To the Contact Centre industry – are we living in a siloed world?

It’s common for Contact Centre practitioners to complain about the siloed thinking that exists in their organizations.  And any CX professional is going to bring up siloed thinking when they talk about the challenges of implementing Customer experience strategies.

But in this short article I consider a different perspective.

The perspective that the Contact Centre industry itself


Last week in an operations class, we had a lively chat about the value of Contact Centre tours.

Alice shared,

“Yes Dan, you’re right. I went with two other colleagues on an official Contact Centre tour here in Singapore and every time we asked a question we were that information was confidential.”

“You asked about Available Time right?”

“Yes we did.  We wondered at that time – before taking operations – if there was some industry standard for Available rate. They told us that their Available Time level was confidential.”

At that, our entire group burst out laughing,

Since when was Available Time – which can be easily guessed at or calculated with Erlang C – a confidential statistic?

Sometimes I’m not sure whether to laugh or sigh in despair.

Breaking down silos

Contact Centre professionals have complained for years about how tough it can be to build cross-functional relationships within their organization.

Marketing keeps releasing promotions without informing the Center.  Operations changes their procedures.  Legal changes terms & conditions and so on.

But the role of senior levels in the Contact Center is to work up and out.

To educate organizational management and cross-functional management on the Contact Center value proposition.

To their credit – some Contact Center leaders have done just that.

Improve the visibility and value of their Center throughout the organization.

Better communications, more supportive colleagues and enhanced morale for Centre employees who understand that their work is valued and has purpose.

On the other hand – many have not.  And the internal reputation of their Centre remains mixed at best.

But at the Contact Centre industry level Centers remain deeply cut-off from each other

A phrase that rattles my nerves is when a senior executive – anywhere – tells us how ‘different’ they are from everybody else.

I’ve even had one tell me that they weren’t a Contact Center at all (they were).

On average, I meet anywhere from 75 – 100 Centers each year and though the vertical industry may be different (hospitality vs. healthcare – banking vs. consumer goods) it’s still a Contact Center.

But most Center Management staff that I meet have worked in perhaps one or two Centers in their career (to date) and their view of the Contact Center industry is rather narrow and deeply influenced by how their organization views the Center.

A simple test I like to conduct is this.

I ask Participants what industry they are in and the answer should beThe Contact Center industry.

That answered can then be followed by – “And yes – I work in the Insurance/Telecoms/Public Sector vertical…”.

It’s a simple and wonderful exercise to see how people view their role within their organization – as well as their view of the industry.

When you are a Consultant, you tend to see the some problems and opportunities over and over.

I had a case where one Center was struggling with upselling while there was another Center literally 1 km away that had sorted out upselling.

But the odds of these two Centers – operating within walking distance of each other – meeting up and sharing ideas is super unlikely.

What about the Associations?

Associations across countries (and I’ve worked with a few) have to first survive before they can flourish.

And in the the markets where we operate the most, the best way for an Association to survive is to offer Awards.

So while their official names (and promotional copy) may involve the phrase “Contact Center industry body” it’s probably more accurate to say “Contact Center awards issuing body”.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

Do the Associations launch more (valuable) industry-wide initiatives such as education, bench-marking and industry development (which involve significant and specialized resources to attract more Members and revenue)?

Or do they focus in on the Awards process – which certainly attracts a predictable core base of Awards seekers – and hope to achieve a surplus for that year which could potentially be channeled into more industry-wide initiatives later on?

Just a couple of days ago I had a Client write to me and thank me for connecting them up with folks in other organizations who are going through exactly the same channel implementation process.

She wrote further – “Dan, if you could organize a group of Team Leaders from different organizations that can meet to cross-share that would be great – we feel very isolated and would love to be able to bounce off ideas and learnings with others.”

When I wrote back I admit that I felt a bit guilty.

I said that while it was a great idea – and we certainly enable a lot of cross-sharing within our own students.

But we didn’t really have a mechanism yet in place for creating large group cross-sharing.

I wrote that they should contact the national Association as I felt that this would fall under their purview and it seemed relevant to a non-profit vision.

But I’m now seriously thinking about how to accomplish this on our own given the apparent gap that’s out there.

What about Contact Center tours?

I’ve been in the industry a long time – working in both the outsource and captive worlds.

Presumably because of my ability to present well I was almost always the one picked to conduct the tour for outsiders, Clients & prospective Clients.

For most company cultures, Contact Center tours are meant to show off and impress – and they are invariably highly staged.

In some cases Tour Members are not even allowed into the Center – they spend most of their time in a conference room receiving a PowerPoint presentation.

In my training work I remind my students that a lot of what happens in a Contact Center is invisible – you can’t see Quality, you can’t see Customer Experience, you can’t see Employee Engagement, you can’t see Leadership.

I’d love to attend a tour (and I’d pay for the privilege) where the Director tells us about all the big mistakes they made and how they fixed them.

A talk where they are willing to peel back the veneer and share the journey.

When the tours are arranged around Centers that have won Awards – well there is even more pressure on these folks to ‘look good’ and in some way justify their status as Awards Winners.

I am certain there are indeed Awards winners and Contact Center tour providers who open their hearts and minds to their audience.

But these will be the pleasant exception – not the rule.

Is your Service Level really classified information?

As a final point for this short article I have to wonder about who makes the decisions about what information is ‘classified’ and what information might be made available to Contact Center practitioners from other organizations.

The moment that a Center’s Available Time rate becomes confidential I worry about the ongoing health of our dynamic and inspiring industry.

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