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The Key to Building an Exceptional Service Culture

When it comes to creating an exceptional service culture, nothing is more important than a team’s ability to collaborate well.  Both the agent and the customer experience will be exponentially better with 360 degrees of partnership – agents partnering with each other to share knowledge and solve problems, leadership partnering alongside agents to understand the front line, and everyone partnering with customers to foster a meaningful relationship.  It may sound simple, but building this type of environment is quite difficult.  Here are three proven ways to promote collaboration, as well as three behaviors to avoid.

Collaborative Service Culture

Collaboration Enhancer Number 1: Limit Top-Down Decision Making

Typically, when a change is made in a contact center environment, leadership reviews a set of metrics, decides on a course of action, and announces “the new thing" to agents. Most change should flow in the opposite direction.  Empower your agents by giving them raw data and challenge them with your service vision.  Ask your whole staff, not just leadership, how the customer experience or the agent experience could be improved.  When a team member comes up with an idea that makes a difference, it should be widely celebrated.  This gives everyone buy-in to the decision making process and prevents agents from falling victim to the “change of the week” from senior management.

Collaboration Enhancer Number 2: Get Out of the Office!

In order to build a relationship-based culture where people are excited to collaborate, employees need to build friendships outside of the office.  It's almost impossible to connect on a human level with the constant barrage of problems that take place in an office.  People will often start to resent their co-workers in a high-stress environment, unless you give them a chance to decompress and form a real bond.

Collaboration Enhancer Number 3: Walk the Walk

As a leader, you can talk about a collaborative environment until you’re blue in the face, but until you walk the walk and actually set the example it’s not going to happen.  Show your team what it looks like to break down silos and form partnerships.  Resist the temptation to speak negatively about other leaders.  You may think you're earning credibility with your team, but inside they will just wonder what you are saying about them behind closed doors.  If you build others up, you are pouring a strong foundation for collaboration.  See “A Promise of Positivity” for more on this topic.

Collaboration Detractor Number 1: Overuse of Competition

Competition can be a great motivator, and should be sprinkled into your reward / gamification programs for variety.  However, the vast majority of your time should be spent working to bring people together and align toward a common goal.  It’s nice to establish a winner, but in doing so you simultaneously create a larger population of losers.  Your objectives in a contact center are such that everyone should be working together to achieve and win – ultimately helping the customer to win.

Collaboration Detractor Number 2: Allowing Negativity to Fester

As Petra Coaching says, “A players will not play with C players for long.”  If there are no consequences for poor performance or negativity among the team, collaboration will fail.  People should be inspired to work at their highest level and respect their peers.  This is nearly impossible if they look around and see agents that are not meeting expectations or being held accountable.  Accountability must exist on all levels.

Collaboration Detractor Number 3: Polarizing Quality Management

Quality Management should be a process in which management and employees identify improvement opportunities together and work on them together.  It should be a channel for helpful feedback and a means of building agents up as they achieve objectives.  There is a fantastic article by Jeremy Hyde on how to involve you agents and foster collaboration through your quality management process.  Check it out here.

Hopefully these tips will help your team play in harmony with one another!  Please share anything you’ve done or seen to enhance a spirit of collaboration within the contact center.

This post originally appeared on the Customer Centric Support Blog.