The Evolving Contact Center Leader
By Rebecca Gibson
Every contact center leader is—and should be—concerned with staying professionally viable, and predicting the skills and experience that organizations will value next month, next year or five years from now. In an industry with almost daily shifting demands, how can you best align your skills and experience with evolving requirements? I consulted with three experts in our field to get their take on how to position yourself to be successful as a contact center leader.

I asked these seasoned professionals to identify the most important skills, experience and attributes of aspiring contact center leaders today. While they agreed that standard leadership competencies apply—such as communication and vision—they singled out the following five areas of contact center-specific expertise that are critical for senior-level contact center leaders.

Proven ability to reduce costs and generate revenue: Sure, the rest of your company values the service that you provide to customers. But all of our experts agree, that's not enough. Without exception, organizations are committed to finding candidates with an impressive financial track record, according to Richard Bencin, president of Richard L. Bencin & Associates, a contact center executive recruiting firm since 1981. They want to hear about how you have driven revenue through successful upselling and cross-selling programs or outbound teams. They want a candidate to describe their experience leading substantive cost-reduction initiatives using technology, outsourcing or strategic partnerships. What's more, hiring managers want to hear how the candidate will reproduce those results within their organization.

Understanding of contact center and enterprisewide technologies: As contact center technologies, such as workforce management systems and CRM systems, have matured, the knowledge requirements associated with these types of technologies have kept pace. Of course, many organizations are looking for candidates who have been successful selecting, implementing and managing proliferating customer contact channels, such as self-service, video, mobile messaging, social media and chat.

But that's not all. Hiring managers expect senior leaders' understanding of technology to go beyond the walls of the contact center, says Connie Caroli, president of Telemanagement Search, an executive recruiting firm dedicated to recruiting call center, telesales, and customer service management professionals. "It's not enough to just give a directive to the technology area about the contact center's requirements," she says. "Today's leaders need to understand enterprisewide technology integration requirements, and sit at the table with executives from across the organization to recommend the technology that's needed to provide friction-free customer experiences."

Global expertise: Technology isn't the only area where today's leader is expected to demonstrate influence beyond the walls of the contact center. "What we are seeing more and more is more companies demanding candidates with experience in establishing or managing existing worldwide operations," says Bencin. Another key aspect of this, he adds, is the ability to manage outsourcing organizations globally. "The ability to work comfortably in a variety of international settings—whether it's opening new contact centers, working with offshore outsourcers or collaborating with partners across the globe—is increasingly important. Contact center professionals with executive aspirations in Fortune 500 companies should look for opportunities to develop this type of expertise."

Specialized knowledge and experience: Executive recruiters Caroli and Bencin agree that companies' job requirements are increasingly exact, and hiring managers are willing to wait for the candidates whose skills and experience align precisely with their business needs. Whether it's international experience, enterprisewide technology, large contact centers (or small ones), industry-specific experience, such as government or non-profits, outbound or inbound selling or social media—companies are looking for candidates with deep knowledge and experience in specific areas. "This means that it's increasingly important for candidates to be able to clearly communicate their areas of expertise and their professional 'brand,'" says Caroli, "as well as clearly describe how their experience and knowledge lines up with the company's requirements."

Ownership of the entire customer experience: "Companies are realizing that there is a huge ROI to thinking more holistically about the customer and customer experiences, and they expect their senior leaders to do the same," says Tom Asher, director of customer experience for residential solar company SunRun, and former chairman of the board of SOCAP International. The contact center is just one customer touchpoint. Companies are looking for senior leaders who will do more than just lead the center—they want visionaries who can collaborate with internal and external partners to deliver stellar customer experiences.

SNAPSHOT: Trademark Assistance Center, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

The Trademark Assistance Center (TAC) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has 23 agents, all of whom work at home three or four days a week. Launched in April 2006, the TAC's award-winning home-agent program has been modeled by other federal government agencies. TAC management believe that regular communication is key to success. Text-based communication tools, such as email, IM and web-based posts, are fine for sharing information, but they don't provide supervisors with much insight into their team's emotions and stress levels. In fact, over-reliance on systems and collaboration tools for supervisor-agent interaction is a key barrier to an effective home-agent program. "We use a high-touch approach. We reach out to the employees to offer assistance and solicit their input, and we're constantly providing feedback," says Supervisory Trademark Information Specialist Dora Best. Read the full story here.

 

Contact Center Pipeline is focused on driving success through effective contact center management. Each issue features in-depth perspectives on the call center market, best practices and trends, technology and people issues that impact the customer experience. Draw upon CCP's incisive analysis to help you make better decisions about your career and your center. Visit us at www.ContactCenterPipeline.com

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