It’s that call we all dread. Just as you sit down to dinner, climb into the shower or turn on your favourite TV show.
‘Hello..?’ you ask, flustered at whoever it is calling at the most inappropriate time.
‘Good evening Mrs Smith, this is Shona calling from Energy Savers. I noticed you haven’t insulated your loft in the last ten years’.
Here, you may have chosen to hang up the phone or swear blindingly at the inconvenience of such a call, or perhaps you just let them carry on talking with the phone off the hook as you get on with your evening. Either way, I think it’s quite safe to say, no one is a fan of cold calls.
But in light of BBC3′s recent observational docusoap, The Call Centre, could our hearts be softening to the hard life of a call centre employee? Filmed in Swansea’s third largest call centre, this fly-on-the-wall documentary showcases the highs and lows of a business with a difference. That difference being the unique way CEO, Nev Wilshire, chooses to manage his 700+ eager call centre recruits with an average age of 26.
But now the programme has sadly drawn to an end and reflection has settled in. It seems there is something we can all learn from Nev’s brash and seemingly nonsense leadership style that actually makes a lot of sense. Here are 5 leadership lessons we learnt from Nev at ‘The Call Centre’ to apply to your call centre and customer services recruitment.
1. Happy people sell
Of course they do! This goes without saying. But the question you need to ask is, are your call centre & customer services staff happy?
Life in a call centre is hard – there’s no doubt about it. You might receive a cold call once a week or two, and you’re annoyed by that. Imagine endless days of relentless phone calls to people that just don’t want to know – not to mention the responses that come with.
Do away with drudgery and make sure your employees are happy. If they’re happy, so are your customers. If your customers are happy, they’re more likely to buy from you.
Nev has a number of tactics to keep his staff smiling, including sing-songs, group hugs, office games, nights out, and of course, the company band. In one instance, he even went to great lengths to mend the broken heart of Kayleigh, an administrator at the Call Centre, by splashing out on a speed dating night.
Of course, playing cupid for your employees is not going to be everyone’s answer to a happier workforce and could be deemed borderline intrusive. But this alone demonstrates the great lengths Nev goes to to ensure his employees remain happy. If they’re happy, they’ll stay for longer, meaning less jobs to fill and ultimately, time & money saved when it comes to their call centre recruitment.
2. Some will, some won’t, so what, next!
Episode 2 had to be one of my favourite episodes of The Call Centre, embedding the ‘Some will, some wont, so what, next!’ (SW, SW, SW, N!) motto firmly in my head for all walks of life.
The ‘SW, SW, SW, N’ motto is the sales philosophy that Nev lives by at the call centre, meaning he never loses touch of his business. As a CEO of such a large organisation, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘corporate’ side of life spending your time in endless meetings, swamped in paperwork and never engaging with your staff.
But not Nev. He remained at the heart of the business, getting out on the floor and taking an interest in his employees. It’s this interaction that makes you feel very much valued as an employee, improving your employee retention rates.
3. Surround yourself with the right people and the rest is easy
We all have great ideas, but when it comes to actually pulling them off, it’s not always as straight forward.
In this instance, tea-lady Hayley, decided to do a call centre ‘Strictly come prancing’ act, bringing staff together for an evening of fun & dance. Well, that was the idea had people turned up. Where did she go wrong?
Nev, rightly pointed out that Hayley had opted to plan & host the entire event off her own back without asking anyone for help. Had she requested the help of the Marketing department, for example, she may have been able to promote the event better, and likewise by calling upon other staff.
In another instance, rebel ‘Chickenhead’, was assigned Manager of the company’s football team. While he pulled the entire event off (apart from winning the match), Nev again (and rightly so), pointed out the importance of designating tasks to team members and calling on those with the skills you require to ensure a seamless & efficient process. In other words, surround yourself with the right people and the rest is easy.
4. The cash cow of the company has stopped giving milk
Particularly in light of turbulent times, many businesses have, at some point, felt the cash-flow pressure meaning managers and team leaders at all levels are faced with making some tough decisions.
Sadly, life at the call centre was no different, and the loss of a major contract resulted in the lay-off of team members who just didn’t quite cut it. But as it would be for anyone, making such a difficult decision was no easy journey for warm-hearted Nev. So what do you do?
Nev took the time to understand the issues associated with his business challenge and called on the help of other senior professionals within the business to look at the options available to them from all angles and perspectives. Many difficult business decisions have a wider effect on your company, including reputation, relationships with employees and customers, and your brand, so it’s important to weigh out the options and the impacts of each.
While the outcome of Nev’s situation resulted in redundancies, he used his experience and intuition to gauge the challenge that lay ahead. He asked the right questions to the right people, ultimately helping him to make an informed decision that was best for the business and staff alike.
5. Get back on the horse and ride
In the final episode of the series, Nev reflected upon John Wayne’s answer to failure ‘If you haven’t fallen off the horse, you haven’t been riding it long enough’.
This carried a lot of meaning in itself, but what really stood out to me as Nev battled his business demons was the fact that even when things felt like they’d hit rock bottom, he made certain the gloom did not spread to the sales floor. Instead, he continued to ensure his staff were enthused, inspired and incentivised, having recognised that his employees are vital to the success of his organisations.
Nev & his management team at the call centre have created such a strong company culture that everyone believes & has bought into it. While it may seem controversial to some, the fact of the matter is it appeals to people and it works.
There were endless moments throughout the series when you witnessed Team Managers, Executives, and even the CEO himself rolling up their sleeves and being the first to get stuck in, not to mention the endless jokes with the sales floor.
For me personally though, it is the simple things that make people smile & raise a laugh that are the most successful in keeping a work environment a happy environment, and there is no denying that when it comes to working in a call centre, Nev does this well.
What are your thoughts of Nev’s approach to leadership in a call centre? Would it bring the best out of you and your team? How do you bring the best out of your team? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!