Impact Learning Systems


Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams Vasudha Deming

For as long as I've done cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing, clients have asked for guid­ance on how front­line employ­ees can best man­age their time and tasks. Never has this issue been more urgent (and con­fus­ing), how­ever, than in the last year or so. With nearly uni­ver­sal adop­tion of tech­nol­ogy such as Instant Mes­sag­ing (IM), opt-in alerts, Twit­ter, and more, employ­ees and their man­agers are strug­gling to strike the right bal­ance between "caught up" and "caught in."

The March 2010 issue of Entre­pre­neur mag­a­zine has a great arti­cle titled E-mail Is Mak­ing You Stu­pid. The arti­cle cites var­i­ous stud­ies show­ing that not only are these tech­no­log­i­cal "advance­ments" hurt­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity, but they're also increas­ing stress, scram­bling brains, and under­min­ing the qual­ity of what­ever work employ­ees do man­age to churn out in the midst of these distractions.

Along these same lines, IBM Busi­ness Con­sult­ing Ser­vice issued a report back in 2004 (but still rel­e­vant today) on the issue of  "inter­rup­tion management."   

Work­ing at a com­puter is now a lit­tle like play­ing tennis—a near con­stant vol­ley of dings, beeps and pop-ups, each of which neces­si­tates an instant deci­sion of how best to swat it. Per­haps the aim should be to work more like a golfer who focuses, proac­tively moves the ball toward a goal, and seeks the absolute min­i­mum of dis­trac­tions and imped­i­ments toward that end.

While this dis­trac­tion epi­demic is by no means lim­ited to cus­tomer ser­vice teams, fol­low­ing are some tips designed espe­cially for con­tact cen­ter man­agers who are strug­gling to mas­ter "inter­rup­tion man­age­ment" in their workplace.

  • Be clear about your poli­cies. You can't expect employ­ees to curb their use of gad­gets until they know exactly what's expected of them. Many employ­ees wel­come some struc­ture and guide­lines (and even restric­tions) regard­ing  appro­pri­ate use of use of tech­nol­ogy; after all, they're the ones who are falling behind in their work. If you don't yet have a pol­icy in place with rela­tion to IM, Twit­ter, Face­book, and mobile phones on the job, now's the time to estab­lish one. (Quick, before more tech­no­log­i­cal "advances" flood the market!)
  • Ask each employee to carve out a period of time each day when he or she dis­ables IM, turns off ringers, and avoids check­ing e-mail. Just two hours or so of this silent time can have a big impact on productivity—and on employ­ees' sense of accom­plish­ment in get­ting through tasks. If it makes sense, you can stag­ger the quiet peri­ods among employees.
  • Reward employ­ees' pro­duc­tiv­ity rather their abil­ity to work long hours.
  • Pub­licly praise those employ­ees who are demon­strat­ing focus, effi­ciency, and pro­duc­tiv­ity. This will prompt their peers to strive for the same kind of attention.
  • Train employ­ees to use best prac­tices in their e-mail communication-things like avoid­ing "reply to all" when it's not nec­es­sary and strate­gi­cally struc­tur­ing mes­sages to be effi­cient for both the writer and the recip­i­ent. One such pro­gram is Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems' Get­ting to the Heart of E-mail Com­mu­ni­ca­tion.
  • Empower employ­ees to con­vey to col­leagues (not cus­tomers, of course!) that they aren't always inter­rupt­ible. As the IBM study I men­tioned ear­lier states, "In the real world, peo­ple tend to gauge how inter­rupt­ible some­one is before inter­rupt­ing them. Is their door open? Are they on the phone or meet­ing with some­one else? Deeply con­cen­trat­ing on some­thing and rapidly typ­ing? And then there can be a sub­tle nego­ti­a­tion of the inter­rup­tion. Based on what I'm doing and what the other per­son needs, I might decide to han­dle the inter­rup­tion right away or defer it to later." By allow­ing employ­ees to be sim­i­larly guarded in the vir­tual envi­ron­ment, you'll help them to man­age distractions.
Vasudha leads the Per­for­mance Solu­tions Team at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, reg­u­larly work­ing with lead­ing com­pa­nies to improve per­for­mance of their customer-facing ser­vice, sup­port, and sales teams. She is a lead devel­oper of Impact's suite of train­ing courses and has authored four books, includ­ing the pop­u­lar Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games, all pub­lished by McGraw-Hill.
5 Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
Vasudha Deming
View all posts by Vasudha Dem­ing
Share and Enjoy:
  • printfriendly Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • email link Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • facebook Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • twitter Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • linkedin Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • googlebookmark Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • digg Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • delicious Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • technorati Interruption Management for Customer Service Teams
  • bookie buster

    What a breath of fresh air to bring a lit­tle sun­shine after a stress­ful day. Very good arti­cle that really gets the point cov­ered. Thank you for sharing.

  • Glenn Friesen

    Def­i­nitely. Glad you enjoyed it! :D

  • Palma Pikul

    Very good post. Will you please write much more about this subject.

Alltop, all the top stories

We're an Alltop blog, and regularly contribute to The Customer Collective and CustomerThink.

Back to Top