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So I'm a marketing coordinator at this hearing aids local company. We generate 7 leads/day through social media and paid media. Every lead we generate we send to our only call center operator, she does everything related to calling patients. She also happens to be the sister-in-law of the owner.

My problem is that we gather our best efforts to generate those leads and she seems not to care and does not understand how valuable a lead is i.e she does not call them right away or after a few hours, she is thrashing all the information I send her.

Our leads are not only name & email, they represent "Hey! I'm deaf, I need a hearing aid, I do not know where to begin, I need help! My family is saying I cant hear! At work I'm losing focus! Can someone help me?". And I'm having a hard time trying to convince her that they are very valuable and we should call them to make an appointment. I'm her manager, but even though I'm giving orders, she does not follow on this specific topic.

A few considerations:

  1. Every call to a patient must go through her first, we (marketing team) cannot take action here and call our leads.
  2. She says she has better calling lists, which are old patients (+4 years without any purchase) and partnered elderly homes databases.
  3. She seems to underestimate the power of a well qualified lead
  4. She is directly under me.
  5. My manager came to me saying he is not happy with sales since I arrived, because its the same number from last year, and he made an investment by hiring me and other two assistants.
  6. EDIT: Since our call center operator has to speak very loud (and I mean... VERY LOUD), she has to stay in another room by herself, so I do not have direct supervision on her.

I feel like our marketing work is being done, but we did not have any greater results from it because of this situation described above. It was my fault to not follow our leads in the beginning. But now that I figured where our bottleneck is, I do not know what to do exactly.

How can I approach this situation with our call center operator so she does call them without complaining? or... How can I approach my manager about this situation?

  • It seems like "one of my subordinates ignores my instructions" is a better title for this question, since you are directly in charge of this person. Also why is 1) a rule if you're in charge of the call-center person? Can you not change the rules? – Erik Jan 23 at 12:29
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    Good question, she is a very old professional here and this is an order from the CEO, because we had times where other people would call a patient without knowing the full context i.e what can be said and what can't, and things would go very bad. So he is trying to avoid this by implementing this rule. – RA828 Jan 23 at 12:33
  • Indeed @JoeStrazzere - she is the sister-in-law of the owner. – RA828 Jan 23 at 13:17
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    Are the calls being recorded? Are they logged? Can you sit in and listen to her calls (even if you have to wear ear plugs)? – Stephan Branczyk Jan 23 at 13:41
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    Can you add things you have tried? Because this seems like somethign you should have already brought to your boss, possibly with a recommendation to fire his sister-in-law (or start the firing procedure, such as having performance reviews and such). Also, why does the one calling not get a good microphone/headset on which the gain can be controlled so shouting isn't necessary? – rkeet Jan 23 at 14:43
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It seems you have wasted a lot of time wondering on "if"s and "but"s and did not take a stand on your decisions. In other words, they undermined your authority and decision, because you allowed them to do so and get away with it.

I'm sorry, but at times, you need to take hard decisions to ensure that the protocols are followed and the work is delivered. Also, if there outcomes are used to judge your capabilities, you need to be extra careful ensuring that your planning is being followed.

If you did not till time, send them an email (or any official communication method you have), saying

"hey, here is a list of potential leads, call them today and let me know the outcome on a case by case basis by end of the day today."

If you don't get a response, next day, send another note saying:

"I did not get the response I requested yesterday, when can I expect that?"

If that call center operator brings up any other suggestions / reasons / ideas / whatever for not following your list, you say (or write)

"Whatever your suggestions are, they are very welcome, but you need to ensure you finish working on the list which I shared earlier and get back with the results. Once done, we can discuss over your list / suggestions etc. The list I sent earlier is the first priority".

Hope you'll see improvements soon. If you don't, you need ensure that you escalate this to your manager (in writing).

  • Setup a meeting.
  • Explain the scenario, with the proof of conversation you had with the call center person.
  • Ask for a directive.
  • Once you get a directive (or an assurance of the same from your manager), formulate the MoM (Minutes of Meeting / notes) and share via email with your manager.

If your manager understands your problem and instructs the call center person to follow your order, or finds a replacement who is happy to work under your leadership, your problem is resolved.

If your manager somehow avoids the problem (due to the personal connect with the call center employee) or do not provide you with a straightforward approach that helps you, and the next time when:

"My manager came to me saying he is not happy with sales since I arrived, because its the same number from last year, and he made an investment by hiring me and other two assistants."

happens, you can remind (tell and show) them that, you mentioned your orders are not being followed, so you are not responsible for the lack of growth.

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    I think it's important to e-mail as if those e-mails are being read back at a hearing to determine why the leads weren't followed up on. If nothing else, it's great "cover your butt" material for OP if they have a list of e-mails saying as much. If that employee needs to be terminated, you'll have the documentation and justification for it when you can clearly show how they refused to follow your instructions and cost the company money. Obviously keep those messages professional, and avoid creating a hostile work environment. – NegativeFriction Jan 23 at 13:12
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    @NegativeFriction Modified a bit to expand on that aspect. Thanks!! – Sourav Ghosh Jan 23 at 14:36
  • Great post, but what does MoM mean? – Cypher Jan 23 at 22:08
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    MoM = Minutes of Meeting (my best guess) – virolino Jan 24 at 5:38
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All of the other answers are good advice in general for an employee that is not following orders. However in view of you special circumstances - her being the owner's sister in law - I would talk to your boss first.

Your conversation should be something like:

"Hey boss, have we been told to give X any special treatment, or should we treat her like any other employee?"

Assuming the answer is to treat her like any other employee, I would then say:

"I'm having some trouble getting her to do what she's told. It's nothing I can't handle, but, purely hypothetically speaking, if I have to give her some formal disciplinary action, will that be a problem?"

Also remember that whatever you do, her story will probably get to the owner before yours does, so make sure that you have done everything absolutely right, and that you can't be accused of "ignoring suggestions" or anything else.

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I'm her manager, but even though I'm giving orders, she does not follow on this specific topic.

She says she has better calling lists, which are old patients (+4 years without any purchase) and partnered elderly homes databases.

You are not giving orders (a bad phrasing IMHO). You are giving her suggestion that she is free to ignore.
If she is free to do that it means she is not your subordinate.

She should follow your leads. That's her responsibility. If the think she's better with her ways AND you want to keep her woking show her why she's wrong. Take her phonecalls from one day and compare them with sales. How many of her contacts ended with one?

If she don't want to go with your leads you will have to skip her in the lane and make the calls yourself making her work obsolete and firing her.

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  • I figured this phrase would sound rude, not a native speaker and in my translation it sounds ok, yikes. Thank you for your answer! – RA828 Jan 23 at 12:49
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I'm her manager, but even though I'm giving orders, she does not follow on this specific topic.

Keep a written record of your orders. Roleplay what she needs to say to those people.

Stay on her until she does what you demanded. Stay in the same room, wear earplugs if you have to.

Buy/rent/license some call center software/cloud solution that records and logs all incoming and outgoing calls (+ possibly emails). This will be for the times that you can't be in the same room with her. It doesn't have to be super sophisticated or super expensive, but you guys do need something (assuming you don't already have anything like that already).

If none of those measures work, do the following:

  1. Every call to a patient must go through her first, we (marketing team) cannot take action here and call our leads.

[...]

...this is an order from the CEO, because we had times where other people would call a patient without knowing the full context i.e what can be said and what can't, and things would go very bad. So he is trying to avoid this by implementing this rule.

Give both your CEO (and your boss) a choice. Just make sure that the CEO/owner is included in the discussion since she's his sister-in-law and this family relationship is the main reason you or your boss do not have real authority over her.

Tell them:

"Right now, so-and-so isn't doing her job and she's trashing all the hard work of my team. Either you train me and let me call those freshly qualified leads my team generated, or I quit."

Who wants to work like that? Who wants to have their hard work thrown in the trash, or ignored until the leads quickly expire and become completely worthless?

Even if the CEO tells you should quit because he doesn't want to change the system, it wouldn't be the end of the world if you did, you'd find another job soon enough at a less dysfunctional company.

If the compromise is that he'll talk personally to his sister-in-law, do not give up on your request. Ask him how long should a qualified lead be allowed to go stale before you're allowed to pick it up and do the call yourself. 5 minutes? 30 minutes? 5 hours?

Even if he tells you not to worry. Tell him: "Ok, you're telling me not to worry. If that's the case, I won't worry. Let's say two hours then. In other words, if a lead calls during the weekend, I'll wait until Monday morning 11 AM before I give up waiting on anyone else and I'll do the call myself. Does this sound good? "

Then, immediately after the meeting. You can email the owner and your boss a summary of what you just said. "So that we're all on the same page, blah blah, you agreed to speak to your sister-in-law and if she doesn't make the call after two hours, I'm free to do the call myself. "

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The other answers concentrated on dealing with the final, visible result. I will try to go to the core of it.


I'm her manager, but even though I'm giving orders ...

As a manager, among other things, you do two things:

  • make decisions;
  • assign tasks;

Orders are given by dictators or by people in military-like organizations. Stop giving orders, nobody likes them.

Note: please always remind yourself the difference between "subordinate" and "slave".


but even though I'm giving orders, she does not follow on this specific topic

Did you have a long" face-to-face meeting with her, to go to the bottom of the problem? Did you apply the 5 Why methodology? What was the result?

Most of the times, the best course of action is to sit with the person and actually understand their point of view. Please forget the attitude with "I give orders". You are a mere mortal just like her and like us all.


She says she has better calling lists

Who gave her those lists? You did? Why?

Somebody else? Then the operator is not only your subordinate, and she feels that you are less of a superior than the other superiors. You should understand the proper "chain of command" in the company, and clarify how people's work is shared between the various managers.


our call center operator has to speak very loud (and I mean... VERY LOUD)

Why does she have to speak very loud? I might assume that she speaks directly with the people with impaired hearing. In this case, it is the problem of the company not providing her with the proper office equipment. She is supposed to have a telephone system able to amplify her voice as much as needed, without her spitting her lungs out.

Did you consider that her having to scream eight hours a day, exiled alone in a room, would make her not give a fermented sh#t on your orders?

Be proactive and fix this problem for her, and then see what happens.

Another positive side effect would be that she would be able to come and sit in the same office with everyone else. And you would be able to keep an eye in her work.

I cannot stop asking myself: why use phone to talk with (mostly) deaf people in the fist place?!

Do you remember the joke? If your Internet does not work, send us an e-mail and we shall promptly help you. Does it ring a bell?

Just like ink-printed information for blind people and running shoes for amputees.

(This is the company's problem, not only one person's.)


As a bonus thing you can try (you should have done that already): at least for a few calls, do the talking yourself with the "leads". Do her job yourself, so you can understand the difficulties she has. Only then, you will be able to really improve something.

Slapping one's wrist is easy, but the only real result is increased stubbornness, increased rebellion, revolt, disguised sabotage...

she seems not to care and does not understand how valuable a lead is i.e she does not call them right away or after a few hours, she is thrashing all the information I send her.

Exactly my point! She probably understands very well everything, maybe even better than you are willing to admit.

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There are already good answers, but this is a different approach for your consideration.

Take the position that the call center operator has too much work to handle the new leads in a timely manner. As evidence, present logs of leads you have given her and when, if ever, they were called. There is also a bus factor problem with having only one person who is qualified to make the contacts.

Recommend adding an operator who will primarily use e-mail, Facebook messaging, and other written communication, but may make phone calls if that really is the customer's preference. The new operator can be initially a part time temp, but should be trained and given instructions for handling the contacts. The new operator will be dedicated to handling the leads you and your team provide, while the current operator continues to maintain her contacts.

Measure how much business you are getting using the new operator, and if appropriate make the job full time permanent.

This dodges the personal relationships and length of service issues that limit your ability to shift the existing operator's priorities. It leaves the contacts in the hands of someone who is trained specifically to handle them.

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