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
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.