February 27

Even amid the glitz and glamour of Vegas, this can discourage the most seasoned site directors. I expected the managers, executives and directors to march off to the nearest conference room/after-party and sulk. But they didn’t. They gathered at one of the local restaurants and started brainstorming. Their resilience was impressive, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as the problem they wanted to solve. They weren't asking themselves, "How can I get my numbers up?" They instead asked a far more important question.

This particular cluster of centers had spent the previous eighteen months maximizing their potential. Efficiency was autopsied. Productivity was stretched to the breaking point. Attrition was attacked with the force of an army. Leaders from these successful sites knew if they came home with "Get your numbers up," their workers would revolt.

They instead chose to ask, "How can we change?"

They stayed up all night. Everyone had an equal voice, and no department was excluded. Sales, Operations, Quality, Training, executives--EVERYONE was in. No idea was too outrageous, and money was, in the hypothetical safe place they created, no object.

The concepts floated in this brainstorming session were as forward-thinking as I'd ever heard. Communication between Quality and Training was addressed. Operation Managers evaluated a supervisor’s instructions to an agent could foreseeably--or even possibly--impact contract negotiations with the next client. Metrics were debated until a strategy was devised to dig deeper into real-time solutions. Even the nature of the call was diagramed from start to finish. It was an inspired, completely organic collaboration.

Leaders in call centers look for ways to improve for the exact same reasons aeronautic engineers at Boeing design better airplanes and chefs at Nestle keep searching for a better Toll House recipe. Successful employees take ownership in their work. They invest their most valuable commodity--time--into their centers. In many ways, they want the center to succeed even more than you do.

Profit will always be the driving force behind call centers, as it should be. But innovation can open a status quo of expectations--reasonable or otherwise--into uncharted waters, allowing them--and you--to discover new revenue streams, new ways of deciphering metrics, and new standards to measure success. Those too directly tethered to the bottom line might be ignoring creative ideas that could raise your financial ceiling.