Defiance is More Work Than Behavior Change
Years ago I went back to visit some old teachers and to thank them for their influence in my life. I enjoyed some great conversations. When I asked one teacher how things were at my alma mater, he sighed and shook his head. “If students put have as much energy into studying as they expended trying to find new ways of cheating, they’d be successful.”
Over the years I’ve coached and trained a dizzying number of Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). The vast majority of them have proven to be a pleasure to coach. I’m proud to watch their development and advancement within their respective organizations. The ones who baffle me are those rare few who approach the quality process with bad attitudes and outright defiance. I’ve known CSRs to audit every evaluation and prepare lengthy excuses, arguments and petitions against any infraction no matter how blatant. I will be the first to admit that QA is a human enterprise and mistakes will be made. I have no problem with CSRs checking to make sure that calls have been evaluated properly. I have also observed some crazy employer expectations that deserved vigorous pushback from the front-line, and I have become their advocate. Most of the time, however, the quality expectations asked of CSRs is quite reasonable. No matter how reasonable the expectations, I find that there are some CSRs who expend more energy fighting the system and aruging any critical mark than it would take to simply change their behavior and adhere to their employers standards.
For example, I knew one CSR whose employer asked that every employee include an “inviting question” as part of their greeting. There was no script and the company was generous in giving their team latitude in making whatever “inviting question” they chose both personal and conversational (e.g. “How can I help you today?”, “What can I do for you?”, “May I help you?”, and etc.). This particular CSR had a stock greeting she used whenever she picked up the phone. She would abruptly provide the name of her company followed by her name. Period. To be honest, it was abrupt greetings like this CSRs which prompted the company add an “inviting question” as a mandatory element of every phone greeting. Adding a “May I help you?” would have really softened this CSR’s greeting and help start the conversation with a more inviting tone. She refused, however. She argued the point vehemently ad nauseum. She felt it was silly. She said it wasn’t natural. In a desperate attempt to avoid simply adding a few words to her greeting, she hatched a plan to give customers her cell phone number. By asking them to call her cell phone she avoided being recorded and evaluated.
After coaching CSRs like the one I just described, I find myself sighing and shaking my head just like my old high school biology teacher. I wish I had a magic bullet for coaching these rebellious spirits. I have know some defiant ones who finally changed their behavior, their atttitude and have become exceptional service providers. I’ve have known others whose defiance finally led to their resignation or the termination of their employment. I’ve always approached my coaching sessions with a positive attitude and the desire to encourage the success of the CSR by empowering them to provide service that will satisfy customers. As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”