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Leadership – and Thinking Differently – in the Contact Center Industry

What qualities do you find valuable in leadership?

Humility, influence, and integrity. When people lead with humility, they acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. They take time to listen to the people around them. This opens a space to challenge each other in a collaborate effort to come up with the best solution.

A title does not mean you’re always right. People who lead with arrogance, typically driven by insecurities, will be adamant about their point of view – even if incorrect. Then, when challenged, will not budge - they may even become argumentative. The best leaders I know are willing to admit they don’t have the answer and will work to find it.

Leaders with influence understand how people react to them and know how and when to use their influence. They’ve worked hard to gain the trust and respect of the rest of the team. Influential leaders know when to lean in and when to lean back.

Regarding integrity, a colleague of mine often talks about a person’s "Say:Do" ratio. When you say you’re going to do something, do it. Or, be proactive and reset expectations as to when you will be able to honor your commitment.

Contact center leaders have so much coming at them. They need to be able to delegate to their people and not have to worry about following up to ensure the work has been completed. They need people with integrity and a high "Say:Do" ratio.

Who is a leader you turn to for inspiration?

Jeff Bezos. He thinks differently and continues to think differently. One quote that really resonates with me, “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”

This idea of scarcity breeding innovation and urging people to think differently is particularly interesting, especially when thinking about the daily challenges contact center leaders face. The contact center must run at optimal efficiencies, finding new ways to drive efficiency is critical for contact center success.

A quote on change from a recent Forbes article, “Change is the new normal for leadership success and all leaders must accept this fact.” What are your thoughts on change?

I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. However, not everyone has the same appetite for change, which provides a healthy balance within any organization. I’ve seen tensions between the different personalities, but they need each other in order to make the best decision for the organization. Change is needed to drive innovation, yet ensuring innovation and change is appropriately validated and rolled out within the organization is equally important.

Are you willing to discuss a big risk you’ve taken as a leader?

Absolutely, I take risks every day. One significant risk I've taken here was to bet the company on automation, but the automation space hadn’t formed yet. The alphabet soup of automation – AI, RPA, ML wasn’t prevalent in business discussions when we made this bet. These discussions were taking place in academia, but not for businesses and certainly not for contact centers. If automation hadn’t become mainstream, the bet wouldn’t have paid off.

As a leader working within the contact center automation space, what advice to you have for aspiring leaders?

My advice to contact center leaders, or any leaders for that matter, would be to think differently. Leaders in this space face tremendous pressure to reduce costs – especially within mature industries like financial services, telecommunications, healthcare, and insurance. They’re simply not seeing the growth they once did.

While the technology businesses use has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, it’s surprising that most contact centers still rely on decades-old tools and processes. Upgrading workforce management (WFM) or automatic call distributor (ACD) systems may have provided short-term efficiencies in the past, that approach is no longer enough to meet more aggressive cost reduction goals.

The sponge has been wrung dry. Yet contact center leaders are expected to deliver more efficiency year after year. It’s time to think differently.