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The Call Volume Paradox

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Joe is a sales professional with a problem. His management is unhappy despite the fact that Joe is fantastically successful at closing great deals.

What could be going wrong? Is Joe breaking the law or company policy? Is he making promises that the organization can’t keep?

Nope. Like many of his colleagues, Joe is in “inside sales,” which means he spends his days “dialing and smiling” to reach out to potential customers. The number one metric in his office is call volume: the total number of outbound calls and the total duration of those calls that each sales rep makes in a given day.

However, Joe has made an incredible discovery about the experience of direct sales. When he places an unsolicited phone call to a potential customer, he is intentionally interrupting their workflow. Even if that prospect is interested in Joe’s product, they have to stop whatever they are doing to take the call. Sure, that may lead to him waiting on hold for a bit, but he thinks he’s wasting that time.

As a result, Joe has started to change his tactics. Instead of going for the sale immediately, he asks for an appointment to make another call later in the next week. “Do you have time Thursday at 3PM to discuss this opportunity? Put it on your calendar and I’ll ring you then.”

The problem strikes on Thursday morning. If Joe’s overall call volume is low, he knows he will get in trouble with management. It doesn’t matter that he has an appointment with a hot lead. So he has to decide: risk a low call volume and keep the appointment, or call the prospect to reschedule and increase his chances of making the daily target?


© Flickr user Kai Chan Vong

No stakeholder should ever need to make such a decision. Yet people like Joe do so every day. Organizations need to empower their workers to be able to speak up about systems that don’t make sense. Employees ought to be able to share their discoveries and ideas freely. They shouldn’t fear punishment for finding a more efficient way to accomplish their assigned workload.

The problem that we’ve posed with Joe is a classic case of micromanagement. He has found a better way to spend his time, and yet, his bosses would be more worried about him deviating from the process instead of producing great results. I’d like to say this situation should sound ridiculous, but odds are, most people have had to deal with a situation like this in their workplace. We’ve even heard of less dedicated employees calling automated loop numbers in order to increase their duration. That is way less productive than someone who can seal a deal in less than two minutes, but by this one metric that far too many companies rely on, the less dedicated employee would be regarded as the more productive one.

It can be hard to measure an employee’s productivity, especially if the position is something similar to a call center. But unless the job description specifies that the employee is tasked with running up phone bills, then there has to be a better way. It’s the job of management to figure out what that way is and to start ignoring process-related metrics that may or may not lead to the desired results.

You may feel like you are in Joe’s position in your company. Or, you may wonder if your policies and procedures are limiting your success. Find out more through calling¬†AccelaWork’s business consultants. We can help find your paradoxes and help you to make lasting, permanent, meaningful change.

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