Recently, I have had the privilege of working with some leading British brands, assisting them to understand and improve both their customer experiences and their business performance. One thing has become very clear – there is some great work going on in the retail call centre environment.
Now, it is true to say that the companies I have worked with are not necessarily representative of the entire industry. The general public’s attitude towards call and contact centres is broadly negative, but I have seen some wonderful examples of both best-practice thinking/process design and supporting technologies. But, more importantly, I have witnessed great customer interactions. Simple, genuine human engagement that delivers on every level – for the consumer, for the business and for the agent. All are left feeling satisfied, that they have achieved their individual objectives and with a positive ‘brand memory’. A story that should, by rights, spread by word of mouth to amplify the benefit of that agent’s work.
I have been left wondering how many such experiences are also delivered by mobile employees and which go unrecognised? It is easy enough to spot these interactions in the confines of the call centre, to call them out and reward the individuals involved. But, it is not so easy when those individuals are in customer premises and effectively invisible to management and the centres of the service organisation.
For a long time, I have pondered over the uneasy relationship that often exists between office- and field-based staff, with a feeling of lack of visibility/control at one end and a simmering resentment at perceived ‘interference’ and ‘big brother’ attitudes at the other end. Seeing how contact centres resolve some of these issues and thinking how this might influence the mobile world, I have devised this framework – TRACQD. I am in the IT business and so this has to be an acronym! At the moment, it is little more than that, but I hope to develop the ideas over the coming months – if time allows ….
- Trust: the biggest issue for mobile staff is lack of trust. It goes both ways and is very corrosive. It must be the foundation of any relationship. It takes time and effort to build – and is lost in moments if people do not continually work to reinforce it.
- Respect: this is about respecting people as individuals, their skills and expertise – both technical and as human beings. Each of us brings unique combinations of characteristics to our work and these need to be fully appreciated and utilised. But, also respecting the fact that we are all human and will inevitably make mistakes. We need support and help to cope with that – from all our colleagues peer team members as much as management.
- Autonomy: many technicians and engineers choose the mobile life precisely because of the (perceived) freedom of not being tied to a single location. That does not automatically make them shirk their responsibilities or stop wanting to do a good job. Yet, often we treat them as naughty children and remove any autonomy or seek to limit any decision-making. Strongly allied to ‘trust’.
- Collaboration: field-based staff work in isolation and often do not have any ways to work collaboratively with colleagues – even when other people might be able to help them solve customer issues more quickly and effectively. The improving mobile network connectivity and capacity, plus the escalating capabilities of mobile handsets mean that there should be no technical barriers to making a distributed, collaborative workforce work. But, there are few examples of this is practice. Often, there are informal connections made between colleagues on the basis of product knowledge, but these need to be built systematically to ensure scarce knowledge is shared effectively.
- Questioning: How often do we see examples of processes and working methods that have been in use far too long? Answer, *far* too often! Change projects work to implement new ways of working and new technologies. Once the project team is disbanded, those shiny new processes rapidly atrophy and become unfit for purpose. Everyone should be enabled and encouraged to question the status-quo. There needs to be a spirit of restless dissatisfaction – is this still the best way of achieving this? Business and economic circumstances change rapidly, organisations need to respond and adapt with equivalent speed. Flexibility is a critical attribute of many successful companies.
- Delivery: At the end of the day, all that matters is what has been achieved. Did we do everything to our best ability? Did we deliver for every customer? Did we deliver for every employee? It is all very well to pontificate on the theory (and indeed this framework) but customers needs are there every minute of every day – judge us be what we deliver.
Might this framework be useful? Only time will tell …