Greetings from San Antonio, Texas…where things are a heckuva lot warmer than they were in Iowa when I left yesterday!! Today’s post comes courtesy of an unexpected moment of synchronicity. My group members and I were out to lunch with our client and the subject of dress code in the call center came up. The client, in this case, has a fairly strict business dress-code which fits with the business and their brand. "Casual Days" are rare/occasional – usually linked to the CSR paying a few bucks towards a local charity initiative sponsored by the company.
Then I returned to my hotel room to find an e-mail from a regular reader with this question:
In call center only environment (no customer/client visit’s)
do you feel that a business vs. business casual vs. casual dress makes a
difference on the level of service agents give to customers?
Okay, I guess I’m supposed to post about dress code today!
First of all, I’ve witnessed call centers that are successfully run with a variety of dress codes from casual to strictly corporate. The appropriate dress code for your call center should be based on consideration of a variety of factors.
- What is the image/brand your CSRs represent? A conservative, international, top-tier financial services firm might not want their CSRs wearing flip-flops and bermuda shorts – but it might work very well for a travel/entertainment company. There is an subtle but real connection the CSR makes between their work attire and the brand they represent.
- Is there a connection between dress and behavior? Yes. One of our long term QA clients switched from corporate dress to casual dress a few years back. We had never heard profanity or inappropriate language used on the phone until the switch in dress was made. The month the CSRs were allowed to dress casually we began hearing "casual" conversation that included street language inappropriate for the business conversation. While the company chose not to return to corporate dress, they did have to tighten the dress code and the QA reigns to get professionalism back on course. Does this mean it’s impossible for CSRs who dress casually to be "corporate" on the phone? No, they can do it – but it’ll probably be a tougher road to hoe on the ol’ QA sojourn.
- On-going management of policy. The managers I spoke with at lunch today conveyed a wish to have a more casual policy, but in the same breath admitted that managing "casual days" required a frustrating amount of energy. CSRs would show up with attire that took "casual" too far (e.g. showing so much skin that it became a distraction to everyone around). Managers would have to address these issues, send CSRs home to get changed, have long internal discussions about what was appropriate and then communicate this to the front-line (you can imagine the time spent in numerous meetings to accomplish this). I remember one call center I used to visit that contained big posters with pictures cut out of catalogs and magazines to show CSRs what was appropriate and inappropriate. Is this good or bad? All I’m saying is that call centers who have a corporate or strict business-casual policy don’t seem to have as many of these distracting issues.
I hate to get all "Joe Friday" on you – but those are just the facts ma’am – along with my thoughts and experiences. Our group doesn’t have a cookie-cutter QA scale for all call centers because call centers, customers, markets and companies can be very different and one-size doesn’t fit all. The same can go for dress codes. What works for the Party-Time Cruise Line call center probably won’t be the same as what works for the First International Finance Bank call center.