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Practical Ways to De-Stress Your Workday, Build Collaboration, and Calm Difficult Customers

Think about any significant conflict you’ve been a part of. I’ll bet that somewhere along the line, clear communication was compromised, and “magical thinking” crept in. “Magical thinking” happens when you take clarity for granted, assuming because someone SHOULD know something, they do. It happens all the time. You assume they should know what’s expected because ________ fill in the blank here (they’ve been trained, you’ve covered this in the last five team huddles, it’s “common sense, or their mama should have taught them better.)

But sadly, somehow, they don’t.

Suppose you’ve implemented a new AI system for handling customer questions. In your mind, the transition should be smooth. After all, your team has been trained, and the system is user-friendly—shouldn’t they just "know" how to handle any hiccups? But here's where the magical thinking kicks in. You expect them to troubleshoot minor issues as they arise; they wait for an IT wizard to step in, or to be asked for feedback.

The next thing you know, there’s a bottleneck of unresolved customer tickets, and frustration is brewing. “Why didn’t you say something!” You say in exasperation. “Well, no one asked.” They respond with a shrug. No one’s meaning to cause conflict or stress. But there you are. We all carry around expectations of one another. And sometimes, you don’t even know you have an expectation until someone doesn’t live up to it.

Some of the most significant examples of conflict in our World Workplace Conflict and Collaboration Survey stemmed from a lack of clarity—there was no shared understanding of success.
The results of such conflict are not pretty: high stress, greater turnover, and reduced productivity. Let’s look at a few examples that, if you’ve been around contact centers for more than a few minutes, are movies you’ve probably seen before.

Feedback Implementation

Magical Thinking: Assuming that once feedback is given to agents, improvements will be immediate and sustained, without the need for follow-up or additional support.
Reality Check: Behavioral change and skill improvement require continuous reinforcement, coaching, and possibly additional training.

Agent Autonomy

Magical Thinking: Believing that granting agents greater autonomy will automatically lead to increased motivation, innovation, and customer service quality, without providing clear guidelines or support structures.

Reality Check: While autonomy can be motivating, without clear boundaries or support, it can lead to inconsistency in service and confusion among agents about expectations.

Cross-Training Efficiency

Magical Thinking: Assuming that brief cross-training sessions are enough for agents to master skills across different domains or types of customer queries, expecting them to handle tasks outside their primary area of expertise with the same efficiency and effectiveness.

Reality Check: Agents may feel overwhelmed by the expectations, leading to reduced quality of customer service, increased stress levels, and potential burnout.

3 Vital Communication Techniques for Your Contact Center

If you’re like most contact center managers we work with, you face the perfect trifecta of communication challenges. First, you’ve got A LOT to communicate, and things are changing—fast. Keeping your team informed can feel like a full-time job.

Second, your employee’s heads and hearts are full. All the change, emotional strain, and concerns for the future all create distractions that compete with your messaging. Not to mention, when you’re communicating to agents, any time spent in meetings or one-on-ones is time not spent with customers.

And if you’re in a remote team, Zoom fatigue is real.  People are tired of all the meetings and are looking for a way to mix it up.

These three communication techniques will go a long way in creating better clarity.

Technique #1: Five By Five Communication

If you have a strategic message that you need people to remember, don’t communicate it once and wait on the magic. If something is important communicate it 5 times, 5 different ways. Say you’re a contact center manager and you want your agents to remember to pitch a new product to every customer. Sending five emails isn’t more effective than sending one. 

But imagine you pull agents off the phones in shifts for 15-minute huddles with real or virtual balloons, and tell a few quick strategic stories about how this new product has helped the customers in your pilot roll-out.  It’s not every day that you dig out the helium tanks, or they log in to all their leaders with virtual balloons on their screens, so this brings in a little emotion. That’s way one.

For way two, you change this week’s one-on-one calendar invite to “Bring your ideas for bridging to a pitch for our new product.” This triggers recall, as they think back and review their notes from the town hall. Then when you have your one-on-one, you’re talking about it. That’s way three.

For your fourth communication, you roll out a recognition program for the best examples of great bridge to sales for the new product, which you celebrate with a running leaders board on your intranet. And your fifth mode of communication could be another way to ignite emotion, like walking around your contact center with a big sign, or giving everyone a sincere handwritten note, even in this digital age, can work wonders, too.

Technique #2: Check for Understanding

Of course, setting clear expectations about what matters most and communicating what’s important five times, five different ways is not enough. You need to check to ensure your team gets it. A check for understanding is a simple check to see if your team is picking up what you’re putting down.

You want to check for understanding in two areas: actions and emotions.

Check for Understanding #1: Actions

The action-focused check for understanding ensures a mutually shared understanding of the activity. It looks like this: “Let’s do a quick check for understanding—what’s the first thing we’re going to do as we leave this meeting?” The idea is to have your team tell you what they think they’ve heard so everyone is confident that they understand what happens next.

Check for Understanding #2: Emotions

The emotion-focused check for understanding gives your team a chance to process what’s happening and surface any issues that might arise. It looks like this: Leader: “Great meeting. I’m super excited about this strategy. Before we end, I’d like to ask, ‘How are you feeling?’” Team member 1: “Well, I’m excited about it too, but I’m also worried about how we will do this considering our other priorities.”

Team member 2: “I’m feeling overwhelmed. These are wonderful ideas and I really want to do them, but I don’t know where to begin.” If people have concerns like this, it’s better to know before they leave the meeting so you can help your team move through them, adjust expectations, or remove roadblocks.

Technique #3: Schedule the Finish

Life in contact centers can get a bit crazy and your team has more to do than time to do it. Their interruptions will get interrupted. If you don’t have an intentional, focused way to finish what you start, it won’t happen. Successful leaders don’t leave the finish to chance or a heroic act of willpower. That’s where scheduling the finish comes in.

Scheduling the finish means you and your team don’t leave the completion of critical items to chance, good intentions, willpower, or magical thinking. Rather, you schedule a mutual moment in time where you will follow up, follow through, and finish the task. This isn’t a vague intention—it’s an appointment on the calendars of everyone involved.

Why This Matters to You

In the fast-paced world of contact centers, where every interaction counts, these strategies are not just theoretical—they’re practical tools you can use every day. Clear communication cuts through the chaos, reducing misunderstandings and setting the stage for less stress, more calm and better collaboration.