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Good-bye 2020: Don’t Let The Door Hit You | #ICMIchat Rundown (November 17, 2020)

Fireworks in dark sky.

This year was lauded as "the year of seeing clearly," and it lived up to these accolades in ways that no one could have anticipated. We entered 2020 with grand plans, big ideas, and optimism for the future. Instead, it met us with unbelievable challenges at every turn. It's been an almost constant struggle, but many contact centers have overcome barriers and achieved the unexpected.

Next week, #ICMIchat is taking a break to celebrate Thanksgiving! Meanwhile, check out past discussions! Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific to weigh in on the contact center industry's most pressing challenges when we return.

Over the past 45 weeks, contact center and customer experience leaders gathered on Twitter to share our best practices and opportunities to improve our leadership, culture, metrics, customer experience, and employee engagement. We kept the pulse of the industry as it navigated the extraordinary challenges this year brought. As we close out a year of #ICMIchat, our community reflects on how far we've come, how to recharge and rejuvenate our teams, and where we hope to go in the future.

Achievements Unlocked

Although this year was full of extraordinary challenges and chaos, our community still accomplished great things in 2020. Many of us have been privileged to come to our customers' rescue, start new jobs, and even make progress on personal and relationship goals. Time once wasted on commuting was reallocated to growing our knowledge, attaining certifications, and mentoring others. It's been a rough year, but it's not without some silver linings.

I am proud of all the Contact Centers I've worked with this year - weathering the chaos, stress & volume spikes. It was a tough year for CC leaders, so getting through with our heads held high is accomplishment enough for me!

At work, I think we've done some really good things in developing our sophistication in functional areas as well as developing our team during an incredible turbulent time. We haven't led perfectly but I think we've led well.

Advancing Our Teams

Just as this experience has forced us to grow as individuals, our teams have developed tremendously, too. We've all learned to lead and work in new ways. Obstacles have highlighted weaknesses in leadership, knowledge management, employee experience, and collaboration that we'll permanently solve due to the pandemic. Contact centers will walk into 2021 with a fortified foundation of trust and operational principles that will serve them for decades to come.

We have become a distributed team across the country and the team has developed their virtual training skills. These changes have offered exponential growth that was available pre-COVID.

Yes! I had my first ever entry level employee come on my team, it's been a learning experience for me to coach & grow someone so green but has been a fun challenge. I find it a privilege to work with GenZ because they're pushing me outside of some comfort zones.

Joined a new team this year. Already grown a couple times since then. We're starting from scratch, but it's a noticeable difference from last job at a marketing agency. Getting sweat equity for ourselves as opposed to for someone else's benefit.

I’ve seen tremendous growth and development in the 3 short months I’ve been on the team @EtechGS! It’s great when a company takes a vested interest in developing people and not putting them through a grinder.

At Last! It's Over!

As we race towards the finish line of this year, take a moment to consider ways to reward and celebrate your team's accomplishments in 2020. This may be as simple as a heartfelt thank you note or an elaborate virtual party! Even some extra time off will certainly be welcome if possible.

The celebrations are pretty simple in a Zoom world. This is a great time to engage personally - 1:2:1 - to just say "thank you" for doing great work in the middle of the chaos - for surviving the many changes that have occurred in our work-life-balance.

We normally do a gratitude exercise by collecting a list of good things and accomplishments for the year. We group them together by things like learning, teaching, giving (charity things). It is a feel good thing and helps us get ready for end of year reviews. Good.

Relax and Unwind

This time of year serves many as a reminder of what's important and prompts self-reflection and relaxation. These activities are particularly important this year. Leaders can help their teams by prioritizing rest and recovery. At the very least, remove obstacles from the employee journey wherever possible. Make it easy for them to use paid leave, so they get the necessary time away.

I've read - and witnessed on my team - people who have not taken allocated PTO. I think we need to - not only give permission to the team to take the time - but push them to make it a priority.

Leaders need to give more - listening, perception, kindness, and especially grace. For some, 2020 has been a subtle even a good change, for others a seismic shift. Leaders need to know what people are experiencing and feeling to support them in the way they need.

Returning to Purpose

Hit the ground running in 2021 by considering which areas you and your team should focus on early. This should be both an individual and collaborative effort. Set goals, and ask your colleagues to help keep you accountable.

Time management and prioritization come to mind, for sure. Employee engagement and development too. We've made strides in our abilities around data analysis but certainly still have opportunity to grow there.

I want them to be able to use macros/templates/canned responses without customers knowing they are using macros/templates/canned responses. We're getting there!

Managing Your Customer

This year has placed enormous strain on nearly all relationships, including those we have with our customers. Some industries can't seem to catch a break, while others have found ways to excel. The humanization of customer service has been a major theme underlying this year. Make time to serve customers as individuals, with empathy and care.

For better. 2020 was the year of empathy. I try to focus on empathy and curiosity every day - these two skills are the cornerstones of CX - and patience with internal and external custs - there's no rush to the finish line - enjoy the process.

Yes. My org has changed the discount policy, price match policy, and added AHT. This could have been a train wreck. It wasn't. We treat our customers well and train our agents, The results have been positive for our brand & bottom line.

My relationship with my customers has been wonderful this year. I've done business with return customers I've known for 20 years. Connections matter. This year, I've felt like a person who's garden kept producing though she'd planted it long ago.

Evolving Preferences

Our customers' lives have been disrupted as much as ours; naturally, this will lead to some behavioral changes going forward. Obviously, their mental and emotional state has been impacted, and they will demand greater flexibility in serving them. Their daily habits and consumption patterns have also shifted, creating new opportunities for those who capitalize on them. Be on the lookout for changing expectations in the new year.

Because the economy is going to be rough this year, customers will be more demanding, more uncertain, more vocal when they're displeased. When stressed, people equate their spending with their worth, so they're going to expect a LOT of white glove customer service

I see a future of delivery, delivery, delivery. Customer service will require access to all of the channels and effortless service. I agree w/ [Leslie O'Flahavan] as well and hope that orgs prepare their agents for this new world.

Assuming we "get past" COVID someday...I'm interested to see what kind of lasting impacts it will have. Like people who grew up during the Depression...will we be forever changed? Will we stock ground beef and TP and wear masks to avoid illness during travel?

A Bright Future

The future is bright, and our community has big plans for the upcoming year. No matter what happens, whether it be further complications or a return to normal, commit to double down on the successes you've experienced this year. Sighs of relief are also a gateway to complacency; as you relax and adopt new habits, continuously push forward toward greater success.

Our team has spent a ton of time building out and improving our knowledge base. Next step is injecting some AI into the mix to boost customer self-solve rates!

We have some new technology coming in that will support more self-service for employees with benefits and such. It gives people another channel of choice and allows them to get things done outside of regular call center hours. I like that - I'm a midnight tasker.

A big focus (and carved out time) for my physical & mental health has been crucial for me this year, but challenging at times. I look forward to making this a more focused initiative in 2021. A strong[er] body & mind.

Editors Note: On behalf of ICMI and the host of #ICMIchat, Andrew Gilliam, it has been an incredible pleasure to serve you and your team through this exceptionally difficult year. Thank you for the opportunity to share your challenges and facilitate your growth and advancement. While #ICMIchat will be taking a break until the new year, we're still here for you. Please contact us if we may help you in any way. Happy New Year!

#ICMIchat November 24, 2020
Thanksgiving Break

We're taking a break. Happy Thanksgiving!

Next week, #ICMIchat is taking a break to celebrate Thanksgiving! Meanwhile, check out past discussions! Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific to weigh in on the contact center industry's most pressing challenges when we return.

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