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Article : Celebrating ICCW the Siemens Way!

This is a republished feature article

International Contact Center Week has become a week to rejoice, motivate and reward the important people in your center: the agents, reps, supervisors, managers, trainers, etc who have made your contact center what it is today. When Siemens decided it would take part in the event, it fell upon Melissa Trickey, Customer Care Centre Administrator, to organize the activities. The results, she admits, were quite surprising.

1. What attracted you to get involved in ICCW?

When Steve McKenzie attended the APAC Conference, he came back with many new ideas he wanted to implement. This was certainly an idea for Staff Enjoyment and Morale that we at Siemens could certainly implement in our Centre. As the Administrator of the Centre, I was the natural choice to orchestrate the event.

2. How much effort was involved?

For our agents, not a lot of effort was needed. They either had to surf the net for information, or the activities only took 10 minutes at a time. For me, however, it took up the whole week and then some! With preparation, planning, organizing and orchestrating the events it took up the bulk of my time for the week.
I had to spend a bit of company money on boxes of chocolates, etc for prizes. I also used objects the staff could decorate their desks with, such as figurines, etc. However the whole week only cost the department under $100, and I don't think that spending that much money on any other event would have had as much benefit.

3. What sort of activities did you do?

We scheduled two activities a day; I specifically started small and built up to things that required the most effort by the end of the week. Everyone got a prize for participating, even if it was just a Lollypop for completing a quiz, it was something tangible!

Our International Contact Centre Week Schedule:

Monday 1st
- "How well do you know your co-workers?" Quiz: Matched fun facts about co-workers to their names for a prize!

- The Inaugural SCCC Bin Basket Ball Tournament: Each row of desks competed as a team and shot mini basketballs into their blue recycling bins. Each contestant got 3 shots. The final scores were compiled by an average of how many shots were successful with respect to total shots.

Tuesday 2nd
- Hat Day: Pulled out the wackiest, funniest, daggiest hats we owned to wear to work! The person voted to have the best hat received a prize.

- Relaxation Meditation Class: There were three 10 minute Relaxation Meditation classes run in the Parliament Room at 11:30 am, 2 pm and 4 pm.

Wednesday 3rd
- Mini-Putt Competition: Mini Golf has come to the SCCC! All competitors had 3 strokes. Anyone who got 3 hole-in-1’s received a prize!

- SCCC Crossword: Tested wits against an intellectual giant...a crossword about the SCCC! All who returned their crossword by 10 am Monday the 8th with 100% correct answers received a prize.

Thursday 4th
- Share a Plate Lunch / Bake Off: Everyone brought something to share for morning tea. Some entered in the competitive aspect of the bake off. The Winners were decided upon by a vote. Game on!

- Mountain Launch: The Motivational Mountain Display was finally unveiled, in conjunction with a film crew coming down.

- Internet Scavenger Hunt: How do you do an Internet Scavenger Hunt do you say?? The cryptic clues could be found on the internet, and pieced together an answer to a question. Anyone who sent in a correct answer sheet by 10 am on Monday received a prize.

Friday 5th
- Silly Sock Day: We wore our silliest, wackiest, funniest socks for a prize!

- Bowling Tournament: Heats began at 10 am, with all competitors allowed two balls. The 5 best scorers competed in the final at 2 pm.

Monday 8th
- Awards Presentations: All competition winners received their certificates. Everyone in the Centre received a certificate detailing why they add value our workplace.

Some of the activities were computer based, and weren't overly detailed. This way Staff could fill them out between calls. Some of the teams filled them out together, and all of the teams developed quite a rivalry by the end of the week, which still goes strong whenever we do quizzes and cross words, almost a year later! For all of the other activities I used things we had around the office, or things I or Steve (Steve McKenzie, Centre Manager) had at home. For the Bin Basket Ball Tournament, I literally emptied my recycling bin and carried around as the "basket" for people to shoot at (I made sure it was a soft ball and I never got hit!!) For the Golf, Steve brought his putting machine from home and I set it up in our Board Room. For the Bowling, one of the staff brought a toy 10 Pin Bowling set from home and I made a make shift Bowling Lane with packets of A4Paper from the Printing Room. (Steve ended up winning the Tournament, and those of you who saw me at the APAC 09 Bowling Event will not be surprised at the fact I didn't win.) The Meditation was a bit harder, because I had to practice the Meditation Story at home, but I had really good feedback from the people who came. The Bring a Plate Lunch was pretty easy (as long as people bring food!!). We just set up the food on a Table in the middle of the Centre and the agents wore their head sets so they could still take calls.

4. Which activities were the best and why?

It's hard to pick the best one. Each activity has its own merit, and I deliberately picked different activities to appeal to different people. Staff loved the quizzes and it was great to see them work together. The hat and sock days were quite funny!!! It was very funny to see Steve sitting at his desk wearing a Jester Hat... and people went all out for the Sock day, some even sewing extra things to a pair of socks.... It was great to see people go to so much effort. The sporting competitions were quite funny, and the secret to making them more fun is to bend the rules. If someone throws a terrible bin shot, make it a "practice". And it was a great way to get some of the quieter staff members involved.

But the best event was probably the Bring-a-Plate Lunch. I was actually quite astounded by the level of participation, there were some culinary masterpieces! And it was so great to be able to get the whole Day Staff mixing and socializing while still answering calls, because I think the fact that someone always has to be on the phones is a major limitation to anything you can do as far as social activities go.

5. How did you get people involved in something new like this?

Funny you should ask this, because the week was the way that I learnt how to best motivate my staff, probably the most important lesson I learnt from ICCW. The second most effective way to involve my staff is to hound them relentlessly using as many channels as possible. Emails, Posters, Face to Face bugging, Management bugging...Vigilance is the key!!! And it took everything I could throw at them to get the ball rolling for this, our first major event.

The most effective way by far: FOOD. I learnt this very early on: if there is food, my staff will be in there. A Chocolate Prize in particular works wonders for any competition. In fact they love it when food IS the competition!

I saw a major improvement from the start of the week to the end. At the start participation was a little shaky, but persistence does wonders. By the bowling on the Friday, EVERYONE was keen!

6. What was the outcome overall?
Individual staff: Morale is obviously a huge issue for Contact Centre's, as it feeds into Attrition and Retention Rates. But it is activities like this, which may seem minor or even silly that can make such an impact. Why wouldn't anyone want to work at a fun work place?! The agents are under so much pressure to be perfect 100% of the time, they are constantly being monitored, and unless you are quite a resilient person that can wear down on their job satisfaction. It's important to show the agents that 1)they are appreciated and 2)that Management wants them to be happy in their jobs. It's very easy todismiss this as whimsical but by making your staff happy on the job, your productivity can onlyincrease. Having a more personalized approach can help people engage in these sorts of activities, and want to be part of a team.

The Department: The benefits are obvious on many levels. The week certainly impacted individual moral, but it also lifted team Morale. Some of the computer based activities such as quizzes some teams did together. This actually built up a rivalry between teams which continues today! Activities like this can seem a bit silly, but actually it's all about mindset. They can be quite strategic, a team building activity without the team knowing it is one. The key is not to take these sorts of things veryseriously. In your team building and morale building arsenal, this can be your activity that is the most frivolous and fun! So our teams built stronger relationships.

It also helps forge our identity as a department. It sets us apart from the other departments in the company: we work hard and we have fun! There's no reason why you can't do both and be both, you just have to have the right levels of each. Sometimes perhaps the departments next to us might think all we do is have fun because they can hear the laughter; but then they see our survey results, or walk past our trophy cabinet! It's part of our Centre Culture, and all aspects of building this culture, including activities like this, are equally important.

The company: Overall I think this answer is obvious. Our centre is the first port of call for customers across many business units of the Company. In the past Siemens was a very tricky company to deal with, with so many products and contact points. So the staff in our centre is required to know SO much, and of course sometimes it is impossible to know it all. This is why our staff's Customer Service skills are the most imperative. If our staff are happy in their jobs, they'll treat our customers better, who will return to us to buy more of our products. In short: happy Centre staff = happy customers = happy CEO!

7. What are you planning for 2009?
Now this is my quandary!!! After last year's event being such a success, how am I going to make this year’s better?!?!

Last year's ICCW was the first event of this kind we'd ever tried at the Centre and to be honest I didn'tquite know how it would turn out. This year I know that they will participate and it will be a success, but my new problem is, what sort of activities can I do?! I can't do the same things! Last year I used mostly ones that had suggested. It is important to have a balance of activities they can do at their desk between calls and ones that require them to leave their desk, only for a short time. I'm hoping that Raj and the gang can suggest some new activities to help me out, I think I will also survey the department to see what they want. I have 5 weeks left to prepare so I should be able to pull something spectacular together!

One thing is for sure though; Iknow my staff will enjoy it!!!

8. Any other comments you would like to make about ICCW?

It was our ICCW activities that showed me what was possible for our Centre. Since holding our ICCW, we have started a Social Calendar, which includes activities in the work place and out. Some of those activities include a Bowling Night and a Christmas Party outside of work, and we've had dress up days (and most importantly, FOOD days) during Business Hours.

It was ICCW that really showed management the scope of activities we could achieve. I think without ICCW we would never have got our charity project off the ground. Siemens has a banner under which Charity work can be done: Caring Hands. Our Centre Caring Hands project includes helping two main charities;Interchange which helps handicapped children and their families, and Animal Aid which is a shelter and Clinic for Animals. ICCW meant that management knew they could get our staff to participate in something like this.

However I don't think you really see the benefits of things like ICCW until hard times hit. When we were faced with redundancies earlier this year, we had people say they'd rather reduce their hours then have a team member lose their job. I doubt that this would have happened had team relationships been forged. It takes work, time and effort from all parties. Activities like ICCW are great for breaking the ice, giving people who don't have much common ground something to talk about, and most importantly, fun memories that the entire department can look back on! My one piece of advice is: take lots of photos and put them up around your Centre. Then every time people walk past them, they will smile.

About Siemens:
Company LogoSiemens AG is a German multinational engineering and electronics conglomerate company headquartered in Berlin and Munich.
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