Coaching Unbiased Client Management
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
I manage a team of call center employees who are the initial contact for user-generated sales leads. These leads complete a request for information before being contacted by my team. Because of this, these people are generally expecting our call, interested in our product and generally friendly towards our call center employees.
I regularly review our team's recorded calls, as they are periodically reviewed both on the quality of their call and the number of leads they advance. Recently, I have noticed that one of my team member's tones significantly changes when speaking with people from what sounds like a certain demographic group. The pattern suggests that when it sounds like she is speaking with a woman of color, she often becomes brash, uninterested, and dismissive. How should I address my concerns regarding this pattern, and coach her to correct?
It’s great to know that the calls are being reviewed for quality assurance, and that you noticed the pattern. Here’s an idea of how to address the issue: Collect two groups of recorded calls: one group of the team member’s calls with women, in which the member was friendly and polite, and the other group of calls in which she was brash, uninterested, and dismissive. You can let her know that you’re going to play back some calls you’d listened to and that there appears to be a pattern. Play the calls and ask her whether she notices two different patterns of response to the callers.
If the team member notices the pattern that you’ve heard, you can respond in a number of ways. Here are two options:
1. Explain what needs to happen going forward. Explain to her why that pattern isn’t acceptable to the company. This becomes an opportunity to talk about the company’s values, why it’s important to respond better, and that the employee represents the company. You can role play some calls, with you sounding like one of the women on the calls in which the team member was dismissive. If need be, switch roles and you can show the team member how to handle the calls, then switch back until the team member gets it right. If the team member’s job is at risk, say so. It’s possible that just knowing that you’re listening in to the calls and that the team member’s behavior is on your radar is enough to create change. The goal with this approach is to be clear what you expect, why, and what might happen if the specific behavior doesn’t change.
2. Ask questions. Ask why the team member responds differently. Ask whether the way they’ve interacted with (we presume) women of color is consistent with the company’s values. If so, ask them to explain how. If not, ask why not. Perhaps role play a call in which you are the employee, and the team member is the Caller, and interact with the Caller in a brash, uninterested, and dismissive way. Ask the team members what it was like to be treated that way. If need be, switch roles and you can show the team member how to handle the calls, then switch back until the team member gets it right. Engage the team member in brainstorming what needs to happen to bring about the change on the calls and what you can do to support the team member. It’s possible that just knowing that you’re listening in to the calls and that the team member’s behavior is on your radar is enough to create change. The goal with this approach is create behavior change through engagement in the issue.
If the team member doesn’t notice the pattern, you’ll need to point it out, then probably need to replay the calls. Then you can follow that up using the basic idea of either approach #1 or approach #2, above.
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