Possibly the world’s worst job…
Trying to sell something to people over the phone
It doesn’t have a single thing going for it.
Adam Grant studied a group of students who did it for a living.
Their job was to raise money for a University. To phone its affluent alumni and persuade them to part with their hard earned cash. To pay for sponsorships for new (far less affluent) students.
One short standardised script
And a whopping great rejection rate.
At one desk somebody had put up a hand written sign:
“Doing a good job here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit, you get a warm feeling but nobody notices.”
Staff turnover was 100% in 2 months; Grant was not studying the most motivated group in the world.
How do you motivate the unmotivated?
Grant asked a bunch of experts, consultants and Fortune 500 managers “How would you motivate this group? What would you do?” Then he tested their advice:
- Pay for performance
- Recognise their achievements
- Provide promotion prospects
- Give better job titles
- Relax the call scripts
- Create competition
- Invest in a “fun budget”
Grant tested them all, and not one of them made a damn of difference.
The 5-minute intervention that boosted productivity by 400%
Then genius struck, Grant realised that inspiration was the key, give a clear sense of purpose to the outbound callers and make them feel that their work was worthwhile.
Now this shouldn’t have been too difficult, after all the work that these outbound callers were doing was hugely worthwhile. They were collecting money for scholarships, to educate the needy. A very real cause.
So Grant set up a test and control group and asked the managers to tell the test group how important their work was.
That didn’t work either.
The 5-minute intervention that boosted productivity by 400% (take 2)
Grant tried again, but this time instead of managers he brought in some of the scholarship students who were benefiting from the scholarships. He got them to explain how important the fund-raising was for them personally. For 5 short minutes.
The results were astounding…
- The test group tripled the amount of time they spent on outbound calls
- They doubled the amount of potential donors they spoke to
- They increased donations collected from $500 to $2,000 per week
What Grant proved in that call centre (and everywhere else he tried) is that:
If you can show people how their work helps others it does the most astounding things for their morale and motivation.
Helping others makes us feel good. We are natural-born Samaritans
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Image by Ewan-M