Response Design Corporation:Creating the Uncommon Call Center
Kathryn's Uncommon Call Center Blog
May 28, 2007 10:50 AM
Making empowerment work for you

Managing empowerment involves at least four steps:

1.Select the appropriate level of empowerment. Listen to this 1998 quote from Mohammad Rafiq and Perval Amid:

“It is argued that appropriate levels and types of empowerment given to employees depend on a combination of the complexity (or variability) of customer needs and the degree of task complexity (or variability) involved in delivering the customer needs.”

We help organizations align the level of empowerment to the complexity and variability of their customer contacts.

2.Build an infrastructure to support the appropriate level of empowerment so that agents know what the guidelines are and what support systems and resources are available. Make sure that the infrastructure is flexible—empowerment needs to change with the evolving marketplace, new technology, and the increasing number of tasks that you are handling.

3.Drive accountability for empowerment to the lowest level practical. For example, one organization gives the frontline team the responsibility for developing its own empowerment processes. The frontline knows better than anyone what types of contacts come in and the barriers that exist in handling them. Employees are held accountable for handling all of the customer needs within the scope of their empowerment.

4.Constantly monitor how empowerment is working. Some managers use weekly coaching sessions with real life examples to help agents understand what is acceptable within the boundaries of empowerment.

We have to think about the level of empowerment that we give our employees, and our decision should depend on the complexity of the job and the type of customer contacting the center. And, we have to follow up with the infrastructure, accountability, and monitoring necessary to sustain our efforts. Do you agree?

Do you have empowered agents? If yes, how difficult is empowerment to manage?

November 27, 2006 12:18 AM
Giving Life Events Room in our Employees’ Lives

How often do we hear from our employees about some tragic or time-consuming event in their lives? A child is ill. A spouse is injured. A parent dies.

How often do we ignore the toll that the crisis takes on our employees as they show up to work every day or ask us for time off to take care of the event?

Sometimes we reason, “I manage a call center and, by its very nature, it doesn’t easily adapt to the multitude of employee needs. If I accommodate one – I’ll have to accommodate all.”

I understand. But I wonder if there might not be some way we can better give these life events the consideration they need in order for our employees to be more effective. I don’t purport to know how to do it. The objective of this blog is to express my concern and suggest that we look again to find any small change that might give these events room in our employees’ lives.

I’m fortunate. I have a job that is extremely flexible, and I’ve come to appreciate the flexibility more than ever. My father died a month ago after a three-month battle with leukemia. First, I had to adjust to the diagnosis. Then, I traveled back and forth across three states to help during his illness. The emotional goodbye followed. Now the family is focused on settling my mother into her new home and life. I watched my sister use all her paid time off as well as hours generously donated by co-workers. Even with the help, she quickly ran out of time. Her family and I agonized as we watched her juggle her priorities and struggle to be with us.

I know all about PTO and FMLA. I understand what it means to set a precedent by “allowing” an exception to the rule. I get all that. But sometimes I think we hide behind rules because the alternative is just too complex to figure out. Perhaps simply thinking about these issues and expressing our concern to our employees during these times is the one small change we could make now.

Have you helped employees make room for life’s events? I’d love to hear how.

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