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The best $380,000 I ever spent

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

“If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.”
Adam Grant

In our first year of operation, the company I founded earned a profit of $80,000.  That was in Singapore in 2001.

We had done well with two Customer Service workshops I’d written and we’d landed two global Mystery Shopper research programs which were well underway.

Business was off to a great start.

But I knew that what had made us successful so far wasn’t going to necessarily make us successful in the mid to long term.

I hadn’t left working in the corporate world just to find myself having to go back in to that because I hadn’t helped my Clients solve problems.

So I took $40,000 of that first year profit, signed a contract with a consulting firm in California, and flew myself and a Singaporean colleague to live in the isolated mountaintop home of the firm’s founder.

For a month.


Why did we spend a month on a mountain top in California? 

It’s a reasonable question.

My colleague and I travelled to the U.S. to receive four weeks of private instruction in Contact Center management directly from the consulting firm’s founder.

I had done my homework before signing on the dotted line and everything went the way it was supposed to go.

It was a superb and intellectually intense month.

Every morning we were up and seated in our Instructor’s home office to start class at 9:00AM.

Our 12:30 – 1:30 lunch consisted of sandwiches that he made for us in his big kitchen downstairs (which my Asian colleague despaired of at one point saying, “Argh, in Asia we prefer to eat warm food!”).

To highlight how isolated we were, the Instructor had his own small plane and airstrip and he flew himself to most of his engagements.

Aside from two or three trips into town, we lived as if we were in boarding school.  And I loved almost every minute.

Over the four weeks we covered four different domains of Contact Center knowledge:

  • Operations Management
  • Leadership & Business Management
  • People Management
  • Customer Relationship Management (for CX folks remember it was 2002)

The deep grounding in know-how that I gained in that month has informed my view of the Customer ecosystem ever since.

Which I can summarize as this belief –

I believe that leading & managing in the Customer ecosystem, whether Contact Center Management or Customer Experience Management, is a business discipline.

As with any business discipline, there is an essential level of know-how, across multiple domains, that an industry professional needs in order to avoid negative outcomes and achieve great outcomes.

In the Customer industry, as was true in my own case, people don’t typically go to school to learn these things.

Many people in the Customer Service & Customer Experience end up in the industry by accident and then end up learning on the job, which as you’d expect can be very hit or miss.

I know this because I’ve met thousands of them in our workshops and have had the privileged opportunity to listen to their stories.


By Year 6, I had signed checks for nearly$380,000 specifically for learning & development

By the sixth year of my company’s operations, I had signed checks totalling nearly $380,000 to cover costs including IP & content rights, long distance travel expenses to join workshops and meetings and to pay for various membership & certifications.

And it was worth every penny.

Clients were flying me all over the world to teach their people how to succeed in the Customer ecosystem.

I remember one week where I finished a class in Beijing in the evening, went to the airport to board a flight, landed in Delhi in the early morning hours and took a taxi straight to the venue to begin a class there.

I continued to write extensive training content of our own. And Business Partners and Clients began to approach us to buy or license our courseware from us..


I’m grateful I came up through Finance

I came up through Finance before entering the Customer domain. So the concept of a business discipline was second nature for me.

To get the kinds of senior level Finance jobs I wanted required a relevant university degree and industry certifications.

Of course you learn on the job.

But I never heard any VP, Finance say that their bosses were fine that they learn how to prepare accurate financial statements ‘on the job’.

It’s both. Formal knowledge and experience.

Where you apply your knowledge based on the context and culture where you work.

In my last Finance role, I worked at a direct marketing company that sold products via TV commercials and catalogs. We served our Customers through our own Contact Center & Distribution Center based in El Segundo, California.

I’d been preparing the financials and budgets for both the Contact Center & Distribution Center for a few years and knew the numbers inside and out.

Then a remarkable thing happened that changed my life.

The current VP, Operations had resigned from her post to take another job. An hour later the CEO called me up and offered me her position.

To move from VP, Finance to VP, Contact Centre & Distribution Operations.

I was honored and excited and said yes right away.

Looking back, I think my finance background was one of the key reasons the senior team extended the offer to me.

The fact that I knew the numbers and was able to explain them had earned me face time and trust with very senior people.

I was also fortunate that the outgoing VP, Operations had been so generous with her time, often explaining the art & science of Contact Center Management as we’d have lunch or take long walks around the grounds.

Of course over the next eight years of senior Contact Center positions in the U.S. and Asia I learned a lot on the job.

Yes, experience matters.

But let me tell you this.

I flat out knew that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I was the VP, Operations!

I filled the gaps as best I could but anyone who has worked in Operations will tell you that taking time off to learn is tough. You’re often on call 24 x 7.

So when I left the corporate world and started my own company, I was committed to close the gaps in my knowledge as soon as I could.

I mean how could I credibly help Clients solve their problems if I didn’t have the know-how to do so?

And that’s how I ended up on a mountain top in California.


You’ve got to know what you’re talking about

One of the most common feedback comments we get from Participants in our workshops is: “I wish I had taken this course earlier.  If only I had known this stuff earlier.”

To which I reply with some version of Maya Angelou’s wonderful quote, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

And no, you don’t have to do what I did. You don’t have to start your own company and spend $380,000.

I know what I did is pretty unique.

But I would say that there is tremendous value in looking in the mirror and saying out loud, “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

And then doing something about it.

What lessons can Contact Centre folks learn from CX folks?

Thank you for reading!

If you’d like to stay up to date on our articles and other information just send me your email or add your details to the contact form on our website.

Daniel Ord

[email protected]


Daniel Ord teaches the Customer Experience Team at Agoda in Shanghai.

Cover photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash



How to plan a better Workshop

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

You can run a better Workshop at your organization by following a few simple steps.

Every year, organizations plan workshops for their Employees – sometimes for a select few, other times for the Team at large.

A better Workshop has the potential to influence, inspire and provide clarity.

But one that is less well-run wastes time, money and impacts management credibility.

Here we share a few tips that will help your Workshop Leader deliver a better experience for your Participants.

1. Write a ‘Mission Statement’ for your Workshop

As with any important project, develop the Mission Statement or set of objectives early in the planning.

Of course you will tinker and tailor with the Mission Statement as you gather more input – but it’s a super important thing to begin with.

A great Mission Statement informs decisions ranging from selection of  content through to the seating arrangement.

Simple examples of mission statements are:

  • ‘As a result of this workshop we expect participants to better understand our current reasons for change and help them work through their Denial & Resistance phases…’
  • ‘After this workshop, we want better integration and bonding between those members of our Team who are newly hired and those who have been with us for some time…’
  • ‘We want participants to leave with a solid definition of Customer Experience, what it means, how it ‘works’ and how to bring it to life in their own work environment.’

Whether your Workshop Leader is the ‘main event’ or is one of several Speakers, understanding the Mission of your workshop helps.

2. Describe the expected audience in as much detail as practical

Audience composition matters.

If the audience is a mix of management and Front-line Team Members, its not appropriate to cover topics like ‘how to motivate staff’, or ‘how to improve staff performance’.

These are better reserved for a management-level audience only.

On the other hand, topics like “Stress Management”, “How to Enhance your Personal Brand” or “How to bring Customer Experience to Life’, can be quite relevant for a mixed level audience.

Be as specific as you can be.

For example –

The audience will consist of 10% senior management from all divisions, 30% middle management from the Sales & Marketing groups and 60% from the Frontline split evenly between Shops & Contact Centre.

3. Share the seating strategy

How seating is arranged and who sits where has a big impact on the success of a workshop.

If the setting is lecture style, such as in an auditorium, the Lecturer may decide to proceed with a one-way presentation (in the Ted Talks style).

Alternatively, they might break down the audience into sub-groups.

After all, a group of 100 is really nothing more than 20 sub-groups of 5 people each.

If there is to be group or table seating, define who is supposed to sit at which table.

If one of your objectives is to get folks to know each other better, avoid situations where management all sits together and staff all sits together.

Seating plans can be predetermined by the organizer or, if preferred, the Lecturer can help to establish the seating assignments.

The key is to let the Lecturer know the seating strategy ahead of time.

Workshop Leaders have a variety of effective and respectful workshop strategies to get participants to rotate to new locations if needed.

4. Define the role of the ‘Big Boss’

The role of the ‘Big Boss’ or bosses should be clarified before the start of the workshop.

Typical roles of the Big Boss in a workshop are to:

  • Address the audience at the beginning with the objectives of the Workshop and the desired outcomes from the Workshop
  • Share latest organizational news and updates
  • Reinforce the Vision and/or purpose of the workshop
  • Introduce the Speaker or Speakers
  • Observe participant reaction to the Workshop

Big Bosses should walk in prepared to deliver on their role and ideally ‘stick’ to that role and not improvise on the spot.

A Big Boss can easily take over the workshop if you’re not careful.

In a recent event, the senior management had to quietly ask the Big Boss to leave as their presence (and poor introduction) created a lot of fear in the room.

5. Let your Workshop Leader know how much time they will have

If one of the workshop objectives is to allow participants a chance to get to know each other, it’s likely that a long lunch and long tea breaks will be encouraged.

The workshop might be held on a weekend and so ends earlier than a normal working day.

Once introductions, tea breaks and lunch have been factored in (along with starting and ending times), your Workshop Leader will know how much ‘real’ time they will have for delivery.

While Workshop Leaders are obviously good at time management, there is a big difference between having 4.5 hours to present and. 6.0 hours to present.

6. Share the evaluations & feedback with your Workshop Leader

Successful Workshop Leaders learn from every session they conduct – whether its the 5th time or the 50th time they are presenting.

They appreciate the feedback.

Thank you for reading and here’s to better Workshops!