Clear the Queue vs. Deliver Excellence

Clear the Queue vs Deliver Excellence

Sara Moginot is a customer service aficionado, a regular reader of this blog … and the author of this article.

While walking along the beach one afternoon, I watched my big red dog dart in and out of the waves. Groot brings zest to everything he does, wherever he is – forest or marsh, even bouncing across the floors of our apartment. When given a command, he obeys with tremendous joy.

At call centres, answering a phone can seem mundane, like the commands I give to my dog. It’s easy to see our task as only working to clear the queue, but when we do this every caller can become an annoyance, the queue an endless list of to-dos that need to be done. Our job becomes shackled to obedience – fetch and retrieve, answer and log.

There’s another way. Chris MacDonald, Chair, Department of Law and Business at the Ted Rogers School of Management, recently wrote about it in Canadian Business. His post discusses the difference it makes when we understand that our jobs are a means to a specific end, not the end itself. He includes an anecdote of how morale improved at Disney parks and resorts when employees recognized their job was not simply to pick up trash, it was to make the customer experience a positive one.

A call centre agent’s task is to answer the phone but the job is to provide excellent customer service. Maybe the mission is to retain customers or, with the growing government contact centres, maybe it is to help run a city, state or province more effectively. When this job is seen simply as answering the phone and dealing with requests, the job becomes an endless battle to clear the queue. This can deplete morale.

Back to my dog. To Groot, life is not simply a list of commands – fetch, sit, drop, stay, all of which he does relatively well. It is within these tasks he finds his own joy, and that becomes part of our companionship and adventures. For instance, when the ball is thrown on the beach and he retrieves it, he might dig a hole, drop his ball in the hole, excavate the ball out of the hole, fetch it, and start over. Repeat. He has his eye on the ball, but he has a mission (that only he is aware of) and it certainly isn’t just “fetch”. Whatever it is, it is infectiously joyful.

dog on beach

As a phone agent, recognize and understand your full mission, the value of your job, and bring joy into your calls. This will become part of your relationship with your callers.

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