By Adolfo Bonilla
Salt Lake City, Utah
January 13th, 2020
Last year, a very interesting book fell in my hands. It is called ‘Lipstick on a Pig’ by Victoria C. Clarke. I really enjoyed it, and while the book has nothing to do with Customer Care or Call Centers, I could not but think about those moments in my own career in which there was simply no way to spin a bad situation around, and the only smart thing to do was to be straight forward, own it, and resolve it.
Then, I had the chance to meet with a very knowledgeable Call Center professional from the Salt Lake City area, and during the conversation, she brought up the very same concept, but in terms of an entry level job in this industry. She said: ‘’We have got to be honest with the people we are hiring. It makes no sense to put lipstick on a pig. It will continue being a pig and everyone can see it’’
I completely agree with her. A job as a call center representative is a challenge from the start. Be it a phone call, a chat session, an interaction through Social Media or an e-mail, no one contacts a service line to wish you a nice day. They contact us because they have a problem, and you are there, as a punching bag, representing everyone who was involved in the process end to end: design engineers, marketing mavericks, sales mega stars; and taking all the heat for whatever is that went wrong.
Some interactions are cordial and short; known problems that can be easily approached in a matter of minutes. However, many interactions are like an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ and two hours later you are being escalated despite having tried all things you knew and could to help that customer. That builds up, creating burnout and frustration among the members of the team.
A few years back, I walked into my office at 9:00 AM on a Monday, to find one of the Operations Managers already waiting for me. You could tell by the look in her eyes that she was not there to simply wish me a happy week. Earlier that morning, one of the agents had terribly mishandled a call, insulted the caller and then simply walked away from his desk to never be seen or heard of again, despite the many attempts made by the HR team to contact him. The caller happened to be the Vice President of Consumer Services of one of our most important clients, and the escalation resonated all the way up to the company’s CEO. A few weeks later, we lost the account.
You wonder right away: ‘’How did this employee end up in such a disturbed state of mind?”; “Where did we go wrong?” Fact is that, this person was not the right fit for the job, or, turning the tables, the job was not the appropriate one for an individual who had completely different expectations when he joined our team. We never had a chance to conduct an exit interview, but, talking to his teammates, we came to realize that they all had been sold into an idealized and not quite accurate version of the job.
When you are conducting a recruitment campaign, there is usually a lot of pressure coming from all sides. The program managers are pushing hard to meet the project’s deadlines, the financial planners are holding you accountable for their revenue forecast, the salespeople want to be sure their commitments will be met…and the list goes on.
It is then when the recruitment team tends to start making concessions and the temptation to ‘’put lipstick on the pig’’ shows up. Instead of accurately describing the hardships and challenges of the position, the team starts diverting into topics like career opportunities, long term development, benefits. All this denies the candidate the chance to make an informed decision, and intentionally or not, misleads the candidate into accepting a job for which they are not really a fit.
Let’s face it: Not everyone who walks into a BPO or ITO operation looking for a job is Contact Center material. It is up to us to discern and select those who can deal with a constant influx of problems and request during eight or nine hours a day, five days a week from those who can’t, and in that process, the communication must flow in both directions, making sure the candidates fully understand what they are signing up for.
When the Recruitment Team trades quality for quantity and the Operations Team neglects or delegates its role within the talent acquisition process, the chances of recruiting the wrong team members are high. This will negatively impact revenue flows, operation costs, customer and employee satisfaction rates, and the very own program’s sustainability.
So, in an industry where employee turnover costs the organizations an estimated of USD$8000.00/head, it is strongly recommended to make sure the candidates are fully briefed on the functions of the job and all the challenges that come with it. For the purpose, some simple tools and practices have proven to be very effective:
While we must always aim at 100% success rate when recruiting our talent, we also know that our hiring decisions are fallible. Ideally, in the Contact Center Industry, employees should reach an average of twenty-four months to produce an acceptable ‘return on investment’. Regardless of the situation, please remember: You can put all the lipstick you want on a pig, but it will still be a pig.
For comments or question, please write to:
Follow NearshoreConnect on LinkedIn:
Follow Adolfo Bonilla on LinkedIn: