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Building a Call Center: How to Keep Culture Alive

Written by Kayla Brehm | Jan 23, 2015 4:00:33 AM

When asked to picture a call center, many likely imagine a Mad Men-styled bullpen with technology from the 1960’s. Companies opening secondary call center offices today are seeking to flip this antiquated vision on its head. But how do you make a call center inviting? Even more difficult, how do you make your call center associates feel as connected to the company’s vision as those in your headquarters?

Location.

Whether two floors up from your current office or across the country, make sure the location is right for you. Zappos, in hopes of finding more qualified customer support agents, famously relocated its company from San Francisco to Las Vegas in 2004. In an article with Harvard Business Review, Hsieh states that Las Vegas seemed like the natural choice. “It’s an all-night city where employees are used to working at any hour, which would help us find people willing to take the overnight shift. And because so much of the city’s economy is focused on hospitality, the city has a customer service mentality—employees there are used to thinking of people as guests.” He goes on to state that the move helped bond the team as a whole and create the culture that they’re now famous for.

Warby Parker, similarly, made the choice to expand by opening a second corporate office in Nashville, TN. The office, which serves as a call center, was chosen because it was the closest in culture to the company’s home in New York City. David Gilboa, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, told Fast CompanyWhat made Nashville a standout above the other cities was that we felt we’d be able to build the strongest connectivity to New York. We didn’t want this to feel like a call center in the middle of nowhere. We want to build a strong presence and hire hundreds of people over time.

Would you want to work there?

I advise anyone building out an office to think like an outsider and ask themselves this question. It allows you to examine the space from a different perspective.

The People: A great culture is only possible if you have great people. Make sure you hire those who share the company’s vision and can be true ambassadors of the product. L.L. Bean, a retailer both recognized as a customer service champion and a great place to work, attributes their success to their one-of-a-kind call center team. We’ve written about this before, but it’s important to note the importance of finding the right people for your each position on your team. Commit to building your support-focused culture.

“With L.L. Bean, their call center success is a direct result of their service culture and the very active leadership that supports it. They don’t just say; they do.” (source)

The Physical Environment: Physical environment dramatically affects employee happiness. After all, we spend more time at work than we do in our own homes. With more and more call centers expanding to offer 24-hour coverage, it’s important that the office feels welcoming. Offer a variety of seating options for your agents, including standing desks with built-in work stations. To feel even more connected to your headquarters, create a live stream between offices and display it each location.

The Perks: Do you have a particular perk that your HQ employees love? Make sure to carry it over to your call center offices. From lunches to unlimited coffee, show your employees that you value their time and hard work. Your return? Motivated, happy employees.

Make Room: Do you have multiple offices in the same city? Create hotel desk stations that employees from other teams can use. A simple change of scenery could be all someone needs for that spark of creativity. Go a step further and rotate desks for your call center associates every few weeks. The change will allow them to get to know more people. Who knows, maybe they’ll learn something new from their new neighbor.

Room for Growth: Create a learning culture by holding open forums with your call center team. The open forum will allow associates to address any questions that may pop up and create a feeling of transparency between leadership in the company. Many companies also offer projects with other departments for customer service folks to take on.

Startups today are taking on the challenge of reinventing the standard call center. If your company takes the leap, be a part of the change. Your employees, and your customers, will thank you.

How did your company handle having a support office? Let us know in the comments or @helpdotcom