Call Center’s “Little Brother” Needs Attention

It's common for call centers to have a small, remote operation for redundancy. The idea is simple. In the case of disaster, there is an emergency location to answer phones and maintain some modicum of service. I've worked with several clients who operate such centers. Quite often, the remote locations employ a small staff and skeleton management crew. 

These small centers often suffer from a sense of isolation and alienation. The central office is easily seen as "Big Brother" who dictates policy and procedure from afar with little regard to their little brother in a distant locale. The remote center quickly feels like the proverbial red headed stepchild. An "us vs. them" attitude quickly develops along with a rebellious, independent streak in the remote center. I've observed this phenomenon multiple times. It can create problems for a quality program that is trying to drive a sense of teamwork in delivering a consistent customer experience. The "little brother" syndrome can create conflict in the quality process as CSRs and supervisors refuse to follow quality guidelines. "We're different," is a common mantra, "and these guidelines don't work for us."

So, how do you avoid the inherent problems associated with a little brother call center:

  • Relationship. Utilize social media and technology to create relationships between the centers. Conference CSRs and supervisors from the remote location into meetings and training sessions via video conference or inexpensive webcams. Make sure that your "Secret Santa" program hooks up CSRs from the different centers. Use trips to the home office or the remote center as incentives for CSRs. The more you can foster relationships between CSRs and supervisors in the different centers, the more you guard yourself against feelings of isolation and alienation.
  • Attention. Time spent at the remote location can easily feel like a burden or waste of time for senior management. It's important for the remote centers to receive regular, personal visits from managers and executives at the home office. Ask managers and executives to schedule time at the remote center when business travel takes them that direction. Talk to the supervisors and CSRs. Remind them that they are an important part of the operation.
  • Communication. This is the really the foundational element. The greatest driver of alienation between corporate centers and their remote counterpart is lack of communication. Include agents and managers from the remote center on committees and policy discussions. While on-site at the remote center, managers and executives should schedule time to bring personnel at the remote site up to speed on corporate goals and directions as well as taking questions. Make sure email lists include the remote center.

As 2009 wanes and 2010 goals are being drafted, fostering better communication and relationship between the home office and remote call centers should definitely make the cut!

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