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Final Thoughts: Big Ideas for Moving Forward | #ICMIchat Rundown (January 12, 2021)

Over the years, #ICMIchat has brought out contact center and customer experience professionals' most profound insights into operations, leadership, and customer service. Every week, our participants challenged us to think differently about our contact centers; we built strong friendships and practiced sharing ideas in 280-characters or less. Although #ICMIchat is retiring after this week, the conversation will continue in other formats and events. Our community came together one last time on Twitter to leave their parting wisdom with the community. Here are their ideas:

Impactful Leadership

One of a leader's most important tasks is to curate a culture that supports their team's mission and goals. A shared vision is crucial to bringing everyone together, and it facilitates collaborative working without micromanagement. Leaders must inspire employees through their actions, leading by example rather than by mandate. We must all remember to choose our metrics carefully, trust in our employees and colleagues, and embrace the inevitable uncertainty in our world.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ― Simon Sinek
Real leaders build up those around them.

Assume positive intent. Seek to understand. Lead with compassion.

My dad told me that being 50% sure about something (a goal, a strategy) is often enough. You don't need to be 100% sure before you do something. If you think about it, 50% is actually a whole lotta sure.

All CX orgs focus on metrics. You are what you measure. Does how you measure success align with your organizational values and mission?

Bolstering Culture

Culture drives contact center performance in various ways, whether through agents' discretionary effort or employee attrition. These outcomes have a significant impact on the company's bottom line, so managers must carefully monitor their teams' health. Creating opportunities for professional growth, sharing feedback, and bonding with colleagues is even more important for remote teams. Teams don't wind up with great cultures on accident; managers must be deliberate and intentional to achieve positive outcomes.

Actually listen to your employees: what they want, what they are working towards, etc. Place importance on the employee as a human being and not just what they can do or bring to the company.

I learned from a wise man early in my career - people must come first. He told me to strive to be the kind of leader that people WANT to follow vs. one they follow because of title or position.

Take the time to understand the unique strengths of each team member and put them in positions to do their very best work.

There are no simple ways to bolster culture. It's a walk you walk and a talk you talk every day.

What Employees Need

We asked the community what employees need most in the year ahead. Following a chaotic and uncertain year, employees will continue to require additional trust, understanding, and patience. Even the mundane can become overwhelming while emotions are high, and practicing servant leadership helps remove distractions and complications from employees' minds. Support and transparency are still hot commodities in 2021.

Employees need appreciation—meaningful recognition of their efforts. And the frame around it all needs to be empathy. Even when we don’t agree, empathy can bridge the chasms of a divided world.

Employees need vulnerability, grace, and mission focus from their leaders. Vulnerability showing they feel too, grace showing the employees that the leaders know they are human, mission focus to keep people directed on the goals.

Given how everything has consistently changed on a dime this past 12 months, that requirements for leadership has changed. I'd say probably consistency of vision is the one thing needed, even if the strategy and details morph around that.

Truckloads of encouragement. Bags of empowerment. Boxes of the right tools. And a pinch of their attention everyday.

Continuing Growth

Employees also need room to grow and develop new skills over the year, and managers play an essential role in training programs' success. It's not a set it and forget it endeavor. Teams need some protected time to develop their skills, encouragement to put forth the effort, and a chance to apply what they know on the job. Highly-skilled agents will be at the forefront of change as contact centers continue to evolve.

First, have a LEARNING strategy for the team. Not just "classroom training". Only a small % of learning happens in the classroom...are you influencing and developing a strategy for the rest? Self directed, social, informal, etc. etc.

Learn, teach, learn. When employees learn something new, managers should have them share some of what they learned and how it applies to their situation.

First, offer it. Second, make it easy for the employees to actually do it. I see companies offering great stuff but it's like pulling teeth for the employees to actually take advantage of it.

Realizing that a 45 minute, one-time webinar about a topic isn't enough. Not enough to benefit the employee, nor the organization. It's not all training that's ineffective, sometimes it's the method.

Mastering Productivity

Efficiency is on everyone's mind as we're challenged to work more efficiently and reach new heights of quality. Customer needs are evolving at a rapid pace, further complicating our goals. Many see agent empowerment and the removal of red tape as a boon to much-needed agility. Additionally, remote working flexibility provides promising opportunities to schedule and manage tasks more efficiently than we previously thought possible.

Continually evaluate a list of the top contact reasons, and find a way to prevent those contacts from even happening. It could be case deflection, product enhancements, training, or something else, but find a way!

Take a step back and look at the productivity metrics you track and decide whether or not managing to those is actually helping you achieve your goals. If not, find new metrics.

Connect agents to the purpose of their work. Purpose matters. It's not about the broken dresser drawer it's about being an agent of peace in that moment to that customer.

Ask your agents.

Exceeding Expectations

Customers expect a lot from service providers; it's true! However, their demands often aren't that difficult to understand. As customers' lives become more complicated, they'll look for ease wherever they can get it. As such, we expect to see customers place a greater focus on convenience and availability this year. Removing roadblocks for customers is one of the best ways to demonstrate care.

Customers expect clean, contactless, frictionless, privacy-centric, personalized experiences. At a minimum, just don't let up on socializing what they want.

Customers want a break from crazy! They want something in life to be SIMPLE. Empower agents to delight customers with simplicity. Start by making it easy to both self-serve and speak with an agent.

Trust. Consistency. Value. We deliver this by setting crystal clear expectations, and EXECUTING on them!

Customers want consistent, high-quality interactions every single time with every brand. We can deliver it through better collaboration, more detailed planning, and hands-on practical leadership.

Building Bridges

To serve customers more efficiently, remove obstacles from their journey, and communicate effectively as one company, contact centers must be plugged-in to the rest of the organization. Building strong working relationships doesn't always come easy, but it's necessary for delivering excellent service. Particularly in times of change, a robust internal network will help your contact center stay a step ahead.

"Nobody puts Baby in the corner." Contact center leaders must reject any idea that their team & employees are lesser bcuz they're hourly or their tenure is shorter. They need to insist on their equivalent status by showing the entire org what they do and know.

Lines of communication must be open with deliberation and intent. Structure to share info and create meaningful communication - that foundation of trust needs to be in place before there is an emergency requiring partnering. Opportunities abound when we partner.

I find it really difficult to lead in a contact center without getting down in the trenches regularly and then translating those learnings to the rest of the organization. But maybe that's just me.

I have created cross functional relationships through a genuine commitment to ensure my team & I understand how our work impacts the org. We are great business partners. I have created strong personal relationships along the way as well.