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Happy Fifteenth Anniversary

Happy Fifteenth Anniversary

/ Strategy, Vision - Mission - Values, Visibility, People
Happy Fifteenth Anniversary

My five wishes!

Congratulations to Contact Center Pipeline on this 15th Anniversary! I have been a grateful contributor to CCP for these past 15 years. I founded PowerHouse 37 years ago in 1987, though my “relationship” with ACDs (Automatic Call Distribution) began in 1980. (My husband and I owned an interconnect company that sold and installed business telephone systems.) So, yes, I am a Contact Center veteran and have been part of the “Call Center” world since the dawn of the digital age.

In looking back over the years and contemplating the future, I have some thoughts to be considered as you design the identity and destiny of your Contact Center. Here are five wishes for those leading our industry based on my experiences over the past many decades.

Gain Visibility

Visibility is key for Contact Center leaders. Often sidelined in crucial decisions and operational shifts, the Center’s positioning suffers. To combat this, you must focus on a strong “value proposition” that encompasses comprehensive reporting beyond mere metrics. This approach fosters cross-functional improvements and aids the Contact Center’s visibility within the enterprise.

Visibility issues are often self-inflicted wounds. When Contact Center leaders insist on reporting on nothing but metrics (factory-like production), they should not be surprised by being treated like piece workers in a factory. Visibility improves when the Center has a strong value proposition to guide growth, development, and REPORTING!

Decide how you want the Contact Center to be seen and begin including reports on contacts by type and channel, frequency, and complexity. Identify opportunities for automation! Report on the impact of process, technology, missing or misinformation, agent retention, and job satisfaction. This may require that you step out of your comfort zone. Offer new information in a way that offers benefits not exclusively for the Contact Center but also for cross-functional improvements.

Beware of Technology Seduction

The irresistible allure of technology often eclipses its limitations. Contact Centers have perennially been magnets for technological advances; this traces back nearly 40 years. The term “Call Center” surged alongside the widespread availability of ACDs. This was driven by digital breakthroughs, the boom in toll-free dialing via 800 numbers (so popular that multiple 8XX area codes became necessary), and substantial deregulation in finance and healthcare. These fueled the sales of ACD-equipped telecom systems that birthed Call Centers.

Subsequent advancements—voicemail, IVRs, call recording, email, and intelligent routing—echoed today’s technology assurances: enriched Customer Experience, cost reduction, and heightened productivity. Yet, these generalizations, masquerading as assurances, are often made devoid of genuine knowledge of your business.

Visibility improves when the Center has a strong value proposition to guide growth, development, and REPORTING!

Claim your rightful place at the technology decision table through heightened visibility. Absence from these talks is not due to aversion, but rather to invisibility. The Contact Center is often simply overlooked. It is important to recognize technology as a pivotal element in today’s Contact Center landscape. Familiarize yourself with its capabilities. For example, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds promise, its effectiveness hinges on proper implementation.

Technological promises, akin to seductions, often veil realities with puffery. Optimization of technical investment demands precisely-defined problem statements that outline requirements and dependencies. Investment in technology without these requirements jeopardizes outcomes.

Pursue Management Training

The shortage of well-trained management personnel in today’s Contact Centers deeply concerns me. I fervently wish that the passion witnessed in the 1990s for mastering Contact Center management is rekindled today. In my tenure with the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), from the early 1990s to 2002, I served as a consultant and senior instructor and conducted numerous public and private seminars in our ten years together. Topics focused on indispensable skills and knowledge essential for effective Contact Center management; our seminars attracted overflowing crowds. Public sessions in the 1990s saw executive participation from 40 to 50 diverse companies that eagerly sought insights into optimal operational strategies.

Claim your rightful place at the technology decision table through heightened visibility.

By the start of the 21st century, seminars were increasingly populated by those directly involved in running the center. Many of today’s Contact Center leaders report up to executives who never took such training yet often, they need to be educated. Making today’s Contact Center leaders those responsible for translating Contact Center needs into a mutually understood and satisfying partnership.

Proficiency in Contact Center management dynamics bolsters confidence and enhances the prospects of making a compelling case to senior executives as well as leading a competent team. Today’s Centers require individuals that are eager to grasp the fundamental tenets of effective management, monitor industry trends, keep up to date, and move beyond simply providing production metrics.

Understanding the essence of metrics, however, remains critical to communicating Contact Center needs and how meeting those needs impacts outcomes. In essence, my wish is that well trained leaders master the skill to contextualize metrics as a measure of need rather than simply of performance.

It is important to understand strategic alignment, engage in ongoing study, embrace learning, pose challenges, read voraciously, nurture curiosity, foster inquiries, and involve your team, internally and beyond. Education stands as the foundation for success.

My Biggest Wish

My utmost wish is for today’s Contact Center leaders is a longing really, I wish you could have experienced the early days of “Call Centers.” The industry was defined by unparalleled enthusiasm, excitement, and sheer fun. There was a different vibe and an exhilarating learning curve that seems lost today. Admittedly, longing for the past is common among older folks. Yet in this instance, I sense that much of the once vibrant spirit has dissipated.

Well trained leaders master the skill to contextualize metrics as a measure of need rather than simply of performance.

The pandemic has significantly exacerbated this condition and remote work has profoundly altered the landscape. Many operations are not adequately prepared for successful remote functionality, especially in terms of effective management. To navigate remote work effectively demands considerably more supervision, increased access to assistance and escalation, superior training methodologies, and remote training tools.

Regrettably, securing funding for these critical investments necessitates a compelling case. Often, Contact Center leadership faces limitations in articulating such a case to senior leaders. Developing the skill of crafting compelling narratives—a form of storytelling—can help turn wishes into reality. Don’t be intimidated by executives or cross-functional partners; they are individuals who, for the most part, are eager to learn. Be courageous in narrating a story that makes executives feel accountable for the outcomes they fund and the organizational models they influence.

Stay well-informed, remain enthusiastic, and be prepared to embrace the future.

I wish that leaders would proactively engage with others in the Contact Center field by attending conferences and remaining updated on the latest trends. But they must also research and remember the rich history of this industry. It is as crucial to understand how we arrived here as it is to envision where we are headed.

In Closing

I admit my concern about the industry’s trajectory. The pervasive influence of technology and remote operations is reshaping the Contact Center into a task-centric business unit. This task-oriented mindset constantly seeks new technologies aimed at streamlining processes—not just for the benefit of customers but also for the management team. Consider the latest developments in Quality Assurance and the advent of robots capable of listening to, evaluating, and coaching agents. These are entirely devoid of human intervention. If I were an agent that received feedback from a robot, a sense of resentment would develop within me. If you think differently, you might be caught in one of those technological allurements!

Change is the only constant in the Contact Center industry. I wish for you the insight and readiness to navigate the evolving landscape. Stay well-informed, remain enthusiastic, and be prepared to embrace the future. It is within your capable hands!

And here is to another 15 years of Contact Center Pipeline for critical industry insights and commentaries.

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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