How One CEO Made His Contact Center a Home

It’s a familiar scenario.

Agents chasing gruelling sales targets. Contact center owners pacing the sales floor to check on the status of those gruelling sales targets. And towering TV monitors dramatically announcing the “winners” and “losers” of the day’s gruelling sales race.

Telemarketing—it’s not for the faint of heart.

Why then do contact center owners add to the stress of telemarketing by overworking and overmonitoring their agents? 

Worst still, why have contact center owners lost sight of the bigger picture: ‘Working smarter, not harder’ doesn’t just sound good. It works.

Looking at any report on the annual turnover rate for agents in U.S. contact centers—which, at 45 percent, is more than double the national average—and one thing’s clear…

Houston, we have a problem. 

Skilled agents are dropping like flies. And it’s contact center owners who are paying the price for the exodus—not only in recruiting, onboarding, and training costs, but employee satisfaction and morale as well (all of which exacerbates the stress of running a busy contact center).

So, what is the solution? One San Luis Obispo-based contact center owner just might have the answer.

Meet Tom

Tom carolan - photoblog

Born in London, England, Tom Carolan is not one to, well, pace. The CEO of a booming inbound call generation company, he prefers to keep things stress free and flexible. During a recent visit to our offices in Woodland Hills, CA, Tom discussed why he believes creating a happy work culture is not only good for employee morale, but good for business as well.

Take care of your people 

CEO of Digital Market Media, Inc. and co-author of Have Them at Hello: How the Best Call Centers Crush Sales Projections, Tom is about as far from the stereotypical overbearing contact center owner as it’s possible to get. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he’s successfully fostered a culture of trust and togetherness in an industry known for anything but trust and togetherness.

He explains, “I believe if you take care of the people within your company, they’ll take care of the company.” The success of his contact center is a testament to this belief, particularly considering the challenges of cultivating a positive company culture in any industry—let alone one with a 45% turnover rate.

Tom’s agents work from home and use an instant messaging system (“The Watercooler”) to keep in contact with management throughout the day.

When the work day ends—the work ends with it. Agents log out of their respective campaigns and are free to enjoy their personal lives.

Going from work mode to personal mode is as simple and as immediate as the swing of a chair.

Walk the Walk 

For Tom and his team, work-life balance isn’t just another buzz word: It’s a core value. He explains, “I wanted to create a company where mothers could work four hours a day, and then be there for their children when they got home from school.”

“But what about his children?” I wonder. His work-life balance. Does he walk the walk?

“Yes! When I’m at home, I’m at home,” he exclaims. “I put my phone on Do Not Disturb mode and family time is family time.” But like anyone juggling career and family, it’s a negotiation.

“Growing so quickly has made it hard to balance everything. But I really care about my team. And I want to eliminate as much stress as possible,” he finishes.

Caring as a management strategy? In an industry known for overworking and over surveilling its agents? Who’d a thunk it?

And with that, my conversation with Tom was over.

The Road Home

With the rise of the predictive dialer came the pressure to keep agents on the phone. Dialing as many prospects as possible was the path to success. And the results were effective. High productivity drove higher profits and greater revenue.

But then the tide changed.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 was passed and newfound restrictions were placed on automatic dialing systems. Consumers pushed back on the number of calls they received and contact center owners pushed agents to meet increasingly gruelling sales targets.

The stress of the job was further compounded by the way contact centers were run—and, in many instances, still are. Agents were constantly watched and every infraction was logged for possible termination. Suffice it to say, burnout rates skyrocketed.

Thankfully, the days of pushing agents to produce results nothing short of miraculous, while failing to provide a positive work environment, by any reckoning, are diminishing.

Today, making trust and caring your competitive advantage, as evidenced by Tom and the team at Digital Market Media, Inc., is the key to attracting and retaining happy agents.

All in all, following a grueling formula for success won’t always add up to happiness. But taking care of your people most certainly will.

How have you cultivated a happy work culture?                                                                               

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