Why years of experience is not enough for Contact Centre management success

Why years of experience is not enough for Contact Centre management success

You’ve heard it, you’ve read it and you’ve seen it.

The years of experience line.

Whether it’s a conference speaker, a LinkedIn blogger or someone where you work.

Where they tell you some variation of “I have over 5, 15, 35 years of experience in the industry.”

But years of experience on its own has never been a reliable predictor of success in the Contact Centre profession.

Or arguably any profession.


Why years of experience is not enough

One of my favorite sayings is this one.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.

It refers to the idea that people can end up doing the same things in pretty much the same way, over and over.

To the point it becomes habitual and engrained.

The way they write their emails. Or the way they measure quality. Even the way they calculate productivity.

Sure, when you look at a calendar a number of years have gone by, let’s say five years.

But a closer look reveals that sometimes its been the same single year of experience that’s been largely repeated over and over for five years.

What’s ultimately important is the quality of experience you earn over time. Not just the duration of that experience.

Here are a few factors we see that influence that quality of experience.


Who’s your Boss?

We know that ‘who’ you work for makes a tremendous difference in the quality of experience that you earn over time.

Some bosses have a talent and zest for developing people.  For pushing them out of their comfort zone and into new possibilities.

The best career booster of all time is to hitch your wagon to a boss with high expectations – even when working for them can’t always be described as easy.

Other bosses are more hands off. It’s just their style.

Or perhaps they just don’t have the depth of their own that enables them to successfully grow other people.

“You can’t pour from any empty cup” is an expression used to talk about self-care.


But I think it can be repurposed to describe the depth required inside ourselves to grow the people around you.

Not all the bosses out there are ready or able to grow people – they don’t have that depth – or not yet.


Who is your Employer?

Years of experience working for a superb Employer beats years of experience working for an average Employer every time.

Sometimes when I’m asked for advice on how to grow in the industry I’ll suggest working for the very best organization you can.

Because they very often do things differently.

That Contact Centre across the street from you?  Or the one a few floors up from you in your office block?

They could be doing a much better job, simply because of who that company is and how much they actually believe in the value of Customers and Employees.

There are very real gaps between average, good and great Employers.


Delivering positive impact does not require years of experience

I regularly meet Contact Centre Leaders who are literally brand new to the industry.

The mission for these new Leaders?

To put it bluntly – to fix and/or reinvigorate the Contact Centre. To bring it back to life.

Typically these people bring real-world commercial success from another department, an open & questioning mind and the ability to reimagine and redefine Contact Centre success.

I think they (often) succeed, in part, because they don’t carry the baggage of years of experience.  And the hard coded beliefs that can come with that.

They don’t have to unlearn and relearn. They can just learn.

And then consider apply what they learn to the context and culture of their Organization.


Most people don’t go to school for this kind of work

There’s no question that experience matters.

Being in the trenches gives one an understanding of the job, the context and the culture that can’t be achieved by studying for an exam.

But the value of experience shouldn’t be used to denigrate or diminish the value of know-how.

What about the essential dynamics, principles & practices that have been examined, tested and used successfully in the Customer industry?

Know-how has its role too.

Surgeons aren’t expected to learn on the job.

You wouldn’t want your appendix removed by someone who wasn’t, in some way, formally qualified to do so.

Nor would you want someone to do your taxes just because they have a ‘passion’ for taxes. Yikes.

Yet in Customer Service and the Contact Centre industry this is often the reality. Because many people end up in the Contact Centre profession by accident.

They didn’t go to school to be in the industry. They end up learning on the job.  Which as you’d imagine can be very hit or miss.


It takes leadership, not just caretaking and years of experience

Some level of caretaking will always exist.

Once a robust process has been designed and implemented it should be nurtured and protected.

So that it can grow, develop and become a natural part of how you work around around.

I think of mature Voice of Customer programs when I think of this aspect. Or I think of how Interaction Quality is defined and implemented.

But at a higher level, it’s always amazing when folks in leadership roles take a big step back and ask:

Why do we do the things we do around here?

Are there things we can do better than we are right now?

Has what has made this Organization successful up to this point going to make us successful headed into the future?

Because to make things better we almost always be dissatisfied with the status quo.

Otherwise why would we change?

What’s the better formula for success?

(Know-How + Experience) x Regular intervals of reconsideration

When you’ve got mastery level Know-Howof your Customer ecosystem, you avoid wasting time and effort on topics that were solved long ago and by others.

You don’t make rookie mistakes that can have lasting damage.

Experience gives you the context and culture within which your industry knowledge needs to be applied.

No two Organizations apply the same know-how in the same way – they contextualize it. That’s as it should be and it’s so impressive in practice.

And Regular intervals of reconsideration simply means that we don’t sit back and let the years go by without reconsidering what we’re doing.

To make sure that what has made us successful up to this point still makes sense for us to keep doing- or not.

The best Contact Centre folks recognize the management of the Customer ecosystem as a business discipline. No different than finance or engineering.

And rather than talking about how many ‘years of experience’ they have, they talk about the impact they’ve made for stakeholders across Customers, Employees and the Organization at large.

And that’s a cool thing.



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Daniel Ord

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel Ord teaches in Manila

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