November 19th, 2008 by Christopher Musico

Keeping employees engaged and signed on to the team concept is one of the main themes here at the sixth annual North American Conference on Customer Management here at the Disneyland Hotel in balmy Anaheim, Calif.

Who better to talk about teamwork than Joe Torre, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers? Yesterday he wowed the crowd by opening up his speech into a question-and-answer session allowing the crowd to pick his brain about anything from his thoughts on the Chicago Cubs to handling George Steinbrenner, his former boss when he managed the Yankees to four World Series championships. “You have to understand, you never handled George,” Torre said. “You dealt with him.”

Whether he liked Steinbrenner or not is inconsequential. Torre explained that being able to actually sit down and talk with him made a big difference. “Managing in New York, I was able to speak with George and I really made the most of those conversations,” he said. “When I managed the Braves and Cardinals, I rarely got to speak with [respective owners] Ted Turner and August Busch III.” The takeaway — if you’re a contact center supervisor or manager, make sure your door is open and you’re willing to hear your employees’ concerns. You may learn something.

In connecting with the primarily CRM audience, Torre spoke about how handling a customer service team and a baseball team can be parallel to one another. He explained that in tough times, it is important to keep your cool and try to bring perspective to the situation at hand. “I try not to forget what it was like being a player,” he recalls. “You have to respect your employees, and try to understand why they reacted the way they did as opposed to blindly responding to their actions.”

Torre went on to explain that our society is predicated on looking at the sexy statistics, in baseball that can be home runs, strikeouts, number of hits, or consecutive games played. For the contact center, that could be individual agent key performance metrics such as average handle time or first call resolution. While stats should play a role, Torre stressed that it is important that everyone works together — fantastic individual numbers or not — to help the team win in the end. “You need a group of unselfish people who care about winning and not just their individual performance,” he said.

Leaving the crowd with one more nugget, when asked how he deals with players who are paid exorbitant salaries he made it very clear that when you walk into his clubhouse the Swiss bank accounts are checked at the door. “Never forget blood runs through everyone’s veins,” he said. “You have to deal with people as human beings no matter what they get paid.”

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