Take Charge...

Take Charge...

/ Operations, Strategy
Take Charge...

Promote your Contact Center’s Value and Visibility.

Take Charge is an idiom meaning “to assume control or responsibility and dates back to the 1300’s.” (Christine Ammer, Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Houghton Mifflin, p. 144.) Now more than ever, Contact Center leaders need to “take charge” of the Contact Center’s Value and Visibility. Think of it as your reputation. Leaders need to consistently position the Contact Center as an enterprise Strategic Asset rather than a factory-like, back-room operation.

“Let’s give them something to talk about, a little mystery to figure out” —Bonnie Raitt

Your Contact Center’s enterprise identity is undeniably linked to how others see you, or perhaps don’t see you at all. The Contact Center’s Value is inextricably linked to the management of your enterprise-wide Visibility. Ignored or poorly-managed Visibility is a chronic condition that leaves many Centers suffering from enterprise isolation. This condition is often accompanied by disappointing budget allocations; little or no input to strategic plans, technology design, and acquisition; and poor cross-functional support and communication. It is time to be pro-active about how others view your Contact Center. Consider these thoughts …

Learn to speak the language of Value. Learning and using the language of Value must be deliberate. This is not new or terribly difficult; it just takes awareness and practice. First, take a good, hard look at how the Contact Center is perceived. Remember that this is how others see you, not how you see yourselves. If you don’t want to ask the question directly, just look at how the Contact Center is treated within the enterprise. If Marketing runs campaigns and promotions that you know nothing about, it is not because they want to do harm. It is worse than that and much more likely that the needs of the Contact Center are “invisible” rather than deliberately ignored. In fact, the Contact Center lacks a sort of operational Visibility. A very big part of establishing the Contact Center’s Value is dependent upon managing that Visibility.

Your Contact Center’s enterprise identity is undeniably linked to how others see you, or perhaps don’t see you at all.

Think about Visibility within your organization. While few may know the CEO personally, his/her high profile position grants tremendous Visibility. The CEO’s actual performance defines their Value and whether they keep their position. Speaking of high profile, Marketing folks get lots of “attention” (aka Visibility). And what comes with Visibility are budget allocations, technology investments, and resources! One often wonders how some positions/departments earn such grand sway. Most likely, they are fluent speakers of the language of Value. This language is based on integrating key business drivers into everything you do. For most organizations, the key drivers are market share, margins, revenue, growth, Customer Experience, and brand. While some may carry more weight than others, it is absolutely critical to be able to articulate your performance, your contribution, and your needs in ways that resonate with business drivers. A perfect segue to my next point …

Understand and relate to all things strategic. Know thy Annual Report! Read the letter from the CEO. It essentially outlines the direction in which the company wants to move. The Annual Report also allows a peek into your company’s financial performance and where revenues are strong/weak. If your company does not publish an Annual Report, it is your job to identify vision, strategy, brand, etc., as well as the plan of execution for initiatives that support strategic objectives. Know your market, with whom you do business, and where growth and efficiency lie. Know your products and services and understand how processes and technology support Contact Center outcomes. When you embrace and adopt this information, you have the foundation for the language of Visibility and Value. And that becomes the framework for your Value campaign, also known as your Value Proposition.

A very big part of establishing the Contact Center’s Value is dependent upon managing that Visibility.

Improve reporting to reflect the true Value of the Contact Center. Traditional Contact Center reporting is clogged up with a bunch of statistics that few people outside the operation genuinely understand. Reports often communicate numbers more suitable for factory production. How many? and How long? are two major elements present in far too many Contact Center performance reports. Then there are the “targets.” These are often established free from anything more than a rumor of an “industry standard” or referencing some “benchmarking report.”

I feel compelled to comment a bit here. First of all, there are NO Contact Center “industry standards.” Why? There is NO governing body or jury to evaluate the claims. Are there commonly used Service Levels and the like? Absolutely! But beware. Essentially, anyone can publish anything claiming that some metric achievement categorizes performance as “best practice or world class.”

Few of the traditional metric performance data frequently used by Contact Centers will fit into improving your Value. It just doesn’t fit the language. There are very few ways to relate topline growth via traditional metrics such as Service Level, Handle Time, Abandon, etc. It would be tough to relate improvements to market share, wallet share, brand deepening, Customer Experience, and relationship building. This is why I say that “information is currency.”

Use information as your Visibility and Value-building bargaining chip. Ask yourself these questions: What information do I have that will have relevance (Value) to another department? What do senior executives really need to know that I’m not telling them? What are we learning and sharing about our customers changing needs and preferences?”

Think about the Marketing example. If Marketing neglects to provide information you need, guard against being thought of as the “whiner.” It is your responsibility to build effective cross-functional relationships that deliver Value to the enterprise and, most importantly, to the Customer Experience. Think about what other departments need to know and what information the Contact Center has that would help them. Make that information your currency.

Get creative and bolster up reporting to enhance your Value and Visibility. When information is shared, it provides Value to others and Visibility to your operation. You will get Marketing’s attention when you inform them that the Contact Center can report (in near real-time) contacts generated by a campaign. Imagine providing Marketing with a Voice of the Customer report only hours into a new campaign or promotion. Won’t Legal be surprised when you are able to capture calls and report specifically on issues like confusing letters being sent to customers and forcing them to call for clarification. Imagine how powerful your argument is when you can offer IT screen recordings to illustrate latency and its impact on performance, resource requirements, agent utilization, and customer experience. All, I might add at a cost of one form or another. Spend some time to really look at what drives demand and ways to optimize the opportunities, eliminate the redundancies, report on it, and work collaboratively with cross functional partners to produce desired outcomes.

Be deliberate about “taking charge” of your Value and Visibility.

Identify technology to support objectives. The Contact Center has, sees, and knows much information. But if it is impossible to get at … poof, there goes your mission! Reporting tools have improved over the past few years, but still have a way to go. Today’s technology tools are able to position the Contact Center to obtain high-Value information. It is critical to define data analytics requirements and determine your current capabilities, future needs, and readiness. This gets at the relevant, actionable data to collect and share cross-functionally to optimize the Customer Experience.

Be cautious when it comes to the claims/promises of emerging technology. Resist its seduction until you have a technology roadmap that addresses your specific requirements as well as a solid understanding of your own level of readiness.

So get to it! Take a long look around, monitor your identity, and go nuts adding nuggets to existing reports and discovering interesting bits to send over to Marketing, Legal, and Execs. Draw out the cross-functional workflow, ask other leaders to lunch or Zoom/Teams, and invite them to your Contact Center “anytime” if you are premise-based. If not, set up a virtual tour to acquaint your cross-functional partners with the Contact Center’s role, responsibilities, and Value.

Be deliberate about “taking charge” of your Value and Visibility. You will enjoy the benefits of a well-managed Value campaign that promotes the Value and Visibility of the Contact Center – a solid objective for this year.

Please let us know how you have successfully managed your Visibility campaign!

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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