Tip

Team building in action

For Backcountry.com, an outdoor gear retailer that also runs several one-deal-at-a-time (ODAT) channel sites tuned to sports enthusiasts, team building in the contact center is critical to the company’s customer experience success. Sam Bruni, general manager of closeout and ODAT, as well as acting director of customer technologies, shined some light on team building at Backcountry.com. Bruni believes that team-building efforts can help contact center agents better connect with customers and serve the business at the same time -- especially in the industries that Backcountry.com serves -- action sports, outdoor, and bicycling.

Do you have any cool team building efforts at Backcountry.com and the ODAT contact centers? 

Sam Bruni: The Backcountry.com call center supports all our Web stores and industries. We are extremely lucky in that we can align employees with their passions, both outside of work and while they are at work. We hire people who are passionate about the industries we are in and have a love for the gear and lifestyle. I don’t necessarily look at it as team building as much as I look at it as culture building. I want a culture that works together and plays together. We actually do an amazing job at connecting people at work who have the same passions outside of work.

Each week we try to have one or two clinics with a vendor to learn more about their products. Most of the time these clinics are in-house, but several of them

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are outdoors -- such as for kayaking and skiing clinics, where we can all come together. The “gearheads,” as we call them -- not CSRs [customer service representatives] or reps -- spend time learning with each other about the latest and greatest gear. Not everyone can attend, so they take notes and write quizzes for each other to help those who could not attend get the same education.

We also have a huge adventure contest that the entire company participates in where we encourage our employees to get outside and use the gear we sell, and a lot of them will do activities together such as biking or skateboarding. They earn points for doing so and then when it ends, they are entered into a drawing and can win cool prizes like heli-skiing and new gear.

How can effective team-building efforts enhance the customer’s experience?

Bruni: It comes down to knowledge -- knowing your customer needs and being able to answer difficult gear questions is what is gained from all of the activities. Agents also know their neighbors, which helps them answer questions that they might not be able to alone.

I’m not a believer in transferring calls. We have a workforce of more than 300 employees with more than 100 of them working from home. They are all connected through internal chat, and they create teams and groups in this chat so that they can support each other with customer questions.

How about the agents themselves? Does team building in the contact center result in happier, more effective agents?

Bruni: I think the proof is in the pudding. We have a low turnover rate for a call center. We actually did a survey of the entire company a year or so ago. Surprisingly, out of all the employees in our organization, our gearheads were the happiest. That is not a common result with this type of surveying.

This was first published in March 2012

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