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The 21st Century Call Center Rep

  • ID: 40815
  • Report
  • May 1998
  • 240 pages
  • American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC
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This is the third consortium study in the fast-growing and exciting area of call center management. It joined 21 corporate sponsors and Dr. Kathryn Jackson of Response Design Corporation to address issues confronted by call centers in identifying, recruiting, training, rewarding, and retaining the call center representative of the future. It also studied ways best-practice companies empower “reps” and make them accountable.

The study results enabled the project team to discover that processes in place at bestpractice companies mirror the process of bridge building-a science mastered by few. From the time the bridge is envisioned to the time the bridge bears its load, designers, developers, and project managers must face and overcome many challenges. A bridge must have a foundation, embedded deep below the water, to provide stability. It must have concrete and steel piers strong enough to bear weight, built carefully on the foundation and extending up out of the water. It must have spans-horizontal ties of consistent quality-crossing from one land mass to another, forming the bridge’s connective tissue. And finally, a bridge must have a safety railing.

In many ways, call centers preparing to face the 21st century must have all the elements of a bridge: stability, strength, and consistency. It must be a place where reps can learn and grow, taking only measured risks. The key findings of the 21st Century Call Center Rep consortium benchmarking study are based on the science of bridge building and categorized under these section headings.

Key Findings

Section 1: Pouring the Foundation
1. The culture is critical in supporting the rep of the future.
2. Upper management support/commitment is essential.
Section 2: Positioning the Piers
3. Development of the rep’s support organization is critical.
4. The technology must support the function.
5. Best-practice companies concentrate on engendering employee loyalty.

Section 3: Laying the Spans
6. Linkages must be respected.
7. Coaching is more than feedback it is structured and focused.
Section 4: Installing the Safety Railing
8. Best-practice companies are looking for a few good performance measures.
9. Best-practice companies concentrate on engendering employee involvement.
10. Best-practice companies recognize and satisfy employee needs.
The findings will be explored in depth in the following report section.

Data Collection, Scope, AND Participants
The data collection tools used to gather information for this study included site visits and questionnaires-a screening questionnaire designed to collect qualitative and quantitative data and a site visit questionnaire designed to collect information about targeted aspects of partner companies’ processes. The primary areas of focus were:
- identifying and recruiting for rep competency,
- training for rep competency,
- building rep accountability, and
- rewarding and retaining successful reps.
Five of the seven best-practice partner companies hosted half-day site visits, and two participated in in-depth telephone interviews with key personnel to share their practices. Secondary research conducted by was used to select innovative companies. In addition to this research, consortium members, Clearinghouse staff members, and the subject matter expert identified potential participants based on their individual experiences and research.


This methodology was developed in 1993 and serves as one of the premier methods for successful benchmarking in the world. The Clearinghouse benchmarking model was recognized by the European Center for Total Quality Management in 1995 as best among 10 leading benchmarking organizations. It is an extremely powerful tool for identifying best practices and facilitating the actual transfer of best practices.

The methodology is continually evolving and can be adapted to meet individual needs. Key components of the four-phased benchmarking methodology as they were used in The 21st Century Call Center Rep benchmarking study are described below.
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Sponsor and Partner Companies

A complete listing of the sponsor companies in this
study, as well as the best-practice (“partner”) companies
that were benchmarked for their innovation and
advancement in recruiting, developing, and retaining
effective call center representatives

Executive Summary

A bird’s-eye view of the study, presenting the key findings
discovered and the methodology used throughout the
course of the study. The findings are explored in detail in
following sections.

Key Findings

An in-depth look at the 10 key findings of this study.
The findings are supported by qualitative examples of
practices employed by the partner companies.

Topical Insights

An exploration of the partners’ practices in a variety of
topic areas related to recruiting, developing, and
retaining successful call center representatives.

Partner Company Profiles

Background information on the partner companies, as
well as their innovative call center processes.

Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
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Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown