4 Essentials for Contact Center Success: The Best Days Are Ahead!

Last winter I reflected on what I learned at ICMI’s Contact Center Expo, and ended with a bold prediction: for contact centers and for those of us who are part of them, the best days are ahead. To read more about why I think this is the case, click here.

The best contact centers have always been on the edge of service. And our profession has always had to be grounded in reality. Whether our budgets go up or down, we have to be there to handle what comes our way. Real customers. More channels. Greater expectations.

road leading into sunThe key takeaway is this: contact centers aren’t a technology. Contact centers are a dynamic, service ecosystem that’s the nexus of interaction between customers and organizations. We’re the connection, the hazmat crew, the customer advocates in a world that continually evolves. If AI takes over the world, we’ll be among the last ones standing.

With this in mind, let me make four recommendations that will position you and your organization for success as the landscape of customer experience continues to develop.  

First, relentlessly focus on the fundamentals. I’m working on some updates to the book, Contact Center Management on Fast Forward, to come out in late 2024. It’s currently in the 4th edition, the most recent version. The first edition came out in 1997. With each, we do a thorough review of what needs to change. And I’m always shocked to rediscover: the fundamentals don’t change. The organizations, teams, technologies, and case studies change. But the underlying fundamentals are rock solid.

My encouragement is to focus on three areas: Service level, quality, and value. They are not in order of importance so much as a chronological sequence:

  • Can customers get through when and as they need?
  • Are we meeting those needs? Are we anticipating them and building robust services around them?
  • Are we creating value? Are our customers more loyal and are we using the insight from interactions to innovate across the organization?

The potential of AI to help us with deeper and more complex processes is all the more reason to get the fundamentals right. AI is powerful—but will learn from our processes and habits, good or bad.

Second, build and protect a culture of innovation. The next best idea can come from anyone. The best contact center leaders develop processes to bring ideas to light, to protect them, to shepherd them through a process where, yes, some are funded and implemented. Your goal is for 100% participation across your employee base—that everyone feels part, they have their antennas up and know how to contribute.

A manager with an organization I did some consulting work for was concerned with the productivity of one of her agents. “She’s experienced, she’s capable, she’s just not producing as much and has a lower first contact resolution (FCR) than others.” Come to find out, that agent was the one handling the toughest customer issues—which her peers were happy to transfer to her. Yes, they took some time and FCR wasn’t as high. But she was the one who, once and for all, got them resolved and then documented their knowledge base so that they didn’t have to solve the problem over and over.

Whatever your role—whether as a director, a supervisor, or in a support role—recognizing and supporting innovation and true productivity will be an essential leadership attribute. You’ll need the wisdom to recognize policies and processes that are holding you back.

Third, instill purpose. The Dell Institute for the Future created some alarming headlines in 2017 when it predicted that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet. Almost seven years down the road, that doesn’t seem so outlandish. We’re seeing it in our contact centers. For example, in the past your contact center had a workforce planner. Today, if yours is a large contact center, you have specialized roles around forecasting, staffing, scheduling, real-time management, analytics, and several others. If you’re a small center, you may wear a number of those hats, but they are more specialized hats.

As job roles become more specialized, it will be more important than ever to help each person on your team see how they make a difference for colleagues and customers. Contact centers are a team sport. To thrive in the days ahead, we’ll need everyone to understand the importance of their work and to feel a deep sense of engagement and purpose. Yes, that’s always been true—but given the change and opportunities ahead, it will be more important than ever.

Finally, be an active part of this community. Clearly, we’re entering a new frontier, and we’ll need wisdom. No one knows where things are going exactly. We didn’t with the changes that came before. But we forged a trail together.

If you feel unqualified, well, that’s probably a healthy perspective. You don’t have to make this journey alone. We’ll need each other for insight and to share experiences on the bumps and successes along the way. There are many others who are eager to travel the road ahead with you.

If we’re clear-eyed and intentional, if we lead and not just react, I am convinced that the most exciting days are ahead!