As part of a project for my Masters course at Gonzaga University, I recently completed an audit on GCS’ current communication plan. This audit targeted several areas of communication at GCS including internal communication at our sites, a personal interview with a veteran manager and direct observation during meetings. Although I’d love to report that GCS is perfectly capable of delivering exceptional corporate communication across all levels, like most organizations, we do have strengths AND weaknesses.
I asked our associates to fill out an anonymous survey regarding the communication practices at our 11 contact centers. Starting with an employee pool over well over 1,000, I was disappointed I had only a 21% participation rate, even after I offered a prize for participation! I finally surrendered my appeal to the masses and used the data I appreciatively had received. I did learn a lot from the survey so all was not lost.
From this opening experience, I gained an understanding of how important it is to reach out to those on the front-lines of the communication spiral. One essential principle to remember: there is always room for improvement! No matter how finessed your communication plan might be, someone has an idea for improvement and growth.
This three-part series will recommend tips I uncovered while piecing together my communication audit for GCS.
Communication in Your Centers ~ Part I
What’s that saying? –“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Who even has an hour these days? Let’s face it: a lot goes on at a contact center. You have shift changes, shift meetings, new hires, training, calls, coaching, breaks -the list goes on. With all that activity, effective communication is necessary to keep all associates on the same page. A small breakdown in communication could lead to potentially disastrous missteps. Effective communication can mean minimal mistakes, easier transitions, smooth workflow and happier associates. What do happier associates mean for your site? That’s right- better performance!
Here are a few tips for improving the communication at the contact center level:
Repair/update bulletin boards in the center: Does your contact center have abandoned bulletin boards? Are they broken or unused? First things first. Take stock of the community message boards you have at your facility. Repair them if they are damaged and update them if they are out-dated. Create one strictly just for work-related announcements. Don’t have a bulletin board? Buy one! If the budget is tight and you can’t purchase one right away, create one on a blank wall in your site. Make it look professional and neat and it can serve a great purpose.
- Post announcements for those who do not hear them while on the phones serving customers: These bulletin boards serve a higher purpose than just advertising that car you want to sell. It’s a great vehicle for you to post important messages your associates might have missed or didn’t hear while on a call. Be sure to update it at the end of every shift or at least, every day. Color coding the paper by topic is a great way to organize the information. At a minimum, use a specific color of paper recognizable for important center announcements.
- Create a task force of associates committed to the internal communication in the center: The customer service representatives in your site are a valuable source of information. Use their expertise and personal hands-on experience to make improvements in your site’s communication. Seek out those whom you trust and have who have shown a passion for contributing to the improvement of their site. Meet with them on a regular basis to discuss the communication concerns in your company. They have the first-hand knowledge to know what works and what doesn’t.
Place electronic message boards in all centers:Electronic boards can help push out quick snippets of information to associates all day long. If they miss something on a bulletin board or in the newsletter, put it on the electronic board to remind them. It’s a small and fast way to get a message across. This is also a convenient way to keep associates informed of center metrics! Some centers can push scrolling messages to the associate’s screen or place it on an intranet homepage. (See below.)
- Keep associates in-the-know: Start a phone tree at your site if associates need to be made aware of a situation. This ensures they are informed of the information ahead of time and can plan accordingly. For example, if you have programs with schedules that can fluctuate and you need to make staffing changes for the day, get the supervisors to help contact associates.
- Update your voicemail system: Be sure to check your site’s voicemail system general message. Has someone recently moved or been promoted? Is there new management at the site? Be sure all of the contact information and numbers are updated on a regular basis.
- Get dry erase boards for supervisors: This is a quick easy fix. Dry erase boards are extremely affordable and can be used for updating associates on anything they need to know! Make it a habit they check the supervisor’s white board every day. The supervisor can cater their message to their specific team.
Create suggestion box for employees to voice opinions in every center: There should always be a way for associates to offer their suggestions. A suggestion box is one way but every site is different so find a solution that works best for your associates. Let your employees know you take their thoughts and concerns into consideration.
- Create an online dashboard with employee login for center updates and information: This will require support from the information and technology department at your site but is the easiest way to push out information to all of your associates, all the time. Find out what your company is capable of from a technology standpoint and start testing it out. This way, associates have a “one stop shop” for information about their site and the company.
- Create company update videos once a month from CEO: Associates want to know what’s going on. They want to know their senior management is approachable and understanding. By allowing associates to receive a monthly message from the CEO, they not only get most of their questions answered but the site minimizes room for rumors to fester. Promoting honesty and building trust is important in order to maintain open lines of communication.
We all possess the ability to communicate, whether it’s picking up a pencil, making a call or writing an email. It just takes attention to detail to discern what works for your site. Making adjustments doesn’t have to be time-consuming or unaffordable. Make notes where breakdowns occur and seek a solution. Rome wasn’t built in a day so communication doesn’t have to improve within one hour but if you get the whole site involved in the process, finding a solution will be faster and easier than you anticipate.