Taking a Team from “Worst to First” in Service Quality

In the past year I watched as a team within one of my clients' contact centers went from displaying some of the worst service quality to performing among the best teams in their company. This team had a reputation of being among the service quality bottom feeders for years. Reaction to the drastically improved performance was shock and awe across the enterprise. "How did they do it?" became the consistent reply.

Here's what I witnessed the management team do over the course of a year:

  • Improve bench strength. The culture on the team was to have a bad attitude and fight quality efforts. As natural attrition happened throughout the year, the management team made service quality a key factor in hiring decisions when replacing team members. They made a point of bringing in traditionally high service performers to their team. New blood brought new life to their service performance.
  • Friendly competition. Between regularly scheduled quarterly coaching and feedback sessions, the sub-groups within this team had friendly competition going for which there were small incentives. Mostly, it was bragging rights, but the supervisors and managers all got behind it and had fun with it. A little friendly competition sparked some fun through the team members' sense of play. Small prizes and bragging rights provided positive reinforcement for team members. There was also a new sense of internal accountability. When a team member performed poorly, they were letting their fellow teammates down.
  • Accountability. The supervisors on this team had not, historically, done much about service quality in between the regularly scheduled quarterly coaching or training sessions. The friendly competition required supervisors to be monitoring each associate's progress, tracking quality scores, and providing feedback on a regular basis. Team members were reminded of service quality on a daily, weekly and monthly basis instead of just quarterly. The management team was no longer paying lip service to service quality, they were making it a part of the team members' every day performance.
  • Send a message. This team had a reputation for being poor performers. Instead of motivating them to improve, some members of the team relished in their position at the bottom and took sick pride in it. To reverse this trend when some members of the team refused to change, the senior management of the team made a point of sending a clear message to select individuals: "We've had enough. You are a capable associate. Either improve your service quality (and be rewarded), or there will be negative consequences to your career with this company." Some team members suddenly got on board and improved. A few members decided to leave, opening new opportunities for the managers to, once again, increase their bench strength with higher performers.

It took one year utilizing these four key principles to turn this team from among the worst performing teams to performing among the best. As my old friend, Buck, used to say: "Make a plan. Work the plan."

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