the editor: The first article below is a contribution from NACC member
Robert Lamb. We welcome and encourage contributions to In Queue
from NACC members. For more information on becoming a contributing
editor, please contact [email protected])
I recently counseled with a supervisor who described a challenge he had
faced. He inherited a Millennial inside sales agent who had a history
of consistently poor sales performance. After trying several
motivational tactics that didn't help, the supervisor had to put the
agent on a performance plan. When an unexpected increase in absences
coincided with a surge of customer service issues, the desperate
Generation X supervisor temporarily moved the inside sales agent to
customer service. The former sales agent quickly adapted with
unrealized creative problem-solving skills combined with a “get it
done” attitude. Wanting to see if this was an aberration, the
supervisor left the Millennial in Customer Service and watched the
metrics. The agent thrived from being measured on satisfaction
ratings and first contact resolution rather than close rate and revenue
generation. He quickly became a top performer and eventually an
influencer in their center.
Was this a tale of poor hiring and a lucky recovery, or more of a hint
to a broader insight? First, we see persons in generations in each of
these roles, so this single story is only that. Second, it’s not
necessarily an employee’s age that makes them unsuccessful in a
particular role (inside sales, for example), but rather the fact that
they’re not being motivated in a way that’s meaningful to them.
But allowing for a broader, more generalized view in effort to learn
and possibly improve, it may prove valuable to look at the generations
involved in this single microcosm. Let’s look at the foundational
elements of those generations in the United States, with a little help
from the Pew Research Center.
Generation X is generally accepted in the United States to be ages
39-54 in 2019 (b. 1965-1980). GenXers experienced unique events
during their childhood that added to developing their sense of the
world and a manner of working in it. GenXers are more educated
than previous generations. During their formative years, they saw
things that eroded confidence in the establishment, such as Watergate
and the Nixon resignation, the Iran hostage crisis, and John Lennon’s
murder. Broadly speaking, GenXers aren’t immediately trusting and
will research independently and diligently. They're typically candid
and at times, cynical. GenXers grew up with video game arcades but have
adopted technology and social media into their lifestyle.
Millennials make up the largest US generation, ages 23-38 (b.
1981-1996), and now account for a dominant majority in the
workplace. They value efficiency and stress-free approaches,
having grown up with the angst of Y2K, Monicagate, and the Desert
Storm/ Kuwait invasion. Millennials have an affinity for technology;
unlike GenXers who became familiar with technology, Millennials grew up
with an expectation of a connected internet to their home
computer. They also find multitasking a natural skill, as cable
TV and adoption of multiple screen windows became commonplace as they
were coming of age. More so than prior generations, Millennials are
broadly motivated by the greater good and can exhibit an
unconventional, can-do spirit when empowered.
Pluralists (ages up to 22) are a whole different consideration which
I’ll save for a later article.
So how can contact centers tap into that unique blend of personality
and capability? Here are five ideas to consider for motivating
1. Use that generational creativity in your center’s
operations service improvement process. Poll your Millennial
leaders for ideas. When you find good ones to adopt, publicize
not only the plan and its results but the source of the ideas.
2. Tap into the Millennial desire to help
others. Schedule community service days or team contributions
(e.g., collections for filling back-to-school backpacks for
underprivileged). Highlight individual service activities.
This prevailing sense of accomplishment will be infectious.
3. Embrace smartphones in the contact center.
As a logical extension of the connected internet of their childhood,
smartphones are the universal way to maintain that connectedness.
For the Millennials, Smartphones are not only a device for connecting
to the world, but a part of their persona. For those centers challenged
with PCI compliance, provide smartphone breaks during the workday.
4. While many centers rely on gamification techniques
to increase agent productivity, it's important to remember that games
don't motivate everyone. While Gen-Xers tend to enjoy more competitive
games, Millennials value low stress. Look for activities that are
more fun than competitive—and still tied to your contact center's KPIs.
5. EMPOWER! Don’t stifle Millennials' natural
can-do spirit with process limitations. Not only will unnecessary
barriers miss the opportunity to capitalize on Millennial capabilities,
but perceived arbitrary rules will demotivate your staff. With a
record low unemployment rate making the talent pool excessively shallow
and the average cost of $17-45,000 to replace a defecting employee,
attrition is a bigger problem than ever for most customer contact
Comfy At SNUG19
Stockford, Research Director, NACC & Chief Analyst, Saddletree
This year I received an unexpected invitation to attend the 18th annual
Select Noble Users Group, or SNUG, from April 24th through April
26th. The location for Noble Systems’ SNUG 2019 was the Sandpearl
Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Having never before attended
SNUG or, frankly, interacting with anyone from Noble Systems in the
past, I was intrigued and curious to learn more about the company and
meet some of its customers. I accepted the invitation.
Having a customer conference at a world-class beach resort such as
Clearwater Beach can be a risky business in terms of session
attendance, given the draw of the crystal-white sand and warm water of
Florida’s Gulf Cost. It quickly became clear, however, that Noble
planners already had a strategy in place to minimize the chance of
losing attendees to the beach. They set up an exclusive,
open-sided tent beachside, where most meals were served and networking
activities took place. I found myself more than enthused about
the events of the day ahead after breakfast each morning cooled by
ocean breezes and entertained by Laughing Gulls flying gracefully
overhead while Sanderlings worked diligently to find their own
breakfast along the shoreline.
Given Noble Systems’ history, I was expecting to find the majority of
conference sessions focused on outbound contact center and collections
topics. This wasn’t the case at all as I discovered that equal
attention was given to inbound customer service, sales and marketing,
along with outbound contact center topics. In fact, product
roadmap sessions featured discussions around such topics as omnichannel
engagement, analytics, reporting, workforce management, and compliance
in both inbound and outbound scenarios.
A highlight of SNUG 2019 for me was the amount of attention given to
gamification in the contact center. Having written about
gamification extensively in Saddletree Research and general industry
publications, it is a favorite topic of mine and one of growing
importance to the contact center industry. Gamification’s bright
future was underscored by the results of Saddletree Research’s 2019
survey of end-users, undertaken in conjunction with the not-for-profit
National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at Middle Tennessee State
As the figure below illustrates, gamification has already gained a
foothold in the North American contact center market with nearly ten
percent of the market already implementing gamification. More
importantly, over 30 percent of all North American contact centers will
evaluate gamification for purchase in 2019 while an additional two
percent have already funded gamification for purchase in 2019. In
real numbers, the two percent that have funded purchase translates to
approximately 1,500 contact centers that will implement gamification in
The Keynote and Lock Note sessions at SNUG 2019 were particularly
memorable, including an entertaining hour of professional football
reminiscences and anecdotes from three-time Super Bowl Champion and
two-time Pro Bowler Mark Schlereth, who is currently an NFL analyst on
ESPN. As entertaining as his stories were, they also included
important and relevant lessons about teamwork, friendship, and
The presenter at Friday’s lock note session was my old friend Tom Rocca
of the KPI group. Tom has been an important figure in the
outbound contact center market for decades and is still on top of the
important trends in that industry. Tom’s remarks included an
overview of SHAKEN/STIR, which is a new government program aimed at
combatting robocalls and caller ID spoofing. For more information
on this important program, visit
Many of the Noble customers I met at SNUG 2019 worked in outbound
contact centers. These are the contact center professionals who
often get a bad rap by the general public because they’re in the
collections or outbound marketing business, but in my experience these
customer service professionals are no different than their counterparts
on the inbound side of the contact center market. I was impressed
by their dedication to their profession, and by their loyalty to their
Noble Systems platforms whether inbound, outbound or both.
I left SNUG 2019 at the end of the week much better informed about
Noble Systems and their customers. I also left with the distinct
impression that Noble Systems is a company with its own clear vision
and its own way of getting things done. They are a company that,
like my own company, marches to the beat of a different drummer and I
admire that. If you were at SNUG 2019 with me, you know what I
mean. If you weren’t there, make plans now to attend SNUG 2020
and see if I’m not right.
In This Issue...
Ideas For Motivating Millennials
Comfy At SNUG19
"To be responsible, keep
your promise to others. To be successful, keep your promises to
~ Marie Forleo
NACC has been burning
the midnight oil and typing until our fingers are sore to bring out
reports to our members. Each is listed below. If you are interested to
see what we are writing about, click on the links
below and download the executive summary of each. If you like
what you see, join the NACC so that you can view these reports and
others that will be coming out soon on our website. These reports will
ensure that you know the latest trends in the industry.