Listen to Your Voice of Reason

Kathleen Peterson Rants & Raves by Kathleen Peterson

We have all heard about Voice of the Customer programs; I have even heard of Voice of the Employee programs. What I haven’t experienced yet is a Voice of Reason program. So I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a new way of looking at things.

We are all trying to navigate this ever changing, fast paced world of Contact Centers in which customer demands are growing; technology is providing new contact channels, infrastructure, and whiz-bang system functionality; and people employed in these operations are burning out by the minute. What’s a leader to do? I have a suggestion; take a step back and tune into the Voice of Reason.

The Voice of Reason surrounds us every day; whether we choose to pay attention is another matter altogether. The Voice of Reason is quite possibly a loud voice inside your head that sounds very much like your mother’s voice. And as mama might say, “Shut up and listen!” Sadly many of us have managed to tune this voice out. The tune-out may be a result of not wanting to hear the message, or the Voice of Reason has been drowned out by the intensity of the other noises going off inside your head or around you. We live in a society that seems hell bent on eliminating silence and contemplation completely. In doing so, we are allowing our critical thinking skills to be crushed by never ending “noise.”

Elevator “music” has been playing for a very long time; that used to be good enough. Now there are screens playing ads in elevators and taxis have screens displaying news and ads. Restaurants have now adopted an open concept where the outcome seems to be that no one can hear anyone, speakers are blaring music everywhere, and we are subjected to multiple noise sources occurring simultaneously. Is it no wonder we are tuning out the Voice of Reason? It is nearly impossible to enjoy a quiet state of mind in this very noisy world. However, for the Voice of Reason to be heard, a quiet mind is required.

The Voice of Reason makes sense when working in a Contact Center. For management, the Voice of Reason may be reminding you that your front line is your bottom line when it comes to the Customer Experience. Every professional in the Contact Center business today has some responsibility for contributing to the Customer Experience, but few more than the front line. Management plays a significant role in how the front line interprets this responsibility. The Voice of Reason may ask management to question whether they have done a good enough job identifying desired behaviors and a context for those behaviors. The front line would be happy to answer this question for you … the Voice of Reason says that if management cannot articulate in 30 seconds or less the requisite supporting behaviors it is time to take a time out. It is time to listen in to what your Voice of Reason might suggest.

The great news is that the Voice of Reason comes from many sources and not just from within your own mind. In fact, if you have tuned out the Voice internally it may be time to look outside. Look to other professionals, members of your team, the front line, your mother (just saying … moms are the quintessential Voice of Reason). This simple act will stimulate your thinking gene. And with any luck, it will reduce some of the nonsense static and allow you to reignite your own Voice of Reason.

The Voice of Reason may also ask about the context for coaching to the Customer Experience behaviors. Sadly   today far too many folks coach as if they were more the preacher than the teacher; they portray themselves as omnipotent! The Voice of Reason says that in this day and age coaching sessions must contextualize desired behaviors to the company’s vision, mission, and purpose. Even the monitoring form should be reworked to have headings that reflect Customer Experience objectives. Consider the following: Builds relationship with customer (focuses on the opening, the probing, using caller’s name, etc.); Demonstrates recognition of customer need (confirms issue, offers suggestions and alternatives), properly utilizes systems, and adheres to process; Ends the call graciously, etc. You get the idea. In this example, the form actually provides the “context” for the coaching. Any “misses” in the criteria can be coached to “why we require this” and “how to improve.” Too many programs lack the context to be effective at a higher level of brain function … just ask the Voice of Reason.

The Voice of Reason is most important in the design, acquisition, and implementation of technology. No other area is more prone to failure than this. The Voice of Reason would suggest (if you listen) that technology purchases must have two things to be successful. First, there must be input from the domain experts. These are the people in the Contact Center that are most involved with Contact Center technology. What a concept! Secondly, there must be a detailed map of ALL technology tools in the Contact Center … how they interact and how anything new will integrate. Systems that cannot “talk” to each other stump the Voice of Reason!

Understanding the complexity of the entire process of purchasing telecom (in particular) involves navigating a mine field of features, functionality, integration, contracts, implementation, upgrades, ongoing maintenance costs, etc., etc. Just because someone in IT knows how to handle moves, adds, and changes to an existing system in no way qualifies them to actually purchase a system! The Voice of Reason is LOUD here for some and dim for others. The bottom line is that when it is time to acquire, hire a professional to act on your behalf. The industry has become too crazy to trust your vendor! But alas, this warning often falls on ears deaf to the Voice of Reason.

Finally, let’s look at what the Voice of Reason tells you about your talent. If you have people in your employ that feel that the position is beneath them, they may wrongly be holding back their talent. This is a huge mistake! The Voice of Reason would want to let them know that talent restrained is talent choked. Choked talent may simply be dying talent. Talent must be nurtured, engaged, curious, and passionate. Even the most mundane tasks, when undertaken with interest and enthusiasm will yield more than when holding back. Managers are people too … and this Voice of Reason would suggest that some time be spent on doing things differently rather than constantly trying to do the same thing better.

That’s it for now…

“Be that Voice of Reason when you ain’t tryna hear it. You want it but you fear it, but you love it when you near it.” P Diddy, American Rapper 

My Best,