HR and Corrective Actions in the Call Center Environment
A lot of you have reached out and asked me, how do I deal with reps that are not putting in the effort, come in with a bad attitude, or just do not feel like working today? Now that we are in an at-home model, how do I deal with that when I cannot physically be there to look over my reps? Whether it is through monitoring or a message sent, how can I tell the tone of the messages your employees send me? What do I do about reps that log off at 2:30 when they’re scheduled until 5?
We are going to be tackling some of these issues and how we deal with them from an at-home business stand-point.
A Policy Based on Culture
Discipline in your call center and how you handle your call center is based on your company culture. There are a lot of different approaches to it, and what I am about to tell you is not the end-all-be-all, it is just what I have found to be the most successful approach given Expivia’s company culture:
The personality of whoever in charge of correcting reps can either be compatible or incompatible with the culture of your center. Depending on the types of attitudes you are looking to have within your call center, the person who puts correctional policies in place when creating HR needs to reflect that. Here at Expivia, we try to do everything we can upfront before we get into any kind of individual discipline. We incent, positively reinforce, and tackle big problems as part of company policy, so that our reps know exactly what is expected of them before we have to take individual action, such as pulling someone off the call center floor, sending them home, giving three-day suspensions, etc.
Me being the laid-back person I am, the policies we operate here at Expivia correlate well to my personality. I give a lot of leeway before I have to say, enough is enough. I know some of my readers have very authoritarian methods in regard to your reps and a “this is our way and if you’re not doing it then you are out of here” type of mindset. On the flip, I also have listeners who let their reps push them over to the point where the reps themselves are running their floors, and that is unacceptable as well. You need to find that happy medium.
Let’s first talk about a very controversial topic that I know a lot of you might agree or disagree with, and that is what happens when there is an inappropriate conversation happening on the call center floor. When I say “inappropriate”, our policy states that religion and politics are not something to be discussed on the call center floor. I have run call centers for the last 20-25 years and I have only had one fight on the call center floor about 15 years ago. It was a political conversation, some kind of Republican versus Democrat argument that turned into an actual fistfight, and got to the point where I needed to step in and subdue my reps. Luckily I am bigger than most of them so I was able to break it up quickly! That occurrence made me genuinely think about what we should be focusing all of our energy on the call center floor. It comes down to three things: One is serving our client the best, two is having a living for our reps, and three is fostering a fair, fun, and uplifting work environment. So, it is important to nip those kinds of conversations right in the bud, so they do not fester into something toxic or physical. Shut it down by saying, “Hey guys, inappropriate conversation for the call center floor, you can talk about those subjects after work,” and then try to broach another subject that is work-related, specifically something uplifting or motivational. If it does continue, remove them from the floor. We do not want our reps to form their own teams or pinning themselves against each other simply on the grounds of political or religious belief.
Zero Effort or Zero Attitude
Another situation you may encounter is a rep that comes in that just does NOT want to be there. They clock in and immediately start fussing with the fact that they are there and do not want to be. We have a three-part method at Expivia to help with the fact that we only ask you to bring a good attitude and effort to work every day. One is consistent supervisor management; our supervisors stick with the same reps every day in order to grow relationships and trust between the reps and higher management. Every day in the morning our supervisors check in on their reps and help to break up any animosity they might have in the morning, whether that requires a simple cracking of a joke or giving a full-fledged pep talk. To get your reps in a good mood first thing in the morning is so important to how they perform the rest of the day. It also just feeds into that positive work environment I strive so much for. If absolutely nothing else works to turn a rep’s mood around, they cannot be on your floor. Emotions are contagious and one negative attitude could affect your whole floor. Still be mindful that your reps are human, and it is okay for someone to have a bad day or a bad night at home, but it is our job and HR’s job to try to make their day better so they can enjoy their workday and be productive.
I am not a huge fan of the term “progressive discipline”, but regardless, we will do everything we can so that we do not get to a point where someone is missing out on a paycheck. We have invested in them as much as they have invested in us. That being said, Progressive discipline basically means there are corrective actions that can be given out based on the frequency or unacceptability an action is. First is talk, then a written citation, a three-day suspension, then termination if things get bad enough. We dictate these rules ahead of time so our reps understand this. The number one fault I see in HR settings is having subjective HR people deciding for themselves what a person’s punishment should be. Have a plan and follow it. Spur of the moment decisions can be very emotional, and you need to be taking appropriate action based on what the incident is.
Understand emergencies, talk to your teams, your reps, your supervisors, and actually seek to understand your employees. No policy works without empathy. This is not necessarily an invitation to be forgiving to every one of your employees if they break a rule, or are constantly showing a bad attitude, or having low work effort, but to just always try to understand where your employees are coming from and help them to have a good day at work. It benefits them, and it benefits you.