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Inside Outsourced: Who's the Boss?

In the morning before work, Todd’s girlfriend Tonya tells him that her mother is coming to visit and wants to meet him. Soon after, Todd learns of another unexpected visitor to India – his boss from back home, Jerry. So Todd rushes into the office to prepare the call center for their visit from upper management.

Todd tells the agents that they should make a good impression on Jerry. Rajiv adds that they should all just be themselves. However, Rajiv has decked his desk and himself in red, white and blue in order to welcome Jerry. He also adorns himself with a name tag labeling him as “Manager.” Todd rips it off and reminds him that he’s only assistant manager. And, to protect himself from the real possibility that Rajiv will bad-mouth him to Jerry, Todd enlists the agents to talk him up to the boss.

As Todd continues to prepare the agents for Jerry’s visit, he explains that they need to be professional around him. He says how Jerry is very old school and all business. So, imagine everyone’s shock when Jerry shows up in a Hawaiian shirt with a drink in hand and obviously a couple in his stomach.

Though not what they expected, the agents introduce themselves. As expected, Rajiv sucks up to him, and makes an obvious attempt to make himself look better than Todd. Thankfully, Manmeet steps up and puts in a good word about Todd. Despite Todd’s attempts to show Jerry the books and prove the center's success, Jerry just wants to party.

Though Jerry wants to take the whole center out to a bar, Todd reminds him that they need people to answer the phones. So Jerry just takes half of the center out. Although Todd was supposed to have dinner with Tonya and her mother that night, Todd goes along to the bar to keep an eye on Jerry. Despite his attempts to keep him under control, the boss has a little too much to drink. As Todd and Rajiv try to get Jerry back to his hotel, Jerry tips a cow in the street, and the three of them get arrested.

Sitting in the jail cell, Jerry finally reveals that he came to India to run away from his problems back home – namely, the fact that his wife left him because of his infidelity. This causes Rajiv, who spent the whole day groveling, to tell Jerry off. Though Todd tries to get Rajiv to back down, he keeps going. He tells Jerry how lucky he is to have a wife and that he should treat her right. He also says how he himself works so hard as assistant manager with the hopes that he can become head manager one day, so his girlfriend will want to marry him. Well, this speech actually works, and Jerry calls his wife to apologize.

Soon after, Tonya and her mother come to the jail to bail the guys out. However, Tonya’s mother is obviously not to impressed with her daughter’s boyfriend.

The next day, Jerry shows up at the call center in a suit and is now professional once a agin. He tells Todd that he’s promoting him to the position of Executive Manager – a symbolic position with no increase in salary or added responsibilities. So what’s the point? Jerry did this so that he can promote Rajiv to the Manager position as a way of thanking him for saving his marriage.

This episode dealt with some pretty serious issues - a surprise visit from the boss, marriage infidelity...cow tipping.  To help us make sense of it all, here is ICMI's panel of experts, consisting of Laura Grimes, Rose Polchin and Linda Riggs.

Q. Todd frantically tried to prepare the team for Jerry’s unexpected visit. What do you recommend call center managers to do prepare the center, and themselves, for a visit from upper management?

Laura: It is important that every agent understand that the contribution he or she makes on a call-by-call basis supports the organization’s goals and objectives. Agents should receive communication about what the organization strategy is and how they contribute to the achievement of organization-wide goals and objectives. Agents need to know what is important to the organization (and therefore what they are being measured on) along with knowledge of their performance. With this information, an agent can easily establish the rapport needed with any stakeholder and negate the need to scramble for a visit.

Q. Though Jerry’s visit didn’t turn out as planned, what are the benefits of upper management visiting the call center?

Rose: While at first the thought might bring a bit of stress, the reality is that the benefits of such a visit generally (because there are always exceptions!) are significant.

Based on my own experience, as well as having the benefit of hearing from other contact center leaders, here are just a few positive outcomes for customers, employees and the organization of such a visit:

  • Customers: Experiencing the voice of the customer in action. Actually hearing, seeing, experiencing what customers do goes well beyond any report, presentation, video clip, phone conversation ever can.

  • Employees: Being recognized for what they do. Often times the contact center is told it is a strategic asset to the company, but NOT shown. A visit can help put words into action. It provides the center with the opportunity to really shine!

  • Organization: When you have satisfied, happy employees, they serve your customers better, which leads to satisfied, happy customers and satisfied shareholders (or whomever key stakeholders are).

Clearly, these are just a few of the many benefits…we would love to hear some of the positive outcomes you’ve experienced in your centers from a visit from your executive team!

Q. Since the series began, we’ve seen the power struggle between Todd and Rajiv over the management of the center. What advice would you give someone in a similar situation?

Linda: In this situation, Todd as the manager has a real issue. Rajiv has made it clear to Todd that he wants Todd’s job. This can be intimidating, especially in a contact center environment where some jobs, such as Todd’s, aren’t plentiful and there isn’t a lot of room for growth. Rajiv looks for ways to sabotage Todd and to take his position from him. This is a situation that calls for real leadership on Todd’s part (which he really doesn’t display often- remembering that this is a comedy show, we probably won’t see that happening much).

In the real world, Rajivs do exist, and so do Todds. In a power struggle situation, the onus is on Todd to find a way to work with Rajiv or begin working with his human resources department to review company policies on disciplinary action.

What Todd might have done first would be to recognize Rajiv’s goals and work in tandem with Rajiv to help him achieve them, even if he couldn’t be promoted right away (which is what any good manager should do for his/her people). Todd could ask Rajiv for help in managing the team, ask for his input on decisions, work through problems with him and look for ways to give Rajiv some extra responsibilities. Todd could also speak with human resources about other areas of the business where Rajiv might be able to receive a promotion, and discuss those with him as well.

Power struggles and office politics do not have to fester and infect the rest of the organization. When in doubt, always contact human resources department for advice and assistance.