Author: Yogi Schulz

Summary :Yogi identifies five common business problems that arise from team dysfunction and describes how the solutions are enhanced through technology.

Is your business experiencing any of the following?

  • Customers hanging up on call centre agents
  • Revenue targets are being missed because business is going to a competitor
  • New business pitches are rarely producing successes
  • Turnover among experienced staff is trending higher

These are all symptoms of dysfunctional teams in action. What follows is a discussion of management and technology initiatives that can turn dysfunctional teams into high performance teams.

In Summary:

  • Improve call centre effectiveness
  • Keep competitors at bay
  • Strengthen project execution
  • Create stronger sales pitches
  • Reduce turnover among star performers

On This Page

Improve call centre effectiveness

Call centre staff that is struggling with inadequate training attitude increase customer complaints, not customer satisfaction.

Focused training can be accomplished through a mix of short formal training sessions and extensive online resources that contain accumulated knowledge from prior calls. Use training sessions to build a sense of team; not just to impart knowledge. The effectiveness of training increases markedly if the presentation includes audio, video and animation. Avoid killing training with bullet-only slides.

When call centre staff have fast access to a searchable knowledge base of answers to product specifications and problems as well as frequently asked questions, customer and staff satisfaction go up.

Team attitudes can be improved through a mix of formal mentoring and informal networking. Assign a mentor to each rookie and provide time for the mentor to listen in on calls and to coach later. Nurture informal networks through short, regular meetings and through modest social events. Implement instant messaging so that staff can quickly collaborate within their informal network to resolve customer questions. Keeping customers on hold while a staff member consults a supervisor down the hall undermines customer satisfaction.

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Keep competitors at bay

Just like most elections, business is usually lost through neglect coupled with sloppy execution.

Keeping customers happy and competitors at bay is a team effort. Many companies have found that a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a vital tool for this effort. Through a CRM system everyone on the team can be instantly aware of what a customer has bought and when, what problems have occurred and what marketing contacts have been made over time.

Perhaps more importantly, a CRM system can link customer communication to customer action. That linkage provides feedback on communication effectiveness and insights into customer needs and preferences. With this information, the customer team from sales and engineering can determine what future communication will target the customer’s needs and goals more effectively. That’s how team work leads to sales and business success.

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Strengthen project execution

Key projects can fall behind, run over budget or deliver inadequate quality for a variety of reasons. However, ineffective team work is always in the top-five list of reasons for project failure.

Maintaining a shared understanding of the current project plan is important yet difficult in a distributed team environment. Don’t distribute project plan files to everyone. That leads to version control problems and to confusion when enthusiastic team members revise the plan in unauthorized ways. Instead, publish the plan to a shared web site where the team can maintain cohesiveness by staying abreast of task completions, challenges and the overall project outlook.

Flooding project team members with e-mail is a sure way to produce a frustrated project team. While we’ve all come to rely heavily on e-mail, e-mail is not an effective document management and distribution tool.

To manage the avalanche of documents that are an unavoidable necessity of major projects, implement an Electronic Content Management (ECM) system with remote access capability. Now everyone on the team can be assured that they’re looking at the latest version of every document. No one has to operate an independent and out-of-sync private document store that consumes effort and creates uncertainty.

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Create stronger sales pitches

Winning sales pitches excite prospects to buy. Failed sales pitches create comatose prospects who just want to leave.

A winning sales pitch requires a team effort from engineering, sales, finance and communication. The winning pitch requires the right blend of pictures, numbers and text.

When the sales team is supported by collaboration tools such as audio and videoconferencing, misunderstandings are reduced and effective brainstorming can occur. Enabling the team with a shared workspace to assemble the artifacts needed to produce the winning pitch enhances productivity. When proposals can be linked directly to supporting documents and underlying databases, the effort to regenerate the proposal as the underlying data improves can be reduced dramatically. When proposal components can be managed in an ECM system for re-use in the next proposal, marketing costs go down.

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Reduce turnover among star performers

It’s rarely money that finally causes an unhappy star performer to leave. More commonly it’s lack of challenge, lack of appreciation or insufficient flexibility in work arrangements.

When star performers are provided an opportunity to collaborate on projects with peers and mentors, their motivation and their contribution grows. Such opportunities can be enhanced through a distributed collaboration environment because peers are rarely geographically co-located.

Star performers can produce more value for an organization if they are active in an internal community of practice. A community of practice delivers benefits when its practitioners can meet face-to-face regularly, maintain active communication, collaborate on problems and manage the products of their work in a knowledge base.

When star performers are offered flexible work arrangement, so they can continue to work even when they’re not at their desk, both output and satisfaction go up. Enable remote work through remote access to computing resources and through ECM.

Yogi Schulz is a Calgary, Alberta-based contributing writer to the Microsoft Midsize Business Center. His work has appeared in ComputingCanada, EDGE, TheCalgary Herald and Microsoft Ideas. He typically consults with CIO’s in the energy, government and real estate industries.

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