Contact centers can have the best customer service agents and the latest and greatest technology. They can even implement superb customer experience strategies; but without an able and trustworthy leader at the helm, they will ultimately fail.
Contact center leaders have a lot on their plate–from ensuring customer satisfaction and encouraging technology adoption to keeping agents happy and well-trained. They lead their organizations through the changes and challenges that contact centers encounter and champion processes and procedures to deliver excellent customer experiences.
Our Conversations That Matter podcast recently hosted an interview with author and futurist Jacob Morgan, who described the difference between good and bad leaders: “The two broad things that any leader does is make decisions and get people to move in the direction of that decision. If you’re a bad leader, all you do is make the decision and tell everybody what to do with a command-and-control, ‘I say jump, you say how high’ mentality. Good leaders, on the other hand, not only help make the decisions, but they also motivate, engage, empower and inspire people to move in the direction of that decision.”
However, no matter how well a contact center leader thinks they’re performing, there’s often a disconnect between them and their agents. As Jacob explained on the podcast: “There is a huge gap between how well leaders think they’re practicing mindsets and skills versus how well the people who actually work for these leaders say they’re practicing them. This really goes back to this idea of the ivory tower: the more senior you are, the more disconnected you can get from your company.”
Becoming a truly respected leader, therefore, requires a strong mindset and a particular set of leadership skills, including:
1. Experience on the Frontline
One of the critical assets any contact center leader requires is real-life experience on the customer service frontline. Leaders need to understand what their agents are going through, the typical customer service challenges they face daily, and lead by example.
For example, Jacob recounted how the CEO of Home Depot spent 24 hours compacting a backlog of corrugated material in a store warehouse and fixing blocked toilets in another store. As Jacob says: “Being a leader doesn’t mean you’re better than other people. If you yourself are not willing to do these things, then you shouldn’t be asking other people to do it.”
Good contact center leaders stay committed to the frontline by retaining and reviewing customer interactions and joining their agents on calls. This gives them the necessary insight to shape and evolve strategy, develop training methods and increase their credibility with their staff.
2. Management Competency
Management competency and strong leadership are central to the success of any contact center. This encompasses a wide range of skills: instilling company culture, maximizing efficiency, inspiring agent performance, encouraging engaged customers and managing relationships with the C-suite.
Achieving managerial success relies on learning from challenges, asking questions and analyzing data. By doing so, contact center leaders will know how to improve organizational performance and how to best motivate their teams and engage customers, resulting in business success.
Management competency also involves coaching and training employees. The onus is on leaders to train their teams, to the extent that every employee is the best they can be. This is possible by identifying each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, their particular motivations and preferred ways of working, then tailoring personal coaching and employee goals and objectives accordingly.
3. Ability to Spot and Nurture Talent
The best leaders can identify and nurture talented agents and work closely with human resources teams to build the best customer service offering possible. Managers need to recruit, interview and onboard the right talent, then give them the appropriate training that helps them grow.
Good leaders are also responsible for cultivating their agents into the next generation of contact center leaders to future-proof their organization. As Jacob Morgan explained on our podcast: “You need to have some sort of consistency. If you have CEOs and top executives who are defining leadership in a certain way, then that needs to be communicated across the organization so that when people get promoted, those people match those definitions.”
4. Ability to Build Relationships
The success of any business depends on positive relationships. Contact center leaders are responsible for effectively communicating information to agents, ensuring employees are happy and performing well, assigning customer service tasks and leading by example. These factors rely on building strong personal relationships that inspire employees while also balancing ethics and morals.
As Jacob Morgan said: “CEOs and leaders need to differentiate and distinguish between ethics and having a moral compass. Of course, you need to do the right thing. If you don’t, you get situations like we had with Enron, where madness happens. But at the same time, you need to let people know what you stand for, that you believe in something that goes beyond just following rules and doing what’s good for the business. There is a very clear distinction between those two, and I do think that leaders need to do both of those things: to be an ethical leader that follows the rules and has a moral compass and to do the right human thing, not just follow what it says in the rule book.”
5. Embrace Technology and Change
Solid technological knowledge improves the efficiency and productivity of contact centers. For example, customer service automation and conversational service automation solutions enable organizations to operate more seamlessly, engage with customers more quickly and deliver better experiences.
However, new technology can create new problems, especially if an organization implements the wrong solutions. This requires a specific mindset that Jacob describes as: “The mindset of the chef, which is basically balancing ingredients inside your company, humanity and technology.”
Good leaders embrace technology and the change it brings. As Jacob Morgan explained: “As you can imagine, there’s a lot of fear and discussion around AI and technology. But, from a lot of the CEOs I’ve interviewed, the general perception was that technology is not going to be used as a way to replace humans but as a way to augment them. They all acknowledge a tremendous opportunity and positivity that’s going to make organizations more human: to focus more on creativity, on relationships, on problem-solving, on strategy. But for me, the greatest impact that AI and technology is going to have on leadership is to make it blatantly clear who the good leaders are and who the bad leaders are.”
While many leaders will pass the task of implementing solutions onto their IT team, good leaders will strive to understand how the technology works for their contact center and their agents. This includes ensuring any solution is implemented and monitored correctly, then helping employees fully maximize any technology the organization deploys.
With Uniphore’s customer service automation solutions, you can make your contact center stand out through technology that helps resolve customer problems quickly. For more insights on contact center leadership, tune in to our Conversations That Matter podcast.