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What CX leaders can learn from contact centre managers


Contact centre managers have tackled some of the challenges – and realised some of the opportunities – that are commonly talked about today in customer experience circles. 

22nd Nov 2021

There’s no question that customer experience as a recognised business discipline continues to gain traction around the world.

Over the past decade, CX consultants, practitioners and associations have identified competencies and practices for success – such as those established by the CXPA in their CCXP Certification programme. And the public relations buzz around CX isn’t too bad either.

Conferences, whitepapers, training providers have all expanded around the topic. As a good friend said to me, it seems like everybody is a CX expert these days. And everyone is looking for the (right) answers to to achieve their CX ambitions.

But wait. Are the opportunities and challenges presented by CX all new? Or are there some CX lessons we can learn by examining past work done in successful contact centres?

As you’ll see, I think there are.

Your friendly neighbourhood contact centre manager

I came to CX through the contact centre industry. And I couldn’t have asked for a better path.

That’s because great contact centre managers have tackled some of the challenges – and realised some of the opportunities – that are talked about today in CX forums.

Sure, the contact centre is a subset of CX. And yes, contact centre managers who rebrand themselves as customer experience managers – with no significant change in functional responsibilities – cloud the full meaning of CX. But successful contact centre managers have navigated (for years in some cases) some of the things we talk about in CX today.

So if you’re after some answers to some of your burning CX questions, I’d consider talking to my contact centre people.

Here are some examples.

Example #1 – Are you a cost centre or are you a profit centre?

For you contact centre folks out there – did that header just make you shudder? I’m with you on that.

One of the most discussed topics over the past two decades has been whether the contact centre is primarily a bottomless money pit or a strategic function that delivers value.

To shift the organisational discussion away from the cost-centre mentality, I think successful contact centre managers have been able to:

  • Prove the centre’s impact on customer satisfaction and related loyalty metrics.
  • Present logical business cases to senior management in the language of numbers and outcomes.
  • Provide useful business intelligence to other departments and functions.

For CX folks, does any of this sound familiar? It should.

Because in CX we have to make the connection to ROI. We can’t rollout CX because we think it’s a moral imperative – an approach doomed to fail. We have the obligation to link our CX efforts to improved organizational results – based on the metrics that matter most to us.

So if you’re working on CX ROI, it’s worth checking in with successful contact centre managers to see what strategies they used to demonstrate contact centre ROI – and shift mindset away from ‘cost centre’.

Example #2 – Got a service culture?

Nobody goes to school to work in a contact centre. And that means a lot of bright and often very young folks end up working in the centre without prior experience or know-how.

So every centre faces the need to transform raw human potential into industry professionals who have great conversations with customers. And that usually has to be done quickly – within months, sometimes even weeks.

To achieve that relentless focus on service requires strong culture building practices. Because you can’t mandate culture.

I’ve seen the best centre management do the following:

  • Develop a service delivery vision to help everyone understand what kind of service we deliver around here.
  • Select and define a focused set of principles that guide decisions about the behaviours we exhibit with customers and each other.
  • Ensure regular and frequent sharing of successes (and misses) with regard to customer interactions – because storytelling & rituals are always a big part of culture.

In CX you need to build a customer-centric culture. That marvelous CX transformation won’t happen without it. But at the organizational level a culture transformation will take 3-5 years to succeed. Assuming that it’s successful at all!

So if you want some lessons on how to build and even accelerate a customer-centric culture – talk to your successful contact centre manager. They’ve been cracking this code for years.

Example # 3 – Oh baby, don’t leave me this way

Attrition. That word encapsulates what happens when contact centres fail to provide meaningful work and opportunities for their Team Members.

A while ago, I listened to a podcast by Horst Schulze (the co-founder of Ritz Carlton Hotels and founder of Capella Hotel Group).  In that discussion he shared how the Ritz Carlton managed to reduce attrition to only 20% of the level experienced by the hospitality industry at large. Largely by creating a clear vision and giving people a sense of purpose and belonging.

Contact centre managers who’ve  gotten a handle on attrition – and retention – have learned a lot about employee engagement and experience. Lessons about the application of purpose, opportunities for development and the use of appropriate reward & recognition programs as a starter.

And while the topics of attrition and retention won’t address all the requirements to unlocking a great employee experience, successful contact centre managers have improved life at work for dozens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who deal with customers day in and day out.

It’s worth taking a look at what they did.

In closing

For the CX industry, there are some great CX lessons we can learn from the contact centre industry.

Go in and talk to the managers there. They’re sure to appreciate it. They have a lot to share. I often remind people that some of the answers to their questions lie within their own people.

And for the contact centre managers out there. You have earned the know-how, hard knocks and learnings that have made you a master of the contact centre domain.

So when you’re ready – and decide to take the time and make the effort to really master customer experience as a discipline –  you’ll be in an unbeatable position to take everything you know and get out there and make customer lives even better.

Thanks for reading!

This article adapted from a piece originally posted on the Omnitouch International blog


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