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TOPS: Powered by People

I was sitting in the middle of a meeting with Bank executives a few months ago when I received a text that I had been named the ICMI’s 2012 Business Leader of the Year. I was surprised and humbled that someone who was fairly new to the Contact Center world could receive such an honor. Of course, I was very excited to be offered this opportunity to share some of our lessons learned as we begin the New Year.

Here in the TOPS division of Zion’s Bancorporation, there is a very real reason that our tag line is "Powered by People," that the first line of our mission statement is "Every day in TOPS is a great adventure," and that our values include Happiness, Personal Responsibility and Passion. As one of the primary architects of our values and mission statements, I strongly believe that these elements are vital to creating the positively engaged culture needed to sustain and grow our business. Like many companies, especially those in the banking industry, the past few years have been tough. Nowhere was it been tougher than in contact centers where, regardless of your industry, we were challenged to help customers struggling with financial challenges, job loss, and general uncertainty about their futures. Our Contact Center had definitely lost a lot of its vibrancy and enthusiasm during this time and it showed in our customer interactions, employee satisfaction ratings and high turnover. My team and I worked very hard during the past year and a half to restore the "spark" in our Center by making our mission and value a very real part of our daily lives. Here are a few key lessons learned along the way:

  • Culture change is a journey. Like a garden, it requires constant tending – feeding, watering and weeding. Feed your resources the knowledge, tools and rewards needed to continuously grow and blossom. Water your roots, the nuts and bolts of your operations, to provide consistency and stability. Don’t forget to weed out programs, processes, and policies that no longer serve your CSRs and customers.
  • Create a safe environment. Failure provides great opportunities for learning and development. Focus on coaching, feedback and training to build success for your team.
  • Hold people accountable. A culture focused on learning and development does not mean that people should not be accountable for their results. The key to finding the correct balance between the two is open, frequent communication. Ensure that everyone understands expectations and their commitments to meet them.
  • Measure evaluate and re-measure. This includes not just the standard CSR scorecard metrics but every recognition program, staffing/forecast approach, recruiting process, etc. Any changes made should have defined outcomes and measurements to determine if the outcome is achieved. Anything that doesn’t result in increased performance or job satisfaction, higher retention etc. should be revised or discarded.
  • Don’t forget the FUN! A little spontaneous fun once in a while is always good, but regular, planned fun activities should be part of your overall strategy. Regular activities to relieve stress and provide recognition can help build a very engaged culture. The more the CSRs can create and drive these fun activities the better!
  • It’s about the PEOPLE, people! Approaching everything from the sincere desire to do the right things for your people and customers guarantees that you’ll successfully create an engaged and passionate culture.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I hope these tips help you in your own contact centers. I know ours is continuing to evolve. We’ve created a short video that highlights some of the specific things we do to have a fun and rewarding Contact Center. I hope you enjoy it!

Cynthia Smith is EVP, Client Contact Services and Operations Zions Management Services Company and ICMI's 2012 Business Leader of the Year.