A few years ago a friend of mine started a small call center for cell phone sales and he asked me if I would come down and take a look at his operation because he was having some trouble. He had about 20 agents or so on the phone and only around 7 or 8 were really performing to his satisfaction and he wasn’t sure what to do about it. He said he had even retrained some of them but it wasn’t helping. He said the issue didn’t appear to a problem of them not knowing the product but more of a sales skill issue and he had even replaced one or two of the agents and the new agents were not that better either. This wasn’t a new problem to me, it is actually quite common, normally about 20% of the team is closing most of the sales with the remaining 80% lagging behind and terminating them and hiring new agents is not really the answer as my friend could attest to.
I spent a day at the center walking around and watching, and looking at stats and spent an hour or two monitoring the calls and at the end of the day I noticed that the top performers for the most part were all sitting close to one another so at the end of the day I rearranged the seating and put one top performer in the vicinity of three or four agents that were not performing that well. About a week later my friend called me in amazement and said that overall sales of those agents that had not been doing that well had gone up. This did not surprise me because it is natural for successful people to rub off on others and a call center atmosphere is not any different. Those agents that were not doing so well started listening to the calls of the top performers they were sitting next to and began to pick up the techniques they were using which improved their performance.
I have used this strategy many times and it works in both inbound and outbound centers, sales, customer service, collections, just about anything. Don’t get me wrong it’s not a solution that will solve all your problems, but it will certainly help because success is contagious.