Published: October 14, 2010 | Comments
Episode 3 of Outsourced, titled "Party of Five," begins in the cafeteria, where Todd and fellow American Charlie talk about dating. Charlie says how he has his eye on Tonya, an Australian woman who also works in their building. He asks her out to dinner, but she invites Todd to come as well. Charlie then tells Todd that he needs to bring a date. After consulting with Manmeet, Todd decides to ask out Asha, one of his call center agents. Although she says yes, she mentions the event to nosy Gupta who invites himself along.
That night, the gang goes out for their group date. Meanwhile, we jump back to the office where Madhuri, who had earlier stolen Rajiv’s key, is sneaking in through the door. She bumps into Rajiv, who is there in his pajamas. It initially seems as through these two over achievers were looking to put in some extra time. It turns out, though, that Madhuri is having houseguests and has nowhere else to sleep, and Rajiv is camping out at the office because his air conditioner broke. After Rajiv scolds her for coming into the office after hours, she apologizes and says she’ll admit to Todd everything that happened, including that fact that Rajiv himself was there. With that, Rajiv lets her stay.
Back at the restaurant, the group talks about dating. Though Todd is trying to get things going with Asha, he learns that her parents will pick her husband for an arranged marriage. After some more discussion about this, Tonya, who was supposed to be Charlie’s date, starts playing footsies with Todd. Thinking it was Asha, Todd returns the favor, causing the insulted Asha to storm out.
The next day, everyone at the office knows what happened. As Manmeet explains, "We don’t have an inter-office newsletter, but we do have Gupta." Todd realizes he has to apologize to Asha, who has just taken a call from a woman ordering a "World’s Best Mom" shirt to wear at her parole hearing. Rather than taking her aside, he puts on a headset and speaks to her through the phone. Asha miraculously forgives him, even though this wasn’t the most professional way to discuss something so personal. Perhaps Todd could benefit from some additional management training?
While Todd is pretty happy about this, he gets a call from Tonya. She makes her interest in him clear, setting up a burgeoning love triangle. In the final scene of the episode, Rajiv, in his typical tyrant fashion, tells everyone that they are not his equals. He is particularly harsh on Madhuri. However, his aggression toward her was just a front; he secretly gives her his key back so she can sleep at the office again.
Although most of the action this week took place outside of the call center, we got some great character development. The episode also brought up some interesting points about culture shock, workplace practices, and the dangerous territory of office romance. Here to lend his expert opinion once again is ICMI’s Executive Director of Consulting, Macklin Martin.
Q. Office romances are a tricky subject no matter the industry or location. Has this issue ever come up in your consulting work, and, if so, what advice do you give?
A. The first consultants I ever hired as a call center manager were a couple. They were both so professional and knowledgeable that I aspired at that point to become a consultant someday myself. As a veteran manager, I could share dozens of shock and awe stories that would make celebrity tabloids look like an AARP newsletter! Call centers are rather people intensive environments; with so many individuals, you are bound to find the commonalities that lead to friendship and, for some, much more. As a divorcee, I steer clear of relationship advice regardless of the venue, however, I can suggest professionally that call center workers make sure that their choices and behaviors align with the organization’s human resources policies. Office romance has many inherent risks, and most organizations’ HR departments have developed behavioral guidelines that protect the organization and it’s staff against some of the risks associated with inter-office romance.
Q. Madhuri was able to distract Rajiv and steal his key by telling him another agent was making personal phone calls. How much of a problem can this be, and how can it be prevented?
A. Personal calls are certainly not the challenge they used to be for those centers with ACDs – Automated Call Distribution technology. ACD enabled call centers typically have real-time displays that alert supervisors to the agents’ activities in real-time. These same systems provide detailed reporting on the agents outbound call activity, including durations and numbers dialed. Today’s more advanced ACDs service as a real-time customer experience management platform, providing insight on an agent’s service activities across multiple channels.
Q. At the end of the episode, Rajiv bragged about his wealth (through the fact that he has air conditioning) and reasserted how everyone else is beneath him. What effect can such a holier-than-thou attitude have on agents?
A. Certainly not a good one, especially if that person is in a leadership role like Rajiv. Often times, individuals are promoted to supervisory positions based on their success in an "agent role." We often forget that strong subject mastery is by no means synonymous with strong leadership skills. The same strong performers often struggle in their leadership role, brandishing their newfound authority as if it were the ultimate scepter of power. Though promoted, frequently these new supervisors have not been developed and need help identifying their own leadership potential and gaining confidence in it. The good news is that there are tons of great resources to help fledgling leaders get off on the right foot instead of where Rajiv is headed. A great place to start is right here at ICMI.com – our QueueTips forum features real-time questions and answers from both new and veteran call center supervisors. Our resources and insights section has some of the latest trends and research on operational best practices, including coaching and quality management for supervisors. And, of course, ICMI offers an excellent array of training and certification courses for new and seasoned supervisors and managers.