In an industry with almost daily shifting demands, how can you best align your skills and experience with evolving requirements? I consulted with three experts in our field to get their take on how to position yourself to be successful as a contact centre leader.
I asked these seasoned professionals to identify the most important skills, experience and attributes of aspiring contact centre leaders today. While they agreed that standard leadership competencies apply−such as communication and vision - they singled out the following five areas of contact centre-specific expertise that are critical for senior-level contact centre leaders.
Proven ability to reduce costs and generate revenue: Sure, the rest of your company values the service that you provide to customers. But all of our experts agree that's not enough. Without exception, organisations are committed to finding candidates with an impressive financial track record, according to Richard Bencin, president of Richard L. Bencin & Associates, a contact centre executive recruiting firm since 1981. They want to hear about how you have driven revenue through successful upselling and cross-selling programmes or outbound teams. They want a candidate to describe their experience leading substantive cost-reduction initiatives using technology, outsourcing or strategic partnerships. What's more, hiring managers want to hear how the candidate will reproduce those results within their organisation.
Understanding of contact centre and enterprise technologies: As contact centre technologies, such as workforce management systems and CRM systems, have matured, the knowledge requirements associated with these types of technologies have kept pace. Of course, many organisations are looking for candidates who have been successful selecting, implementing and managing proliferating customer contact channels, such as self-service, video, mobile messaging, social media and chat.
But that's not all. Hiring managers expect senior leaders' understanding of technology to go beyond the walls of the contact centre, says Connie Caroli, president of Telemanagement Search, an executive recruiting firm dedicated to recruiting call centre, telesales, and customer service management professionals. "It's not enough to just give a directive to the technology area about the contact centre's requirements," she says. "Today's leaders need to understand enterprise technology integration requirements, and sit at the table with executives from across the organisation to recommend the technology that's needed to provide friction-free customer experiences."
Global expertise: Technology isn't the only area where today's leader is expected to demonstrate influence beyond the walls of the contact centre. "What we are seeing more and more is more companies demanding candidates with experience in establishing or managing existing worldwide operations," says Bencin. Another key aspect of this, he adds, is the ability to manage outsourcing organisations globally. "The ability to work comfortably in a variety of international settings−whether it's opening new contact centres, working with offshore outsourcers or collaborating with partners across the globe−is increasingly important. Contact centre professionals with executive aspirations in Fortune 500 companies should look for opportunities to develop this type of expertise."
Specialised knowledge and experience: Executive recruiters Caroli and Bencin agree that companies' job requirements are increasingly exact, and hiring managers are willing to wait for the candidates whose skills and experience align precisely with their business needs. Whether it's international experience, enterprise technology, large contact centres (or small ones), industry-specific experience, such as government or non-profits, outbound or inbound selling or social media−companies are looking for candidates with deep knowledge and experience in specific areas. "This means that it's increasingly important for candidates to be able to clearly communicate their areas of expertise and their professional 'brand,'" says Caroli, "as well as clearly describe how their experience and knowledge lines up with the company's requirements."
Ownership of the entire customer experience: "Companies are realising that there is a huge ROI to thinking more holistically about the customer and customer experiences, and they expect their senior leaders to do the same," says Tom Asher, director of customer experience for residential solar company SunRun, and former chairman of the board of SOCAP International. The contact centre is just one customer touchpoint. Companies are looking for senior leaders who will do more than just lead the centre−they want visionaries who can collaborate with internal and external partners to deliver stellar customer experiences.