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Yet One More Case for Customer-Centricity
Open design can improve collaboration and communication, but businesses should make sure it won't impact customer relationships
For the rest of the October 2017 issue of CRM magazine please click here

Though CRM magazine’s parent company, Information Today, employs more than 100 people, only five currently work full time out of the New York office where I and my colleagues on CRM churned out the copy you are about to read. When I joined the company in 2006, the staff in New York was somewhat larger, and our ­offices were on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 35th Street, just a few blocks south of Times Square. The space was configured rather oddly, with two or three people per office and long, empty corridors between some of the offices. We never complained about noisy coworkers interfering with our ability to conduct phone interviews; we were all too distracted by the constant blare of sirens, car horns, and other traffic noises that came from our proximity to one of the busiest intersections in the world.

Then we moved to the 14th floor of a building in the middle of 35th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. Being in the middle of the block eliminated a lot of the outside traffic noise, but I was also able to work without as many distractions because I, like many of my colleagues, had an office all to myself. That was great; I could close the door and have some nice quiet “me time” whenever I wanted.

Now we are on the eighth floor of that same building, and I no longer have a private office. We all work in what I guess would be considered an open office, to some extent. Each editorial staffer has his own corner of the office; each desk is separated not by walls or partitions but by a few feet of open floor space. 

This new floor plan took some getting used to, so I can certainly sympathize with the Apple employees mentioned in this month’s cover story, “Opening Up About Contact Center Design,” by Associate Editor Oren Smilansky. 

Now, after two years in this office, I’m a full-fledged fan of the open design. I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I have found that the openness improves communication and collaboration. Interactions are more frequent and informal. The lack of walls and doors has made it easier for me to interact with other staff members on a regular basis. It has increased my sense of camaraderie and enhanced the flow of information (particularly as we Monday-morning-quarterbacked every episode of Game of Thrones this past season). We can turn to one other for creative advice or feedback without having to knock on doors or schedule formal meetings. And when we need a little privacy, we can always escape to the conference room, which does have walls, a door, and blinds on the windows.

I like our current office layout, but it works in large part because in our office, it’s rare that more than two people are on the phone at the same time. I’m not so sure the same could be said in a 500-seat contact center, where hundreds of employees might be on the phone at any given moment. That’s one heck of a lot of noise.

But the open office environment shouldn’t be ruled out entirely, either. The article aptly points out that contact center design choices need to be made carefully. It discusses the many considerations that must be taken into account. “Questions should revolve around the needs of the company, its employees, and the overall corporate culture, but also, importantly, around the needs of customers,” it concludes.

Can’t that be said of just about every decision that confronts just about every CRM professional at just about every company anywhere in the world? But then again, it’s a message that’s worth repeating as often as possible, regardless of where my desk is located.


Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com
Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationCRM.com/subscribe/.
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