Ann Marie Stagg Blog Understanding operational impacts of future contact centre leaders

23rd July 2015

When invited to speak at Sabio's Transforming Customer Contact Conference held last month in London, I was keen to focus on how today's shifting customer engagement patterns are having a significant impact on the contact centre landscape.

Having recently had the opportunity to tour over 60 leading contact centres as part of the judging process for the UK National Contact Centre Awards, it's increasingly clear that today's leading customer service providers are thinking hard about the skills they will need to support their evolving customer contact landscape.

Part of my role at the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA) is to keep contact centre leaders in touch with changes in their industry. With over 100 major organisations attending, Sabio's event was a great opportunity to share what we believe will be some of the key skills that next-generation advisers, and their managers, need to offer.

While traditionally contact centres may have looked for advisors with data entry capabilities or an aptitude for script adherence, recent research has suggested that 80% of companies feel that qualities such as emotional intelligence and empathy are now far more important. We believe there also needs to be a much greater emphasis on the kind of core conversational skills that are rarely developed as part of basic advisor training & development.

With longer calls and greater interaction complexity an increased reality as contact centres evolve towards becoming escalation centres, there's also recognition that the team leader role has become much more complex. At a time when contact centre leaders are being swamped with change, it's now more important than ever for contact centre management and frontline advisors to have the right skills and support in place to address these changes. Typically, these will include:

  • Problem solving expertise
  • The ability to exercise Emotional intelligence
  • Empathy and authenticity
  • Increased responsibility, with advisors empowered for decision-making
  • Stronger listening and questioning skills
  • Strong conversational capability across multiple channels
  • Performance measurement by metrics such as customer experience rather than AHT

Contact centre managers will also need to think about some of the challenges that supervising a new generation of advisors will bring. How, for example, will they set about coaching staff that have been brought up and educated with Internet-based streams of entertainment and teaching. How can they make sure that advisors support all their corporate messaging and strategies, especially as advisors increasingly come from a demographic has been shown to be less loyal and respecting of authority? Also what plans do they have to grow their next generation of supervisors from an intake of advisors that's more comfortable online than interacting with colleagues and other staff?

These same concerns are also likely to impact the attitudes of tomorrow's next generation contact centre managers, particularly as organisations will need to adjust to a demographic that chooses to:

  • Manage by collaboration rather than traditional command and control
  • Influence through social networks, perhaps avoiding the more difficult conversations that need to be had
  • Pursue a better work/life balance – unlike millennial managers who felt obliged to sign up for killer work weeks

So with budgets starting to loosen up, many organisations might be looking again at the kind of innovative technologies that can help transform contact centre performance. However they are still going to need the right people to get the most out of this investment. Understanding the implications of the next generation of advisors and contact centre managers will be an important part of this transition.