Why Operations Managers need to step it up

Power of contact centre operations managers

The Hidden Power of Operations Managers

Last year I wrote about the need for CX leaders to be creative in their strategy in order to stay ahead of the competition.

As emerging CX players like Warby Parker in the US redefine the customer experience in new and innovative ways at every touch point, this is becoming truer by the minute.

But an important part of any organisation’s CX is their contact centre operations managers.

This is the group typically responsible for leadership of the Front Line serving your customers, they usually build your processes and sometimes even design your customer experience (or at least parts of it).

While the CX industry explodes in innovation, technological change and a seismic paradigm shift in philosophy, the contact centre operations industry is still obsessed with practices that are over 10 years old – a period of stagnation that is increasingly deadly in today’s business world.

Performance management, quality control, knowledge management, training and workforce planning are all examples of operational methods that have not changed in any meaningful way in most organisations for a decade or more.

Even some continuous improvement models are starting to show their age.

In line with this, we have bred a generation of operational leaders who are focused on the short game, build empires and are obsessed with the petty pursuit of +0.1% in Service Levels.

But, it’’s not their fault.

They have been raised on a steady diet of short-term incentivisation, a realistic fear of making mistakes or standing out, and endured years of browbeating by risk and compliance teams.

I want to make clear that I’m not tarring an entire industry with the same brush. There are many, many amazing operational leaders out there.

But, and anyone in the service industry will know this, there is a massive segment of “BAU” operational leaders.

Sure, vendors are creeping into the space with new technologies that are redefining operations processes.

But Operational leaders are not trained or equipped to fully utilise the potential.  In order to take advantage of the innovation offered by technology, we need new ways of thinking about operations, much like we are in CX and marketing.

And to achieve true differentiation for our businesses, this creativity needs to bubble up from within, from our front line operational teams, with careful curation by senior management. We need to leverage the resources unique to our businesses to escape the CX homogeny seen in some sectors of the corporate market.

Deloitte headlined business news when it radically changed its performance review process. But this shouldn’t have been a shock to anyone – this and many other accepted processes are in fact just antique artefacts from a fading generation of business.

Why Operations Managers need to be audacious

Operations Managers are huge influencers in any business. As a group, Op leaders need to look beyond “this is how we always did it”. Even more important than that, the obsession with 0.1% needs to stop*. And this is where audacity comes into it.

It’’s time to foster operational teams that value creativity, challenge existing approaches, are confident to conduct experiments and are focused on the long game.

And I’m not talking about just making processes more efficient, which, in today’s world is about as crazy as operations gets. I’m talking about questioning everything, trying new things, challenging internal stakeholders (ahem, risk and compliance) and seeking to be the leaders in their craft.

Operations leaders need to challenge senior management and executives.

Ops leaders have a secret weapon they need to wield whenever they want to make positive change – the customer.

In operations, you are closer to anyone in the business (don’t let marketing, sales or customer experience try to tell you any different!) and this needs to be leveraged for the power of good.

Some of it will come down to company culture. But as a whole, Operational leaders need to take responsibility and move into the future of the workplace.

And this applies whether you’re in a contact centre, complaints, collections, BPO, back office, wherever.

As a final thought, I would recommend all Ops leaders read this read book: How to Lead a Quest, by Dr Jason Fox.

It’’s written for executive leaders, but the lessons are prudent for all leaders.

Don’t kill your company slowly through mediocrity.

Happy adventuring!

 *0.1% in a large scale business can mean millions of dollars. But what would 1%, or even 10% mean?

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Mark West
About Mark West 3 Articles
Mark is cofounder of Magnificent Nerds, an award-winning experiential agency specialising in games, VR and esports, as well as Legit Nerds, a start-up travel brand offering packages and tours to the best gaming and pop culture events in the world.

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