely focused on meeting his own needs; usually at the
expense of his team members' needs
· Using information as a source of power or withholding
information from team members to ensure they know they are not
important or trustworthy
· Not communicating openly with employees about their
performance so they never know where they stand, except for the
"surprise" they get at the annual review
· Treating mistakes as a crime rather than as a learning
· Assigning blame without first checking the facts, rather than
focusing on solving the problem and learning from it
· Avoiding responsibility for their own actions or decisions
· Treating employees as insignificant by not asking for their
input and not listening when it is offered
Trust is the foundation of all relationships, and significantly
impacts organizational performance. Any lack of trust employees
or customers have for the leaders of an organization, based on
all four elements of trust, is affecting its bottom line.
In Good to Great, Collins summarizes his findings with this very
powerful statement: "When you have disciplined people, you don't
need hierarchy. When you have disciplined thought, you don't
need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don't
need excessive controls."
So how do managers get employees to be so self-disciplined and
passionate about what they do that they don't need hierarchy,
bureaucracy or controls?
By creating a work environment where self-disciplined,
passionate people want to work. To do that, managers need
exceptional leaders at all levels of their organization. Leaders
who are building trust, not destroying it. Leaders who know how
to get the best performance out of everyone in their company.
That requires a long-term commitment from the organization to
developing its leaders.
09/25/07 9:01 AM PT