GRHRA News - October 2, 2018


 

News at a Glance

  • Don't miss out on our Business & Workplace Etiquette event this Thursday, October 4, 2018. While this event is geared more towards students, ALL are welcome to attend. RSVP here before it's too late!
  • Our October 16th lunch event, Inclusive Leadership: Remaining Relevant in a Diverse World, is quickly approaching. RSVP here to reserve your spot!
  • Help us out by taking our Workforce Readiness survey opportunity (it only  takes1 minute)! Findings from this survey will be presented at our GRHRA meeting in NovemberTake the survey now.

Spotlight Article

How One Company Got Employees to Speak Up and Ask for Help

Fintona Financial (not the company’s real name) had a problem. Interviews with their financial advisors revealed something disturbing: When dealing with Fintona’s Customer Support, many advisors followed a three-call rule saying, “If you really need the right answer from Fintona, you have to call them three times [to ask the same question] and trust the first two operators who give you the same answer.” Yeah, ouch. The more calls they received, the more operators they needed, and the more their margins eroded.

 

At the root of the problem was Fintona’s own success — they’d grown so quickly that their call center had tripled in size over five years to serve their growing number of clients. They couldn’t recruit fast enough. Even when they found good people, many new service agents were pulled out of their two-month training program in as little as two weeks. Those newbies suffered from a common problem: They wanted to look good in front of their bosses. When they were asked a tricky question by a financial advisor or an assistant, all too often, they would give a right-sounding answer instead of saying, “I don’t know,” and asking someone for help. This not only triggered increased call volumes but also began to erode Fintona’s customer satisfaction scores. They had built their business on customer experience — so, poor NPS scores could be the death of their company. Here’s how they fixed it.

 

Start with Experiments

How could Fintona make their newbies feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out?” They began by experimenting on themselves. To start, the call center leaders told their teams that they were taking a four-week Experimentation Vacation. They would continue tracking their normal metrics but, for the next few weeks, these metrics wouldn’t impact teams’ compensation. The leaders gave their teams a clear mandate: Change whatever it takes to prevent clients from living by the three-call rule. Fintona held launch meetings with all 300 experimenters and handed each one a white lab coat to wear throughout the experiments. That sounds goofy, but 300 white lab coats sent a powerful signal that this was not business as usual.

 

Don’t Wait for Perfect Ideas

One of their most ridiculous ideas ended up becoming their best experiment: The “Bat signal.” One team observed that, when a newbie service agent didn’t know the answer to a question, they would reach out for help from anyone in their row of desks. The problem was, their neighbors were also on calls, so the chance that someone could help was always pretty low. So, the experiment team had the goofy idea: arm each newbie with a Bat signal — a flashing red police light that newbies could trigger any time they were stumped to summon help from across the call center.

 

The first day of the experiment, it was clear that the lights weren’t working. Newbies who were already uncomfortable saying, “I don’t know,” were even more uncomfortable turning on a flashing emergency light that screamed to the whole floor, “I DON’T KNOW!” The team also ran into a classic someone-else-will-handle-it problem: When other service agents saw a flashing light go off, they just assumed that someone else would jump in and help. The experiment failed.

 

Iterate Until It’s Great

The team had to come up with another solution. If making the lights public was a problem, and if no one helped because they didn’t feel responsible for helping, then maybe each Bat signal needed a Bat manager — a dedicated leader who could watch the lights and swoop in to save the day. So, the team moved the lights to the managers’ offices and asked them to be on the lookout.

 

But, that didn’t work either. Newbies still felt singled out and uncomfortable hitting the Help button, and the Bat managers weren’t at their desks often enough to act as a reliable safety net. In two days, the team learned that they needed a private way to call for help. Assuming that they still needed dedicated helpers, they changed the infrastructure again and created a private chat channel — the “Bat chat” — where newbies could connect directly with experts from Fintona’s specialized departments.

 

Again, the idea didn’t work. The experts didn’t answer any questions— they were either too busy to help or couldn’t be bothered. In fact, the only answers that newbies got on the Bat chat were from other newbies. That gave the team an idea.

 

If the experts were either scary, distant, or unavailable, then they would launch the Bat chat across the entire call center. They figured that veteran agents must know the answer to 80% of newbies’ questions, and they might be a safer resource than some stranger in another department.

 

Finally, success. The Bat chat took off like crazy. They clocked over 80 conversations on the first day alone. Most surprising, it wasn’t newbies who first started using the chat, but veteran service agents asking each other questions. As more veteran voices spoke up (or typed up), the newbies started asking their own questions and getting immediate answers. When they were each just another voice in a crowded room, they felt safe to ask questions. So, the key wasn’t in giving newbies special treatment, it was making them feel normal in saying, “I don’t know.” And a nice added benefit of the Bat chat? Those long transcripts became a searchable library of answers for future service agents.

 

The Bat chat was the perfect solution for this team. But, there was no special analysis that they could have done beforehand to figure that out. No market research or benchmarking data would have suggested it. They had to build, fail, iterate, and repeat to find the answer. And once they found it, it didn’t need careful change management to extend it to the rest of Customer Support. It spread by word of mouth, and became a source of pride because the team found their own solution.

 

Make It Safe to Ask for Help

What did it take to make employees feel safe asking for help? Fintona learned some remarkably similar lessons to what Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found in her two-year study of the culture of helping at IDEO: Newbies don’t need to be singled out. They don’t need special support. They need to see that even their most successful colleagues need help sometimes. As a leader, if you want to create an environment where it’s okay to ask for help, how can you show that even you need help from time to time? How can you publicly celebrate people giving and receiving help? If you want people to start asking for help, then they need to see everyone else doing it too.

Upcoming Meetings & Important Dates

October Events

Business & Workplace Etiquette

Thursday, October 4, 2018 (5:00PM - 6:30PM)
 
Roxanne Steffens will share with us the do's and don'ts in the workplace. Appetizers and networking held from 5:00 - 5:30 pm. Presentation from Roxanne Steffens from 5:30 - 6:30 pm. Geared toward students but all GRHRA members are welcome to attend.
 
 
 
Inclusive Leadership: Remaining Relevant in a Diverse World
 
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 (11:00PM - 1:00PM)
 
Dr. Monica Smith, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Augustana College, will share with us practices, policies, concepts and possible barriers that impede progress around the topic of inclusive leadership. RSVP by 5pm on October 15th to attend!


 

 

November Events

 

Half-Day Legal Update & Workforce Readiness Panel

Tuesday,workforce-readiness-panel-1 November 13, 2018 (7:15AM - 12:00PM)

 
Join us for a half-day meeting to get up to speed on all legal updates as well as hear from our Workforce Readiness Panel representatives who will discuss iJag, Sector Boards, Junior Achievement & The Career Network.

 

 

December Events

 

December 5,  Half Day Employer Wellness Forum, Northeast Iowa Community College, Dubuque, IA - Speakers: Troy Vincent, Founder and CEO, Navigate Wellbeing Solutions, and Tom Woodward, President & CEO, Woodward Communications. Registration now openHRCI and SHRM credits available. For questions and further information about this event, contact Barb Barton.

 

 

Job Board Opportunities

 

Director of Human Resources, posted 09/10/2018

    Tri-City Electric Co., Davenport, IA

Payroll and Compliance Specialist, posted 08/14/2018

    Wyffels Hybrids, Geneseo, IL

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." - John Dewey