• October 9, 2003
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Humor Breeds Success

Witness Systems today kicked off its seventh annual contact center performance optimization user conference, called Driving Innovation 2003, at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel in Orlando, Florida. It is no coincidence that the three-day event coincides with National Customer Service Week--a nationally recognized event by the U.S. Congress--started in 1988 by the International Customer Service Association. While Customer Service Week lauds the efforts of customer service, call center, and helpdesk professionals, the Witness customer conference aims to help customer companies improve contact center performance. Laura Stack, M.B.A., C.S.P., an organizational behavior expert who coaches professionals on personal productivity, balancing work and family, organizational skills and reducing stress, presented her keynote speech, called "Laugh Your Way to Success," to a group of nearly 200 customers and vendor partners. According to Stack, if there is one magic bullet that can help companies be more successful, it's humor. A sense of humor does not mean the ability to tell jokes, she says, but there are humor strategies companies can use to bring a little levity into the workplace. Already, household names like Nextel, Qwest, U.S. Bank, and Dairy Queen use humor strategies like having employees participate in game shows, carnivals, movie outings, as well as encouraging employees to bring in and post baby pictures. She recalls one company, Dairy Queen, who she says, "would much rather hire someone who knows how to smile and teach that person how to run a cash register than to hire a grumpy M.B.A." The benefits of humor in the workplace, Stack says, are increased productivity, better communication, reduced stress, improved morale, reduced absenteeism, enhanced problem-solving ability, and reduced tension and anger. In addition to humor Stack says employees should try to change their thinking. Ultimately, she says the way each person feels and behaves is never caused by the way others treat them or the events that happen to them. "No one can make you feel mad, sad, or fearful without your cooperation," she says. She adds that the way each person feels is always and only created, controlled, and maintained by the interpretations made in their minds. Separately, Witness lauded Andre Harris, director of reservations training and quality assurance for Continental Airlines with its "Innovator of the Year" award. Harris, a speaker at the show, highlighted in her breakout session, called "First To Favorite," how using Witness's eQuality suite helped Continental Airlines lower voluntary agent attrition rates from 60 percent in 1994 to less than 1 percent today. Harris credits various programs for lowering attrition rates, such as improved agent performance evaluation metrics and better incentives. Witness did not have any product announcements at the customer event, but the event comes a little over one week after it announced the availability of eQuality Producer, a customized contact center e-learning solution that leverages real-life scenarios agents encounter on a daily basis to create company-specific content.
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