Why Stories Are Essential To Contact Center Culture

This post originally appeared on the ICMI blog.  Click here for the original article and to read more fantastic customer service content form ICMI.

Customer Service Week got a bit crazy this year in our contact center.  The many details are a blur, but allow me to chronicle a few activities I participated in.

trogdorFirst, I joined several of my team in a group paint-in, each person painting an image of what customer service means to them.  One person painted Trogdor the Burninator—an image that will grace the walls of our office and bring me joy for years to come.  This was just one of many unique images that fueled a rich discussion.

Second, we encouraged our agents to draw pieces of paper out of a choose-your-own-adventure hat, giving them permission to do whatever the paper said.  For some it meant getting a drink from Starbucks, and for others it was an extra thirty minutes on their lunch break.  My favorite still was the one that said, “Find an obscure food and make your boss eat it.” That one just happened to be picked by the same employee who drew Trogdor.  He headed out to the grocery store and purchased a harmless jar of pickles.  I proceeded to consume the whole jar in about five minutes but felt sick for the next 24 hours!

Next, several of us attended a farewell lunch for a colleague, at which point I learned that another member of our customer service team had drawn “Dare your boss to do something!” from the hat.  I was dared to toast the guy who was leaving.  I took it a step further and sang, “You Are So Beautiful To Me” and in the process, made a complete fool of myself.

Finally, I arrived at work on Thursday to see that my desk had been reconfigured into a circle circledeskpod.  The beauty of a circle desk is that you can swivel in all different directions to speak to people as they approach.  And while it certainly didn’t help my focus, it was good for a few laughs.

By now you’ve come to realize that words like foolishness and shenanigans are commonplace in our office.  The reason I share these stories with you is to illustrate the fact that cultures are built on stories that are told and retold among their members.  A shared experience has the power to unite the members of a culture.  In the same way, negative stories that are told, often in the form of gossip, have a negative and destructive effect on culture.

My point is this: Before you discount my stories as mere shenanigans, consider that they will be told for years to come.  We have photos and videos to constantly remind us of these events, and these fun stories are defining our work culture.  When we are together, we tell them and write some new ones in the process!

Customer service leaders, if you want to build a unique culture in your organization, it’s time to let your hair down a bit and write some history with your team.  Customer Service Week has now become a wonderful time to do just that!


Jeremy Watkin is a Product Marketing Manager at 8x8. He has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service professional leading high performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working you can typically find him spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis. Be sure to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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