Transforming human capital into competitive advantage.
Industry leaders are always looking for ways to enhance results within their organisation. Regardless of sector, the challenges are aligned; shrinking budgets, competing resource demands, a competitive labour market, changing customer expectations, increased skills shortage, disruptive technology, and executive expectations just to name a few. So how do leaders navigate the environmental and organisational conundrums, to build competitive advantage in an environment when historical execution can’t be relied upon to deliver future results?
Contact centres are at the heart of most organisations, building reputational capital within the community and either reframing or reinforcing how customers view your brand. Advancement of digital service offerings and AI solutions mean the ‘no touch’ customer journeys are building strong and seamless experiences. The remaining customer experience often shifts between channel and includes support from front- line agents who can make or break your customer relationships.
Focus from managers remains centred around age old metrics such as average handle time, wait times, occupancy, speed to answer and so on. Reporting within an inch of its life, the humble contact centre is its own worst enemy when it comes to promoting their corporate value or strategic influence. It isn’t easy reporting the calls you stop through preventative or educative action, or justifying increased handling times that stop repeat calls and resolve customer issues. When the contact centre is viewed as a cost centre that can be rationalised, organisations fail to recognise the benefit of investing in workforce strategies that allow people to see career and value within the environment.
Research shows that people who report having a positive employee experience have 16 times the engagement level of employees with a negative experience (Mckinsey and Company), and that they are eight times more likely to want to stay with an organisation. Surveys such as Gallup Q12, the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study, and AON Hewitt’s Engagement at Work Survey, all found strong links between engagement and performance. Whilst other key factors such as organisational culture, leadership style and the roles within the contact centre contribute to success, it is true to say that organisations with a disengaged workforce, will not reach their full potential.
With engagement being such a key contributor to organisational success, you could be forgiven for thinking we would see more organisations subscribing to employee centred philosophies, where if taken care of, employees will take care of the business. Creating a positive supportive workplace culture where employees feel valued and motivated to do their best work, leads to increased job satisfaction, lower turnover, and improved overall performance and success for the organisation.
1. SHARED PURPOSE AND VISION.
Building a connection for your people between your organisations goals and the customers they serve is the first step in creating an army of positive influencers who will build your reputation with the community. You need to have relationships with your workforce, know their currency, and translate strategic direction so they connect with it on a personal level. This takes strategic vision from your leadership team, consistent communications, repeated through multi-mediums, anchored to a firm foundation, woven effortlessly through every plan, every conversation, every action.
2. CAPABILITY INVESTMENT
Training and professional development investment needs to be relevant, current, fit for purpose and accessible. It isn’t a ‘one time’ investment, rather it needs to be regular and progressive. Underpinning great service is knowledgeable employees who know your product, your service, and your customer. Additionally, contact centre leaders need tailored development to help them engage, empower, and connect their staff to organisational purpose.
The other critical capability investment is human skills. Traditional soft skills, call handling skills and customer handling skills that will set your people up for success even when dealing with the most vulnerable or emotionally charged customers.
Empowering your people to advocate for your customer, challenge process, suggest change and own ideas, revolutionises the way your people see themselves and the role they perform. Getting this right involves leadership capability, effective frameworks, and follow through when great ideas emerge. Empower your people; provide them with safety rails, training, and support, then watch them revolutionise your service offering through authentic, customer centric interactions.
So, what are some practical actions that can form part of the contact centre leader’s handbook that will help transition your centre from a one-dimensional, metric driven environment, to one where your people are your biggest asset.
4. SET AND MEASURE GOALS
Stats, and standard performance metrics are still relevant, however better placed in workforce management than as standalone key performance indicators of front-line staff. Re-imagine success measures based on your business, your customer, and your organisational goals. These can be dynamic, outcome focused goals, complemented by traditional data sets. Building clear expectations, communicating goals, and providing visibility of outcomes is essential. If you are all about the numbers in isolation, you will drive behaviours that don’t support optimised customer experiences.
It goes without saying an essential element of contact centre success is how well you communicate. Strategic communication plans need to outline your 12-month cycle, including audience analysis, key themes, regularity, responsibilities and mediums. Messaging needs to be consistent, regular, repeated and easily absorbed if you are to have any chance of saturation across your workforce. If you don’t have the right resources to build the strategy, it is worth investing in having a tailored communication strategy built for you by a strategic communications expert.
Of course, there are other things we could add to the list to help foster performance through people: recognition, feedback, visible leadership, genuine care, and authenticity. Your employees will be motivated by many different things, and the strongest motivator is rarely simply financial. Employees want to feel a powerful sense of agency where they can influence outcomes that matter to them, allied with a strong sense of identity and belonging. Building a connection to organisational purpose is critical in an era where workplace mobility is heightened. Organisations who successfully support tailored, authentic customer experiences will strengthen employee purpose, inspire curiosity, ignite energy, and elevate organisation wide performance.