The Call Centre – Different Strokes for Different Folks

The Call Centre – Different Strokes for Different Folks

MP910216392Amongst the jolly japes going on in this week’s episode of The Call Centre (organising Strictly Come Prancing, a piss up in a brewery and a football match against a rival Call Centre in Cardiff) we saw that the management of “Saving Britain Money” does have teeth.

The focus of this change of style was Chickenhead and his mate, Griff. Both have been superstars in the call centre, hitting bonus on a regular basis. But in this episode we see that Chickenhead in particular has “lost his Mojo” and is starting to drift. It was reassuring to see this dealt with in an appropriate way, as the Call Centre Manager is brought in to do a bit of Performance Management. his style, in contrast to the paternalistic Nev is much more business like. One can imagine that being called into a meeting with him is a warning in itself. Chickenhead takes his verbal warning on the chin, but it does not appear to make any difference.

This leads to an intervention from Nev.He uses his knowledge of Chickenhead to design an incentive to give him his Mojo back. He uses Chickenhead’s love of football to get him to organise a match with a rival call centre in Cardiff. Although his team loses, in a tight mstch decided by penalties, the process of organising such a prestige event so well seems to have the desired effect, At tleast in the short term.

It will be interesting to see how this classic use of away motivation (stick or in this case, the disciplinary process) and towards motivation (carrot or in this case, trust and recognition to organise the football team) works for Chickenhead. I guess we will finfd out over the next few weeks.

It was reassuring to see that the image of an anarchic organisation that makes up its own rules is not quite the full picture. Nev’s enthusiasm and unorthodox approach is coupled with a clear performance management policy and senior managers who are happy to use it. This is how it should be in every organisation. Individuals need to know what is expected from them and to be held to account to deliver those things.

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The Call Centre Week 2 – SWSWSWN

MP910216392The Call Centre – SWSWSWN

This week at the “Save Britain Money” Call Centre in Swansea the focus is even more on personality.

Last week we got an insight into Nev Wishire’s style of leadership. Nev is an extrovert, and the programme suggests he likes to surround himself with similar outgoing personalities.  Of course, expressive personalities make for better television than the more reflective, introverted style, so it is hard to know how much of what we see is down to editing and how much is real? This week we see examples of how this preference can create issues and burn out. But do you agree with Nev’s approach? Well, as the man himself likes to say “Some Will, Some Won’t, So what? Next (SWSWSWN).

We see Nev’s Paternalistic Leadership Style  in action once again this week but with mixed results. First, he tries to rescue high maintenance, poor attendee, but occasional top sales performer Ania, who has anxiety issues. We saw a similar approach  last week with Hayley, who was promoted (?)  to tea lady after her sales started to slip. Hayley seems to thrive in this less demanding role, so Nev tries to repeat his success with Ania, by making her a tea lady, doing a 2 week holiday cover. This time it doesn’t work out and she ends up leaving.

Nev’s efforts to help Ania are contrasted with his attempts to get George a date. The programme makers would have us believe that George is atypical in Nev’s Call Centre. Nev himself describes George as a hard worker, a slogger and dependable. So, he’s a bit more steady in his sales, but with fewer peaks and troughs than the more excitable Ania. Unfortunately for George, who didn’t ask for Nev’s help, the scheme backfires, with even desperate-for-a-husband Alex turning him down. It is interesting to see how Nev equates George’s lack of success in getting a date (6 years and counting) to his lack of confidence. It is more likely that working in an environment with so many extroverts he is not going to find someone to like him for who he is.

Can we conclude anything from these vignettes? Nev is passionate about creating a “unique atmosphere” in his call centre. This is characterised by energy and enthusiasm, something that extroverts can deliver in abundance. The difficulty is maintaining that energy, and the programme concentrates on the lengths that the management team, led with gusto by Nev, go to keep the energy up; from speed dating, to a rock band, to a Voice of Wales Call Centres competition. It is probably necessary to have a mixture of extroverts (Anias) and introverts (Georges); the former give the centre energy and drive activity, the latter give a solid performance foundation that is more predictable in terms of results.

The third theme of this week is in relation to The voice of Wales Call Centres, and there is success for Save Britain Money, as former actress Heledd is successful, firstly in the centre and then in the whole competition. Heledd is actually somewhere between the extremes of personality seen in Ania and George. She has the confidence of the extroverts and the measured approach of the introverts and is successful with it. The 300 word poem she composes to win the competition is superb and she also demonstrates a knowledge of the fundamental premise of selling; focus on the benefits to the customer, not the features.

Extroverts, like Ania and Hayley bring energy to organisations, but their performance is often characterised by peaks and troughs. Introverts like George provide a steady, but unspectacular performance. But it is those who sit somewhere in the middle, like Heledd, who posibly represent the best bet in sales. Heledd is the current face and voice of Call Centres in Wales and is the perfect choice.

The Call Centre – Smiley, Happy People (Sell)

The Call Centre – Smiley Happy People (Sell)

negotiationWelcome to a new fly-on-the-wall documentary series which follows the staff of a Call Centre in Swansea. This programme is going to split opinion, as 10 years on from The Office, we see that David Brent is alive and kicking in the form of Nev Wilshire, CEO.

Although he claims never to seen The Office, Nev appears to have the same leadership philosophy; “Happy People Sell”. Its hard to know what impact the cameras have, but the staff working for Nev appear to love him. I’m sure his approach is marmite, and those who stay thrive in it. Those who don’t leave. We did see Nev’s “gut feel” approach to recruitment in action, where he is apparently more interested in character and personality than ability. This approach is consistent with Nev’s yellow/Expressive Social Style. That the business is thriving suggests he’s on to something.

What Nev does have is a clear vision of the type of organisation he wants (“Happy People Sell”) and the values that spring from this vision; energy, fun, and loyalty. Each of these values is illustrated in the programme;

  • energy with Nev getting the new recruits to start their training with a compulsory karaoke  of The Killer’s “Mr Bright Side”
  • fun with the speed dating set up to get Kayleigh in admin happy again
  • and loyalty to Hayley, who cannot cut it as a telesales agent, but finds her niche as the tea lady

On the evidence of the programme, it is shown to have some success, but encouraging laddish behaviour is also shown to have its downsides. Witness a prank taken too far with Hayley’s teabags, sugar and spoons being hidden from her. The joke is carried on too long and she ends up going to her line manager in tears. Neve states that HR “totally despair of me” and exist to keep him (and everyone else) on the straight and narrow.

This was a good first episode which soon progressed from The Office to a more meditative essay on management and leadership and the cost of running your own business. Nev has had his up and downs (millionaire at 28, business failure at 38, successful but divorced at 53) . It becomes obvious that his work is his life, and he acts like a benevolent parent to his children/staff. I can’t wait to see how this series develops over its 5 week run.