Contact Center Re-Gifting 2017

Can you believe it? It’s now seven years since we first dedicated our end-of-year Agility Factor column to our worldwide contact center regifting initiative (actually, it is more like a movement than an initiative). In that time, we’ve cleaned up the basement, storage areas, stairwells and even the roof of our collective contact center.

Quite frankly, we’ve done such a good job that I was concerned about our ability to find enough useless stuff this year to meet our regifting quota. I wasn’t even sure where to look, until I stumbled into the kitchen… and, wow, what a mess! How the heck did we skip this in past years???

The Big Chill

There’s a nice little refrigerator by the sink where everyone is supposed to store their lunches. So why is there a huge (I mean really, really huge) refrigerator taking up all that space on the side wall? I had to go look, and when I got up there I could see a big sign on it that said “Turnovers.”

Well, who doesn’t love a good turnover?? I know I’m a big fan. But when I pulled open the door on the really, really huge refrigerator, I didn’t see any turnovers. All I saw was a bunch of containers with people’s names on them, and spoiled food in them. It was just like in the employee fridge, except on a far grander scale. When I looked closer, though, I realized the names were those of agents who had left in the past year. This fridge did not contain delicious apple filling in a flaky pastry, it contained food left behind by agents who “turned over” to some other job this year! And wow, was there a lot of it.

While trying to figure this all out, I noticed that the shelves were designated either “good turnover” or “bad turnover.” When I checked on the food, though, it seemed just as spoiled and smelled just as bad regardless of what shelf it was on. I guess that means that no matter the reason, turnover is turnover and someone has to clean up after it.

You can imagine just how difficult it is to regift spoiled food… but it had to be done. Do you remember a comedian named Gallagher? That’s the guy who used to do things onstage like crushing a watermelon with a sledgehammer. Turns out he is moving on to other food groups, and the thought of a lot of spoiled food made him giddy with holiday cheer. I sent him all the food, and the really, really huge refrigerator. He gave me tickets to an upcoming show, which I sold on eBay and used the proceeds to buy a really small fridge. It’s so small, you need really, really tiny hands just to put something in it. The way I figure it, if the fridge is really small, we won’t ever have a lot of turnover anymore, and that’s a really good thing.

The Big Buildup

While I was working the fridge deal, I grabbed a cup of free coffee. And can I tell you just how awful it was? It tasted like tar, so I poured it out and looked in the carafe. It was lined with this black goo that had built up over the years. So I grabbed another carafe—same thing. And another, and another. In fact, I went through all 16 million carafes in our contact center, and they were all lined with this dark slime.

I took them to a lab, and learned this is the residue that builds up every time someone in the center utters the phrase: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Seems that when you do the same thing, day in and day out, without ever taking time to objectively look at it and clean it up, you really create a mess over time. And the longer it is there, the tougher it is to remove.

You might think it would be difficult to regift old coffee tar, but I knew exactly what to do with this. I figured the only reason the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, after 10 years, still has still not completed the highway widening project near my house is a lack of materials. I brought them all the carafes, and on my last trip to the airport, observed all three of the crew happily scraping out the tar with spoons. They are now on track to complete this 10-mile stretch in another decade or so—a good 30 years earlier than the pace previously set.

Fountain of Knowledge

Honestly, I was flat out exhausted by this point. So you can imagine how excited I was when I looked into the back corner and found a keg! Seemed a bit odd to me, since you don’t normally associate beer with call centers (a travesty that needs to be addressed some other time).

Unfortunately, this keg had no wonderful suds pouring out of it. Instead, when I pulled the tap, all sorts of knowledge came out! Not “what is the meaning of life” kind of knowledge, but processes and procedures and other factoids that we need to answer customer’s questions. That seemed really weird to me, but when I checked the back of the keg, I could see that it was connected to the knowledge management system. Of course! Our knowledge management system has a lot of stuff in it, but because it’s not well designed and well organized, no one ever really uses it. The pressure must have built up, so all this important information was diverted here.

It’s certainly a shame this wonderful knowledge is not being utilized to serve the customer, but my job here is to regift. So I grabbed a few hundred thousand growlers and started filling them up. Where, you may ask, could I send a few hundred thousand growlers full of potentially valuable yet completely disorganized information? WikiLeaks, of course! They really don’t have much to do now that the U.S. election is over, so they are gorging on our growler regift.

Moving On

Complete success! We solved that nasty turnover problem that we’ve been having for the past 50 years, and I may actually live to see a time when construction equipment is removed from my local highway. And I know, we didn’t actually fix the knowledge management system, we just temporarily relieved some pressure. I have a feeling we will tackle that job in future years. In the meantime, enjoy a wonderful 2017!