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.

Cialdini, Principles of Persuasion and April Fools’ pranks that are believed

As today is the first day of the fourth month, there is a lot of influential communication to be observed in the form of April Fools’ pranks. Clearly, the aim of a prank is to influence another person to believe an absurdity.

But what makes one of these pranks more likely to be believed than another?

Well, the Principles of Persuasion, devised by Robert Cialdini, can give us some clues. One principle is particularly effective; Authority.

Basically, people are more likely to be influenced in their behaviour from someone to whom they attribute relevant expertise or authority.  Think about the most famous pranks, reported or perpetrated by the BBC such as;

 1957: Hoax BBC Panorama reveals spaghetti harvest in Switzerland

1976: Patrick Moore tells BBC Radio 2 listeners that at 0947 a planetary event would lessen Earth’s gravity and if people jumped in the air at that moment, they would float.

What made these pranks so successful was the fact that authorities such as the BBC or Patrick Moore, a leading expert on Astronomy and well known TV personality, were involved.

Of course, fun as this is – or not depending on your perspective – many organisations make use of the Authority Principle in their promotion, as indeed am I.

What’s your experience of this?

Comments welcomed