Contact centre agents are largely programmed to the philosophy of “people, process and technology” in ensuring they follow the right recipe in delivering exceptional service to customers. While this work ethic is certainly a valuable ingredient in a winning recipe, leadership has come to the fore as a component which can turn the half-baked call centre into a work of art.
Ian Gordon Cumming, MD of the M-IT global contact centre Multipath, says to stay competitive at a world-class level, contact centre managers need to pay attention to the people manning the phones, and develop their skills. The industry needs to evolve into one which is a breeding ground and support for career-minded contact centre staff.
Many contact centre staff, Gordon Cumming says, are temporary employees who don’t foresee a future in the industry. The increased pressures of soaring customer expectations, intense competition and ever-evolving technologies add to high staff turnover in a contact centre.
“In an effort to stay ahead, many companies are refocusing on the customer, demanding outstanding performance from their staff and challenging traditional organisational systems and core processes. Major change is needed in the contact centre industry and this, in turn, demands a different style of leadership.”
In South Africa, the trend towards business process outsourcing (BPO) has much room to grow and, while waiting for that growth spurt, companies would be wise to focus on a different issue in terms of developing this space, namely that of the employees staffing contact centres.
“We need to change the perception that a job in a contact centre is an entry level one that you hold for eighteen months at the most before moving on,” Gordon Cumming says.
Critical skills shortages in South Africa are driving the outsourced contact centre trend and the time is now to invest in the staff. It is critical, Gordon Cumming says, that contact centres attract the right type of person to the job and encourage them to stay. This is where management must step in and develop skills through intense training on programmes and processes, mentoring and coaching. Staff must feel that value has been added to their role in the contact centre and this will instil a sense of greater responsibility and job satisfaction.
“By creating realistic and rewarding career paths for employees within a call centre environment, employers will experience a drastic increase in service standards and decrease in staff turnover. Managers have to up their game from delegation to true leadership. The future of the contact centre industry lies with talented, skilled people and it is up to management to nurture them and their working environments through direction and leadership. Good leadership results in successful employees who are proud of their contribution and who can happy to make being a contact centre agent their chosen career.”