Like the pilings of the Brooklyn Bridge or the steel and concrete foundation of a building, organizations need to rest upon solid ground. That means a solid foundation and one that drives management practices, technology acquisitions, and customer relationships. Contact centers must operate on solid ground or they will crumble. The result is increased costs and a diminished customer and employee experience.
When you are on solid ground, you are confident in what you are doing and certain that you are moving in the right direction. Recognizing solid ground can be tricky. So many declare a solid foundation and embrace a feeling of certainty. We must give the cold shoulder to that feeling of indisputable truth! Uncertainty must be your constant management companion in today’s contact center world. Uncertainty is defined as “subject to chance or change.” This is the truth we must embrace, particularly when assessing our foundation.
The components of a solid organizational foundation have been written about by every management guru from Tom Peters to John Kotter and by personal self-help coaches from Oprah to Tony Robbins. They are NOT new news! We need vision, mission, brand, purpose, principles and values. Choose any one of these terms right now and evaluate your organization against it. Do it now and with uncertainty. Are you sure?
Let’s take a closer look at vision and brand. Do you know your contact center’s vision? Remember that vision is intended to define the organization’s ambitions or view of the future. Measure whether you have a vision by exhibited behaviors at all levels and not by the number of plaques posted in the hallway.
Measure your own cynicism around this topic. If your eyes are now rolling back in your head or if you are “tired” of another suggestion to rally round the vision topic, the likelihood is that: (1) your contact center doesn’t have one; (2) you have seen one too many programs unaccompanied by appropriate action; (3) you will not be able to lead any such initiative successfully; (4) your organization is unstable; and (5) you are sure—certain that a “vision” wouldn’t matter or help your contact center.
Cynicism, like any pessimistic position, will block action. It must be set aside in favor of thinking that a clear view of the future will enhance your ability to lead. Imagine a positive picture of the future and lead as if that vision were real. This enables you to imagine how your leadership behaviors and solid ground may be impacted. If vision is not your guiding force as a leader, you must ask yourself what is!
Whatever terms we use to describe our driving forces—vision, mission, guiding principles, etc.—these are key and requisite elements in leading today’s contact center from cost center to valued organizational asset. When visiting contact centers that have adopted these drivers, it is obvious even when no plaques garnish the hallways. It is obvious in the level of professionalism, the high expectations and the near-constant questioning of what else can be done and what else we need to know. It is obvious in the near-obsessive intolerance for poor performance. Most importantly, it is obvious in management’s ability to make effective cases for budget dollars.
Perhaps the biggest loss for contact centers that fail to construct a solid foundation linking them to the enterprise as a whole is the loss of visibility and viability when it comes to winning budget dollars and collaboration. Sadder still is that many managers continue to be sure—certain that it wouldn’t matter if they were better understood across the enterprise.
Take this example. I once spoke to a group of contact center leaders who, by their own admission, had many years of experience managing contact centers. This is a good group, I thought, to survey the status of collaboration with other departments. When I asked about collaboration, there was a collective groan over Marketing not “giving us the information we need.” This illustrated to me the “shilly-shally” of some contact center leadership when it comes to taking proactive steps to resolve a known issue. Apparently, it is easier to blame Marketing than to navigate a solution.
Yet somehow, many leaders just don’t see this as their issue. They have adopted victim mentalities that actually perpetuate poor relationships and yield little in terms of contributing to a solid foundation. Yet once again and painfully, many in this group are absolutely sure—certain that this is Marketing’s problem and not theirs. For reasons unknown to me to this day, contact center leaders who complain about Marketing seem incapable of ASKING for the Marketing calendar! They fail to craft a partnership with Marketing to assure alignment and success for both parties.
Once a flaw in the foundation has been identified, it must be fixed. It must not be complained about as if there is simply nothing to be done to correct the situation. Many contact centers have resolved this issue very nicely. Today, more and more centers are actually reporting to Marketing which quickly puts an end to the issue. Some may remain sure—certain that the issue will never be resolved. They are certainly correct… foundations do not repair themselves!
If our opinions rest upon solid ground, those who attack them do not make us angry, but themselves ridiculous.
—John Lancaster Spalding, American Author and Poet
When it comes to company brand, how big a role does your contact center play? How does the contact center fit in terms of brand extension? The contact center must have a clearly defined and supported “branded experience” that managers can manage to, coaches can coach to, and analysts can report on. This is a very powerful way to link your foundation to the organization as a whole. It is a means by which to move forward with a collective and collaborative spirit. After all, brand is something that does not change from one department to another. It is the roles that change as well as how each of us contributes to another’s ability to contribute.
It is your job to assess your contact center’s current state. It must be done in terms of foundational elements such as:
Vision—where the company is headed;
Mission—what the contact center lives for;
Business Goals—the tangible measurements of success; and
Brand—how we want to be perceived.
Get to the essence. Are you sure your contact center is really on stable ground? Are you sure you are honestly looking? Are you sure you have identified the gaps? Are you sure you know how much value the contact center offers to the rest of the enterprise?
Then take what you have learned. Take the truth to your reporting people and to those to whom you report. Ask for the help that is needed and start to firm up your foundation. This is not a “just add boiling water” recipe; it takes more time than money and more passion than polish. However, the rewards are the stuff that legacies and leaders are made of. Are you sure you have what it takes?