ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Inside Outsourced: Can't Touch This

This week, the Mid America Novelties call center received a package of the company’s newest products. It turns out, the box was full of some risqué items, geared toward bachelorette parties. Todd has his hands full explaining the various products to his bewildered agents.

Since some of the agents were a tad uncomfortable with the products, Todd brings this up with Jerry, his boss in the U.S. Jerry tells him to give the team the sexual harassment seminar. So Todd gathers the agents and tells them if anything happens that makes them uncomfortable, they can call the corporate hotline to report it. He then shows the group the accompanying HR video on sexual harassment. When the video shows two people in the office kissing, several agents get up and walk away. Asha explains to Todd that kissing isn’t shown on Indian TV or in movies, so this video was pretty offensive to them.

Making matters worse, Rajiv informs Todd that someone called the hotline to file a compliant against him. Todd has no clue what he could have done or who would have reported him, but either way, he may be facing some legal trouble. He asks Rajiv if he knows anything, but he tells Todd that people in India never confront their bosses. Todd rightfully calls him out on this, saying that he confronts him all the time. To which Rajiv responds, "I just want you to feel at home."

Dead set on trying to figure out who reported him, Todd looks over his agents. When he sees Madhuri looking back at him nervously, he realizes it must be her. He talks to her over the phone and apologizes but then pats her on the shoulder. Madhuri immediately calls the hotline again.

After another lecture from Jerry, which causes the overzealous Rajiv to start packing up Todd’s desk, Todd asks Asha what he’s doing wrong. She tells him that he’s been touching everyone on the shoulder. Everyone except her, that is! After some tension between the two, Todd goes in front of everyone and acknowledges that he’s been making people uncomfortable and promises not to touch anyone on the shoulder again.

In the episode’s final "gag," Madhuri finds herself choking on some food. Todd is hesitant to give her the Heimlich, but does so after she confirms it’s okay. Right at that moment, Rajiv walks in and takes a picture, hoping that will finally be Todd’s downfall. (Still, that’s nothing compared what happened at these contact centers.)

As lighthearted as this episode was, it dealt with some pretty serious issues. Here once again to lend his expert opinion is ICMI’s Executive Director of Consulting, Macklin Martin.

Q. This episode was the second time we saw Todd jump in on an agent’s line to have a serious discussion. Would you recommend conversing with agents in such a way?

A. Remote coaching practices will inevitably expand as a direct result of the growing popularity of telecommuting. Today’s virtual workplace requires us to connect in a variety of seemingly unconventional ways. The medium of communication is far less important than the tone and quality of the communication. Respect and professionalism are critical communication virtues that go along way when navigating the complex realm of supervisor – employee communications for the first time.

Q. There was a lot to do with HR policies and whether or not Todd violated them. Just out of curiosity, are there any special HR policies that apply to call centers compared to the rest of a company?

A. HR’s primary function is to provide an administrative framework for employee management that protects the company from liability and financial risks and also ensures compliance with federal, state and local laws. Often times organizations will develop specific policies for certain types of workers, for example attendance policies may differ in a call center than those in other parts of the organization. Conversely agents are not held to the same quality standard that a company’s structural engineer is expected to achieve. A couple of numerical errors may not land an agent in a talk with their manager and or HR, yet that same behavior might put our structural engineer out of work. Most organizations align policies with the best interest of customer, company and employee.

Q. In trying to find out who reported him, Todd called each of his agents, created a phony accent and asked about their boss. Is secretly calling unsuspecting agents a valid way to measure their performance?

A. Oh yes it is! We have advocated this practice for years in the US market. It is all the rage now with UK customer service centre’s seeking deeper insights into the quality of experiences their brand’s are delivering. Check out one such program at http://www.callcentre.co.uk/top50.

Did you miss this episode of Outsourced? You can watch it online right here. As always, check back soon for our recap and analysis of each new episode!

Adam Mandelbaum is Associate Editor of icmi.com and Call Center Insider. [email protected]