Teaching Call Center Management to Use Social Media

leadership-in-call-centerSocial media can be a powerful tool for employee engagement, and in the call center environment, employee engagement is the lifeblood of an effective operation.

But social media use isn't limited just to engagement; it can also be an effective means of building up both your team and your brand. Any company that is considering outsourcing a call center should bear in mind that managers can use social media to convey, to off-site associates, the company's values, mission and ethos. Managers who use social media effectively can bring the company culture even to outsourced employees.

Social media can empower associates who might otherwise feel marginalized or voiceless.

We already know that feelings of disenfranchisement are the single biggest contributors to employee attrition and absenteeism. When associates don't feel like management hears them or has a plan for improvement, they bolt. In the customer service industry, that's a progress killer— companies with high attrition and absentee rates continually need to replace, retrain and redistribute employees to cover areas of need.

For call centers, these are especially profound problems.

A 2005 Cornell study found that subcontracted call centers annually experience an average 51% turnover rate. Retail call centers following close behind at 47%. On any given day, the average call center will see around 6% of its employees absent, according to the same survey.

But what if the power of social media— with its abilities to build a sense of community and to encourage idea-sharing— could be used to turn such trends around?

The new, virtual water cooler.

Writing for Monster.com, columnist Matt Charney suggested that companies can build internal social media networks, using software like Sharepoint, and use them to discover and develop best practices across different units based in different locations. For a company with an outsourced call center, this could be especially useful.

“Corporate culture is no longer a centralized, uniform concept, given the increase in global teams, multi-national workgroups, and in many companies, increasingly siloed or specialized business units and functions,” Charney wrote. “It has become the amalgamation of often dozens of drastically different workplace experiences and expectations.”

“Analyzing how these experiences differ across the enterprise can help you identify internal best practices that can be replicated throughout the company and highlighted in internal and external communications.”

By developing an enterprise-wide, company-only social experience, employees across long distances can get together online and share their successes, their daily internal and external pain points, and their ideas for solutions. They can also celebrate others' task or career achievements, or in turn be celebrated.

“Employee disengagement and dissatisfaction is largely driven by the perception that leadership and HR doesn’t value their input and feedback,” he said. “An internal social network is one way to show that you’re listening and actively engaging around issues that matter to their employee population.”

But how do you encourage associates to share and share freely?

That's an excellent question. Building a company-wide social media experience is one thing, but for it to work well, employees have to see their managers actively engaged on and using the platform. And it must have a business casual tone.

If “culture is what happens when the manager leaves the room,” as Vala Afshar, chief marketing officer of Enterasys Networks, suggested to Robert Berkman in the MIT Sloan Management Review, employees also have to feel like they can post things that management might not necessarily want to hear. And that takes a thick skin on management's part.

One way you, as a call center manager, can show you can take the heat? Post candidly. Post often. Post even about the daily trivialities that make you seem, well, human. And when associates engage, engage back. Don't post like a cruise missile— fire and forget. Post, check, comment and share.

Moreover, when you see associates posting good questions, success stories, or even lamenting about an everyday work problem, share those posts. Ask follow-on questions. Ask for ideas. Ask for help.

“Your employees can be powerful advocates in conveying and amplifying your corporate culture and employer value proposition,” Charney asserted. “While the message of almost every career site or corporate collateral espouses some form of 'our people are our greatest assets,' actually highlighting these employees and letting them tell their own story, in their own words, sends a powerful message that goes beyond buzzwords.”

Social media use can ease the transition when outsourcing a call center.

If your company has a readymade platform on which your new, subcontracted team members can go to meet people from the units they will be closely working with, it can help to build new bridges and foster working relationships that can help bring the call center online and inline with the company culture faster. If your company is considering outsourcing a call center, it might be worth it first to look into building a social media space so that you can extend the company culture organically.

 

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