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Contact Center Leaders…Can You Rise to the Challenge?

Contact Center Leaders…Can You Rise to the Challenge?

/ Operations, Strategy, Customer Experience
Contact Center Leaders…Can You Rise to the Challenge?

Key initiatives to contact center success.

Are you ready to face challenges head-on? The idiom “rise to the challenge” is defined by Merriam/Webster as “to perform so as to succeed.” Contact Centers exist to succeed. Their leaders’ ability to succeed is greatly influenced by their ability to embrace the challenges of adapting to changes as they occur. The Contact Center environment is one of constant change that impacts leaders at every level. Whether the company is doing well or poorly, it is important to remember that change is indiscriminate—it can be as challenging to shrink as it is to grow.

Amidst ever-evolving landscapes, Contact Centers encounter challenges on multiple fronts. Years ago, there was a trend around the word “challenges.” Do you recall? Part of the digital age approach was to “turn challenges into opportunities.” Today this notion extends well beyond mere technology. Factors such as new products, services, locations, regulations, leadership changes, mergers, acquisitions, pandemics, and technological advancements all impact Contact Centers. Anticipating and managing these changes is essential for effective leadership and successful outcomes. Time constraints often add to challenges, making it imperative to adopt systematic approaches to change management.

“Everything negative—pressure, challenges—is all an opportunity for me to rise.” —Kobe Bryant

It is crucial to clearly identify challenges before determining the readiness to face them. Jumping to solutions without understanding underlying issues is counterproductive. Problem statements often begin broadly, such as the need to enhance the Customer Experience, cut costs, or improve quality. Instead of quick fixes, leaders must thoroughly define challenges, analyze supporting evidence, organize findings, and develop recommendations accompanied by a summary of benefits, risks, and trade-offs.

The Contact Center environment is one of constant change that impacts leaders at every level.

Here are several key initiatives that heighten your ability to rise to Contact Center challenges.

Define the Challenge

It is critical to clearly identify specific challenges associated with any change related to the Contact Center. Be precise in pointing out each challenge—whether it be a massive centralization of demand, a reduction in force, a quality or training issue, frequent turnover, or any number of other factors.

Collect and Analyze Supporting Evidence

Gather relevant data and evidence to support your understanding of the identified challenges. This includes customer feedback, performance metrics, employee surveys, market analysis, and any other pertinent information.

Organize Findings

Cluster your findings into distinct impact zones. Focus on the top three to five areas with the most significant implications for the Contact Center. This helps to prioritize efforts and allocate resources where they are most needed.

Develop Recommendations

For each identified challenge, develop actionable recommendations accompanied by a comprehensive benefits/risks/trade-offs summary. Consider the potential benefits of implementing each recommendation, as well as any risks or trade-offs involved.

Identify Communication Challenges

Effective communication is paramount in today’s Contact Centers. Staying current and relevant relies on external sources to furnish management and staff with up-to-date, precise information. However, numerous communication challenges persist; they pose difficulties to management and impact the experiences of customers, leadership, and agents. The consequences of poor communication extend beyond mere operational confusion. They influence the quality and efficiency of operations. One proposed solution is the establishment of a “Communication Gatekeeper” within the Contact Center—a vital role tasked with managing the flow of information into the Center. Few aspects are as critical as the method by which information is disseminated within the Contact Center.

Ensure the Desired Experience

Meeting the ever-rising demands for Customer Experience entails delivering swift, accurate, friction-free, personalized, and efficient service, along with providing omnichannel support. From a service perspective, leaders must proactively identify, document, and define the specific Customer Experience elements crucial to their brand. Additionally, it is imperative to ensure that a comprehensive plan is in place to integrate Customer Experience factors and elements into every facet of Contact Center management.

It is crucial to discern what matters most to your consumers and seamlessly integrate those experience elements into day-to-day management practices.

It is critical to meticulously document and regularly update frontline knowledge requirements in order to accommodate changes while satisfying customers. Examples of consumer satisfiers include Availability, Accuracy, Consistency, and Trust. It is essential to recognize that Customer Experience elements vary across brands. What is expected from Walmart may differ from what is expected from Tiffany’s. It is crucial to discern what matters most to your consumers and seamlessly integrate those experience elements into day-to-day management practices.

Analyze Agent Attrition and Retention

YIKES! Agent attrition is at an all-time high! It is well understood that overall, agent retention improves team performance. In today’s Contact Centers, retaining agents has become the number one objective due to their pivotal role in the success and effectiveness of operations. High turnover rates among agents not only result in increased recruitment and training costs but also lead to a decline in the quality of the Customer Experience.

Additionally, the demands of hiring, training, and retaining agents can consume the entire management team’s time and resources. Addressing this challenge is particularly difficult and creates conditions that contribute to management attrition. Elevate this challenge to the top of the list! You will be surprised what carving out an hour to meet with your staff will yield in terms of identifying gaps. Review the findings and identify one thing you can do NOW. The answer may be improving your communication (see above!), providing focused training, or defining an approach to how performance is measured. You won’t know the real challenges until you ask!

Address Technology Issues

Technology integration poses significant challenges for many Contact Centers; this is particularly evident at the agent desktop. Technology issues detrimentally affect First Contact Completion, a crucial metric to which Contact Centers must deliver. Contact Centers are often reliant on their IT department for the functionality of the agent desktop and this adds to the frustration. Unlike other departments within an enterprise, Contact Centers must navigate through multiple systems from various departments to handle their contacts.

Being up to the challenge is an ongoing and continuous loop.

Integration needs extend across different communication channels and system applications to meet the demands of modern Contact Centers. Given their unique position, they are well-equipped to report on the impact of integration (particularly regarding “human” integration). Human intervention in workflows acts as a digital obstacle and often leads to complications such as forced transfers or escalations to fulfill consumer needs.

The consequences of human integration are evident in cluttered and busy agent desktops. They necessitate manual functions such as cut/paste to move data between applications, frequent password resets, and inconsistent application timeouts. Such challenges result in errors, omissions, and a decline in overall quality. It is crucial to address issues related to technology integration in order to optimize Contact Center performance and ensure seamless customer experiences.

This set of initiatives is simply a starting point. Being up to the challenge is an ongoing and continuous loop that includes many additional focus areas. It is time to hone in on the right targets and take actions that move the Contact Center toward its desired results. Can you rise to the challenge?

Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen M. Peterson is the Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting, a call center and telecommunications consulting firm.
Twitter: @PowerHouse603

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