What is common to Fruitfly, High Technology Innovation and Call Centers ?


Extract from the Innovators Dilemma,  by Clayton M. Christensen ” When I began my search for an answer to the puzzle of why the best firms can fail, a friend offered some sage advice. “Those who study genetics avoid studying humans,” he noted. “Because new generations come along only every thirty years or so, it takes a long time to understand the cause and effect of any changes. Instead, they study fruit flies, because they are conceived, born, mature, and die all within a single day. If you want to understand why something happens in business, study the disk drive industry. Those companies are the closest things to fruit flies that the business world will ever see.”

While businesses have focused on improving production processes, supply chain processes, R&D processes – there is an area of business which I believe that lacks singularly in Visibility, Analysis and consequently Innovation. There is a lot of mumbo jumbo that erudite HR professionals use to describe employee behavior based on anecdotes or what some one wrote in a book, without first hand experience of having made a difference or  any substantive research.

In studying employee behavior, Call Centers are extremely valuable  like fruit fly or a high technology product. Just as a fruitfly – the employee life cycle in a lot of contact centers is extremely small. With most contact centers operating in the range of 5% to 10% attrition a month and a lot of domestic contact centers having processes with upwards of 20% attrition a month – they represent an excellent place to research, analyze and understand human behavior under employment.

There is one important difference though. While fruit fly are not human and perhaps all study on fruit fly would need to be extrapolated before application; the contact center employees are humans and therefore the application of any inference  to human behavior  is direct.

While we begin the study of human behavior under employment – one of the first questions with respect to call centers is this ” Why is the employee life cycle in a contact center so small ?”

My study suggests that employees are behaving in a completely rational manner consistent with their past and present! Many Operations managers, leaders and especially HR leaders believe that employees in contact centers are young, immature and hence prone to irresponsible behavior ! My opinion is that by blaming the employees who attrite early – the leaders are saying we are not responsible ie. we are irresponsible , and it is outside our area of influence.

Actually I don’t even blame the HR and Operations Leaders. They just don’t have the tools or the analysis available to them.

In my view the above view of Operations and HR leaders  stems from the fact that in few contact centers has a proper research been conducted on employee life cycle. Attempts have been made but they are by and large very feeble and poor, as I have personally discovered during interactions with multiple companies.The reason for that is simply poor data capture, availability, visibility and thus poor analysis.

That is the high level view of why attrition is high in the contact center industry…. a very poor understanding of the phenomenon.

What do you think are the major factors that lead to an extremely short employee life span in the contact center industry or such a high attrition level ?

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5 responses to “What is common to Fruitfly, High Technology Innovation and Call Centers ?

  1. My view is Recruiters don’t have the tool or don’t have schedule to choose the right person. This is the RCA as per my experience.

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  4. Having read this I thought it was extremely informative.

    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this short article together.

    I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

I will be delighted to receive your views and comments - Chetan

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