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Recently I had to contact my cable TV company. Some of the channels I usually view weren’t there when I switched the TV on. The same thing had happened about six-months ago.

I rang at eight thirty. They were clearly busy and I got through just before nine. The process is straightforward; the advisor asks a few questions and then, when the fact find is complete, a signal is sent and the channels come back. This time it was different. The advisor said that I had to speak to the customer technical team. I explained that this had never been the case before but she said this was needed.

While the advisor checked the system, I casually enquired what time she finished work. ‘I think you’re my last caller’ she said, ‘I’m leaving at nine, thank goodness.’ I became suspicious. ‘Could I just take a note of your name for my records?’ I asked. ‘We don’t do that, we’ve had issues,’ she replied. ‘I’ll just put you through to the technical team,’ she continued, ‘there isn’t anybody else waiting so they’ll be right with you.’

Fifteen minutes later I finally got through. I started to speak and the member of the customer technical team put the telephone down. I rang again and exactly the same happened.

I tried again the next morning and explained what had happened to a new advisor who was very sympathetic. ‘My team leader has overhead your call and she will ring you,’ she said. However, this never happened.

Over the years I have worked in a number of call centres and observed what goes on. I know that most people don’t go to work to do a poor job. So, I suppose the question I would ask is: ‘what do team leaders and, in turn their managers, do to these advisors to make them act in this way?’ More importantly, perhaps, ‘what kind of example does the team leader set by not ringing a customer back when they have said they will?’

(Please do not get me wrong, this is not a criticicm of team leaders in contact centres, who work very hard but often do not recieve the support and development from their organisation).

Team leaders set the tone for the contact centre. Their actions are closely viewed and they can quickly lose the respect of their team which drives the wrong kinds of behaviour. Here are some of the things that advisors say when asked what they look for that gives them respect for their team leaders:

  • Do the leaders work to the same standards they expect their staff work to?
  • Are they good at communicating the things that matter to advisors?
  • Do they follow-up their promises?
  • Are they good listeners? Are they receptive to ideas and feedback?
  • Do they readily speak to difficult callers and support advisors?
  • Do they treat staff the way they expect them to treat customers?

Feedback from advisors during many consultancy assignments highlights it is the ‘softer’ inter-personal type skills and behaviours that make the difference in how they view their team leader. This clearly has implications for the way that team leaders in customer facing environments are developed to enable them to get results.

The kinds of skills and behaviours that team leaders need are in the following areas:

  • Communication and listening skills – the ability to involve staff in things that matter to them
  • The ability to challenge unacceptable behaviour
  • High levels of enthusiasm and energy / visibility
  • Integrity and honesty
  • Accepting responsibility when things go wrong
  • Being a good ‘company’ person and not criticising other departments or colleagues behind their backs.

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