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Is Your Contact Center a Fantasyland… Or Not?

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Is Your Contact Center a Fantasyland… Or Not?

/ Strategy, Vision - Mission - Values
Is Your Contact Center a Fantasyland… Or Not?

Four important leadership lessons contact centers can learn from classic Disney tales.

I am not the biggest fan of Disney, but I have always had a warm spot for Fantasyland. A young friend of mine recently visited Disney World and among his tales of the trip was an expressed enthusiasm for Fantasyland. As I listened to my friend’s story I was reminded of a speech I delivered once at a conference held at Euro Disney. Speakers were asked to pose multiple-choice questions to the audience since they were equipped with hand-held voting devices. I posed the question, “If your contact center were one of the Disney ‘lands,’ which would it be… Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland or Adventureland?” The audience voted enthusiastically and chose Fantasyland as the “land” most resembling their contact center.

Fantasyland is dedicated to the young, and the young at heart and to all those who believe that when you wish upon a star, your dreams do come true.
—Walt Disney

Fantasyland seemed to resonate from a comedic perspective. But when you look more closely at what Fantasyland really represents, it tells a bit of a different tale! The New Fantasyland has a shield as its symbol. The shield has four symbols: a rose, an antler, a trident and a feather. Each represents an essential story element, which is presented as a “lesson.” After thinking about it for a while, I feel that there may well be something more than a comedic association. The shield has several lessons that contact centers can learn from.

Lesson 1: The Rose

Let’s start with the ROSE. The rose represents “one truth that can change anyone.” The truths include the abandonment of pride and the adoption of the belief “that real beauty lies within” and that love will show the way. Now if you’re thinking that I have gone off the rails, stick with me. Businesses are made up of people. Regardless of the amount of technology involved in our work, we are all in the people business. When it comes to leading others, I’m sure you’ll agree that pride is a liability. For example, when coaches use the phrase, “When I was a rep…” who really cares? That is pride talking; you will lose your “subject” when relying on your prideful boasts. And that is mild when compared to leaders that snatch ideas from others and make them their own. Or they may boast of their skills being “excellent” while they are leading a bunch of “young people who have no work ethic.” Pride is an obstacle. This is no fantasy; it is reality.

Pride often stands in the way of truth. Think about decisions and the number of decisions made daily by contact center leaders. If pride is in the mix, the effect is often one of “wearing blinders.” The evidence for this is when decisions made are NOT working. Yet it can take ages for the prideful leader to change course. For instance, let’s look at performance metrics… conflicting criteria presented to the front line, such as handle time must not exceed 180 seconds, yet there must be upsell on all calls or reps MUST take X calls per hour. What is the impact of these situations? The customer experience is the most likely to lose because it is not measured in metrics available from the telecom side. When discussing metric conflicts, the defense of the poor ones is often simply a prideful retention of a measure BELIEVED to be effective in spite of mountains of evidence to the contrary.

What is the truth that will set you free? Leaders must be able to communicate the truth… “Here is what we are to accomplish; here are the parameters; here is how we will know if the approach is working; here is what our customers want, need, expect.” It is important to define strategic objectives and tactical execution plans. Ask for input, the truth of the rose. Humans operate infinitely better when they enjoy full disclosure. People are often smarter than the prideful leader wants to believe. But believe it you must! All of us today are charged with accomplishing more with less. If you want more, demanding it won’t make it so. That would be fantasy. The reality is that truth is a two-way street. If you want to enjoy its benefits you’d best pin a rose on your lapel to remind yourself every day that “the truth will set you free.”

Lesson 2: The Antler

The second symbol is an antler. The antler warns of the dangers of vanity and the value of humility. Greatness is not about your antlers. It is about generosity of spirit. It is about mastering the ability to use strengths wisely and for the good of all rather than to prove strength through power struggles. Leaders must demonstrate that their heart is in the job, and that is only possible when humility governs the use of strength.

Bullies are a great example of the misuse of strength or power. Yes, we have bullies in the contact center and, yes, some of them are in leadership positions. I never cease to be amazed by leaders who raise their voices in anger, who fuel rumors (true or false), who humiliate others, who lie, etc., in hopes of furthering themselves. I just think it must be exhausting to be that uptight all the time. We all have different strengths; a sense of humility allows those strengths to mature as assets rather than human liabilities. How are you using your antlers?

Lesson 3: The Trident

Next we have the trident. The trident symbol is the one associated with “breaking the curse” and conducting an “eternal search” for righting wrongs. What curses have been crushing your contact center’s energy? Is one of them perhaps its disposition? After visiting as many contact centers as I have had the privilege to do, it has become abundantly clear to me that there are curses doing harm to the customer experience. I am talking about the subculture that emerges in poorly led operations. It is a subculture that undermines initiatives, reserves expertise, specializes in work avoidance, and runs your true talent out the door. Turnover is a curse in this situation because it is often your best people who will exit the turmoil of a toxic subculture. They leave behind those folks you would most like to get rid of!

The eternal search exists not only at the external level but also at the internal one. Break the curse by taking a long and hard look at yourself, your team, and your collective leadership approach and effectiveness. (Don’t let your antlers obstruct the view.) Force yourself to search for root cause and fix that. Stop fixing effects, making new rules, attempting to bully people, or manipulating data to create the illusion of high performance. It just won’t work! Carry your trident as a defender of the customer experience and not a killer of it.

Lesson 4: The Feather

And finally, we have the feather. It is the “magical” feather that taught an elephant he could fly! What is the magical feather that will help you soar? There is only one thing really and that is to “believe in yourself.” Let no bully, no prideful leader, no toxic subculture, no curse, or no lie lead you to believe that you are less than someone else. In this, we all need a feather to remind us to listen to ourselves and assure we are aware of what we say to ourselves. The habits we develop around self-talk will either ground us or set us free to fly. Stop comparing yourself to others! It is the fastest way to create doubt about yourself, your capabilities, your looks (magazines, movies, models, etc.), and your smarts. We must arm ourselves with a belief in our own uniqueness and capability. This comes with the responsibility of learning, committing and acknowledging what needs to change. It comes with doing something about it because YOU want to and because YOU want to believe in yourself. The feather symbol must remind you of your worth and your ability to soar!

Putting It All Together

So Fantasyland has some really cool lessons for us. Its symbols remind us to care for and love ourselves and to adopt a humble disposition. To see the real beauty in people requires a willingness to look within. And… the bottom line in Fantasyland is not to take yourself too seriously!

Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen M. Peterson is the Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting, a call center and telecommunications consulting firm. 

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