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Holding Out for Heroes in the Post-COVID Contact Center Industry

supermanAs the business climate continues to change, we have a new crisis happening inside companies. The shift to work-at-home environments brought a massive and quick upgrade in technology, often with little planning or or consultation with customer-facing employees. These tech solutions may have kept operations running, but they created a lot of unknowns that organizations have tasked managers to handle.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to reexamine which solutions are making the CX experience better and which are making that experience more challenging. The only way to do this is to begin the long delayed conversations with managers about what tech solutions they need.

That may be difficult, however. Most frontline and middle managers don’t have much work-at-home leadership experience. Executives need to realize that when they ask important leaders that drive the CX experience what they need, these individuals don’t know what they don’t know. They see the gaps in the processes, but feel helpless to plug those gaps and drive change.

They also don’t know how to sell upper management on what they do know they need. They don’t understand that they need to put dollars and cents to the challenge, or they don’t know how to arrive at those magic numbers. Too often, they instead say they can manage with what they have.

First- and second-level work-at-home leaders are great at making do with what they have. First- and second-level leaders depend on creative frontline employees to work through the gaps and make things happen. Ask any frontline agent how to maneuver around their systems, and they will give you their workarounds. These employees are very creative in getting their jobs done.

The next challenge is leader insecurity. Some leaders don’t want to be the only ones to speak to upper management and admit they need additional strategies and skillsets to move their work-at-home organization forward. Some leaders accept the status quo by saying, “Things are working out okay. Why rock the boat?” Most leaders are reluctant to show their vulnerability to upper management, so they stay quiet.

Work-at-home organizations are struggling with employees who don’t feel engaged. When you dig deep, you find work-at-home organizations haven’t been able to emulate the feelings that employees and leaders had when they were in the brick-and-mortar environment. Even though people want to work from home, they are still somewhat unsatisfied and leave for another job that they feel will be better. Everyone accepts this as the status quo. The real golden ring for executives seems to be to bring in technology to fix the problem—technology to streamline the recruiting and onboarding process and gamification technology for the operations team to engage employees so they want to come to work. Unfortunately, for most companies, this hasn’t eliminated the challenges, but it has cost them investments in both capital expenditures and time.

We’ve been in crisis for so long, but now we need to restore accountability and trust within the organization. We need those who can stand up for the front lines and the first- and second-level leaders. Those who are ready to get on the front lines and ask the difficult questions. Technology isn’t the silver bullet. It’s there to make things efficient and provide data.

Understanding what emotions these first- and second-level leaders are having is critical. Then you must decide and be willing to be the hero for them. This is what they desperately need to be successful. When this happens, senior leaders can evolve the organization to thrive in the work-at-home environment. A new mindset, new skills, and an evolved work-at-home culture can support leaders at all levels.