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.


The Phone Call is a Powerful, Forgotten Leadership Tool

looking at phoneOne day, when my children were small, I picked them up from the daycare center and headed home to make dinner. Tired from a long day, we carried the backpacks into the house, and I hurried to the kitchen. Thirty minutes later, as we sat down to the dinner table, the phone rang. I got out of my chair and answered the phone. It was my boss.

He said, “I know you are home with the kids, and I don’t want to keep you from them, but I just had to call and tell you what a great job you’re doing. Your enthusiasm really pulls people together, and I wanted you to know I appreciate all your hard work.”

The call took me by surprise. It wasn’t like he never thanked me at the office; he always thanked me before I left work. He went on, “Well, I will let you get back to the family. Thanks again. I will see you in the morning.”

My son must have seen my “tired and worn out from the day mommy face” suddenly change because he said, “Wow, Mommy! That must have been good news!” I told them what happened, and he responded, “That must make you feel good, Mommy, because you are happy right now.”

I instantly realized what an effect that telephone call had on me.

That night, I thought through the emotions I felt prior, during, and after that phone call. It was only a 15-second phone call, but my entire attitude and outlook on the day changed.
I wondered how I could create this type of feeling throughout my entire team, especially when they were experiencing a tough day. Would that change in attitude be enough to change their performance? What would the results be if all my leaders consistently utilized these types of calls? Could I duplicate and triplicate my efforts as a leader so that others could be inspired without my direct involvement?

Years later, I was working with a large BPO, leading an important holiday launch with a virtual/work-from-home team. The client was a Fortune 200 international company that had contracted us to answer technical support calls from customers. The hiring profile for these employees requested a high level of customer service, but strong technical support experience was not required. Because of this, it took a while to get the new technical support advisors trained since they weren’t technically savvy.

For months, my organization had hired hundreds of new technical support advisors every week or every other week, which posed a significant challenge. Because it took some time for these new advisors to absorb all of the training and be effective on the phone with customers, the CSATs across our entire organization dipped each time a newly hired group started taking customer calls. Additionally, veteran employees were being promoted from the frontline positions, and about a hundred top-performing technical agents were removed from the phones to help with training, nesting, and virtual floor walking, which diluted the level of expertise and service being provided to customers calling in for assistance. This impacted customer service scores in a big way.

If our CSATs fell below a specific level, our client would subtract a specific percentage from our invoice. We were able to stay above the minimum CSAT for months during the period we were launching new agents, but when this last group of 350 technical support agents started taking customer calls, I was concerned for our CSATs.

We had stretched the organization too much to keep our performance at the level we had promised this client. I called my senior team together and said, “I need your help. I want to do something I have never done before. I want to launch a ‘Praise Call Campaign.’ I want us to call all new employees in one day to get the momentum going and then do it again next week.”

There was dead silence on the conference bridge. Then, one of my senior team members said, “It’s a lot, Vick, but if you feel that strongly, I’m in.” Everyone agreed. There were eight of us and almost 350 new agents. We made over 350 phone calls in one day, and the following week, we set aside a day to make another 350 calls. At the end of the month, and by the skin of our teeth, we hit our CSAT goal. It was by .2 of a point, but we hit it! No penalties on our invoice!

Afterwards, my team said that the Praise Call Campaign made all the difference in our performance. The calls got everyone excited, and that excitement went viral, sweeping across our national virtual/work-at-home organization. This isn’t an anomaly - Harvard Business Review reports that happy people are 31% more productive at work. How we feel at work has a lot to do with our results.

Here’s why praise calls make things happen:

  • It gives immediate gratification to the recipient and the initiator because they both see and feel the reaction.
  • It encourages more of the same behavior from the employee/gig worker without directly asking for it.
  • People who receive praise calls will talk about them, which inspires other coworkers to change their behaviors or enhance their performance in hopes of receiving their own praise calls.
  • When your employees/gig workers are in different locations or your team works from home, the impact of your praise calls can go viral in chat or text within seconds, causing a chain reaction of positive attitudes and enthusiasm across your organization.
  • It’s foolproof and scalable inside any organization, no matter the size.

The result will be worth your efforts. Just the act of picking up the phone to tell them something positive makes a lasting impression. It provides encouragement that will continuously drive their current and future performance.

By utilizing the praise call tool, you can significantly increase the speed of the results you are trying to drive in your organization. The key to success is the consistency with which you utilize this leadership tool. That doesn’t mean you have to make a hundred calls a day to see profound results. You can designate 10 minutes a day to make calls or set a goal to make a certain number of calls weekly. Either of these options can still result in positive outcomes.

In this changing business climate, smart leaders look at how they are leading and make demonstrative changes in how they lead their organizations. The praise call works. I challenge you to try it and would love to hear about the positive results you gain.