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  • Writer's pictureSteve Shefveland

"Butts in Seats." Does Your Call Center Provider use this Phrase?

The call center industry has various phrases, acronyms and idioms often used among themselves within the industry. And, the phrase "Butts in Seats" is a popular one. And, to be frank, I hate it!

Butts in Seats is a terrible way to describe our clients business. But I hear this phrase a lot from my industry colleagues, and when I do, I know exactly the type of call center company they operate. High turnover, poor culture and employee morale, and management who does not value employees they way they should. And a company who takes their clients for granted. If I ever hear my employees (executives, managers, supervisors, anyone) use this phrase within our organization, their employment with EGS will most likely end soon. It is simply not acceptable.

So, what is really being communicated (albeit just "joking" around, which they often say) when this phrase is used? Let's look closer.

This phrase is not only used in the call center industry. It is common in the entertainment, education, event marketing and sports industries as well. The common sense perspective is nothing happens until people show up. And yes, this is true. Especially if you own and manage a call center. If employees do not show up for their shift to handle calls, chats, texts and emails, work does not get done. However, this phrase commoditizes the most important part of your customer support organization, your employees interacting with your customers. If your suppliers or managers use this phrase to describe your business, you can be assured of the following:

  1. They do not value your business. They assume you will never cancel now that they have you under contract and up and running.

  2. They do not value their employees. They view them as a commodity. "We can always replace them." They probably pay them well under fair market as well.

  3. They do not value the contact center industry and the very important role it plays in driving Net Promoter Scores (Customer Satisfaction), and the role they play in driving revenues (sales).

How do you avoid contracting with outsourcing companies who have this perspective? Consider the following:

  1. Do not seek out the very large, multi-billion dollar providers. Why? They may have the appearance they care, and they may have extremely nice call center buildings and facilities, but they do not invest in their people. They sell based on perception and appearance, and not on people and management experience.

  2. And lastly, the very large outsourcing providers care more about asset utilization (aka "butts in seats" vs. empty seats) then they do about you, your business, your customers and their employees.

Note: I realize that not all of the people and call centers within a very large supplier (provider) are this way, but I have been in this industry for over 28 years, and I can assure you that many of them are this way. I've witnessed it first hand too many times.

In other words? Be careful, ask a lot of questions, observe, and seek to find small to medium sized call center organizations who will truly be invested in your business, and who invest in their employees. Don't get wrapped around the axel about what their call center looks like (it should be decent, but does not need to be ostentatious), but seek to understand the internal "culture" and how the employees conduct business on a day-to-day basis and how the supervisors and management actually manage and work with the employees who are handling calls, chats, emails, text messages, or any other contact with their clients customers.

Steve Shefveland, Founder

Emerging Global Services LLC

602-312-8900 /

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