Call Centers are often consumers’ first encounter with a business. That experience can make or break a customer’s decision to continue interacting with the company.
Because call centers shoulder the burden of a customer’s first look into a company, it is imperative the business invest in keeping its call center employees on board for the long run to encourage brand loyalty at all levels.
For many business operations, a failing call center is the typical outcome of customer inquiries. Call centers can experience turnover rates up to 100 percent in a single year, notes Sean Loboda, chief human resources officer at Leaf Home. This problem impacts the business at large because if you cannot create brand ambassadors out of your employees, how do you expect to foster loyalty among your customers?
Leaf Home designed an unusual approach to help assure that its call center employees happily remain for the long term. The company built its call center operation to drive potential customers to a cheerful encounter with all the departments to which they connect. That pleasant working relationship starts with Leaf Home’s call center staff.
The role of the call center agent is more than just being the face of the business through the phone. Call center workers tactically assess and qualify the leads coming in, according to Loboda.
“Call centers, in general, have received a bad rap, and frankly some of it is probably deserved,” he told CRM Buyer.
Today, Leaf Home serves customers in the U.S. and Canada from 143 direct customer service delivery centers.
The company started in 2005 as LeafFilter, a gutter protection solutions company. Three other businesses layered in over the past two to three years. Leaf’s approach to handling customers helped it succeed in expanding to a series of home safety services and more.
Leaf Home Safety Solutions products help ensure mobility while reducing the risk of injury around the home. Leaf Home Water Solutions offers customized water softener and water filtration systems tailored to meet municipal or well water needs. Leaf Home Enhancements provides customized design options for kitchen cabinets, bathroom upgrades, windows, and doors. The company has also added a few other business-related services.
Leaf’s call center employees ascertain callers’ needs and navigate them to the proper department. For that internal flow to travel efficiently, the call center must ensure that seasoned phone agents do not want to stop coming to work.
To maintain that outcome, Leaf Home integrates an in-house designed CRM platform with a call center culture that permeates the other departments. The company shuns one-size-fits-all platforms. It also puts its call center workers in over-the-top surroundings.
The call center is people-focused first. It is also tech centered. One of its key job skills is to ensure that its workers are able to successfully navigate a CRM platform while talking to potential and established customers.
“I think the reason call center turnover is so high is because there are so many call centers out there that do not view it as a people business. Companies view those workers as warm bodies until they are no longer useful. Then they discard them,” said Loboda.
He has set up, recruited, and staffed countless call centers. It is really easy to set up a call center in the sense that anyone can get some phones, get a list of old leads, and get some people to call, he observed. Leaf Home wanted something far more dependable and productive, he explained.
‘Home at Work’ Environment
While it is easy to set up a call center, it is hard to set up a people-first call center. That is a big difference and a worthwhile challenge. Leaf Home is definitely the latter, mused Loboda.
“We fully recognize that our role is arguably the most important. If our call center representatives are not having a great day, and they do not have positive energy, and they do not feel valued, they are not going to exude it back to the customer. They are not going to set that customer lead for a sales rep,” he explained.
His call center amenities are high-end. It does not just have a fridge that everyone shares. There are multiple full kitchens with huge islands and contemporary furnishings and lounge spaces. The facility has places for staff to take a break with music playing.
“So it’s a destination, not just the place that you plug in your headset, get some old coffee in the coffee maker, and then clock out for the day,” he said.
Loboda has seen a ton of call centers during his years in the business. With the refurbished facilities completed last year, he readily admits that they are beyond beautiful. But it is not just about the physical space.
“Anyone can put nice flooring and wallpaper up. We really thought about all the things that people in a call center representative roles struggle with, and how can we make that easier for them to make work a more enjoyable place,” he said of the design process.
More Than Money Matters
Part of that redesign focused on the little things for call center staffers. Loboda’s mantra is that money does not make the world go round. It does not buy happiness. But it does make life easier.
“We are constantly doing the little things like bringing in lunch. We understand that people in a role like this may have challenges with getting somewhere for lunch or being able to bring lunch. So we want to make sure that we have the resources available,” he offered.
Another part of the call center culture is constantly evaluating and adjusting compensation rates to make sure that the company stays competitive in the market. The compensation includes daily, weekly, and monthly incentive programs for all of its call center representatives that truly reward them for what they do, Loboda said.
“All these things make us remember this is a people-first business,” he said.
The KISS Principle Works
One of the driving elements in piloting the call center redesign adhered to the KISS factor, as in Keep It Simple, Stupid!
“I know that sounds maybe cliche, but I think we have kept it very simple. When people come to us wanting a product or a service, they want a seamless uninterrupted experience,” he observed.
The call center redesign helped Leaf Home not stray from its core business plan. The call center has new bells and whistles and a proprietary in-house CRM tool to handle the expanded product lines.
“But really, we have never gotten away from the people first, Keep It Simple idea,” said Loboda. “If you are keeping the call center effectively simple and efficient, your customers are going to be happy, and then everything else takes care of itself.”
Flexible Schedules, With Perks
Call center workers’ essential role in the company is also signaled by flexible scheduling. Call centers typically impose rigid working time blocks of eight hours or more.
Leaf Home offers part-time through full-time schedules to its more than 375-person call center staff that work at least 70 different shifts. Those workers opting for the full-time opportunity get company-paid healthcare.
Perhaps a final gesture is the frequently-provided food breaks that call center workers enjoy.