Achieving the Status Quo

One reason I love the Call Center world is that it breeds into you a passion for goal attainment. Everyday when you walk in the door you have a clearly defined set of short-term and long range objectives that must be met. You come in every morning, review your plan over a cup of coffee, then lock and load for the day ahead. Come snow storms, flu outbreaks, hurricanes, surprise mail drops or infomercials, fiber cuts, or product defects… you pro-act to react day-in and day-out to hit your numbers. It’s exhilarating. Really.

Hitting goals such as: Service Level, Average Handle Time, Average Speed of Answer and Agent Utilization are so core to call center operations that companies invest millions of dollars a year into technology and people with the sole purpose of attaining them. It’s also how people get paid. I can’t tell you how many compensation plans I’ve seen that reward people for hitting these types of “performance goals.”

The problem though, as I’ve come to realize it, is that they’re always the same goals. Day after day you are striving to be only as good as you were the day before. Secondarily, the goals are designed in such a way that they would be silly to try and do any better, ex. hitting an 81% Service Level for a day is really no better than hitting 80%. This means you are endlessly tweaking the machine to only achieve the same level of results everyday. In addition, the process is making you only as good as your competitors, not better than… This is sort of like endlessly adjusting your sails while at sea with the purpose being not to actually go anywhere, but rather just to avoid capsizing the boat. Isn’t the point of “goaling” to make you better? Perhaps make you more competitive or more profitable? So why then do we call these things “goals”? Aren’t they really just achieving the status quo?

Here’s an exercise to drive the point home: go through all of your reports, employee evaluations, and executive presentations and change the word “Goal” to “Status Quo”. Now start circulating these amongst the team and see what conversations come about. My guess is that once people realize the amount of money and resources going into efforts that do nothing to actually acquire or retain customers then priorities will start to change.

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