Replicant’s Innovator Spotlight Series
This series is dedicated to customer service innovators and leaders that have managed to turn their obstacles into opportunities, reinventing what it means to be a great leader and delivering exceptional customer service experiences despite today’s climate. From managing their teams through crisis, to pivoting tactics in record speed, to innovating with emerging technologies, these are the leaders transforming contacts centers in 2022.
Can you share more about your background and how you got into the customer service industry?
I got my start in customer service in retail. I did that for a few years, and then transitioned into the call center industry as a reservation agent for the company I actually work for now and have grown my career here since. I moved up through the reservations department, and then transitioned over into revenue management, but I am still very much focused on the customer service side of things in my current role.
How has the contact center changed since you first entered it?
In the last couple of years, because of the pandemic, the biggest change has been staffing shortages and balancing that with big variations in call volume. Before the pandemic, there was more predictability in call volume – we knew what our trends were, but now there’s just no way to forecast what it’ll be. Being in hospitality, when the pandemic first started, we had virtually no calls coming in. Then – like a lightswitch – the demand came back and the calls sky-rocketed. The unpredictability and lack of trends is definitely the biggest change I’ve seen in more recent years.
What are the biggest challenges facing contact center leaders today?
One of the biggest challenges is ensuring we continue to provide excellent customer service despite the changes we’re dealing with today. As I mentioned, call volumes can be very unpredictable and call centers are short-staffed, but customers still deserve a great experience with us. I am always looking for ways to better utilize the tools and resources I have to ensure that the customer isn’t impacted by challenges we have behind the scenes.
What are some of the trends you see today that you think will have a big impact on contact centers in the future?
I think technology is going to be something we lean on more and more. A few years ago we could manage staffing challenges and get by, but today there’s now massive call volumes to also deal with. I think the only way you can get through both is by leveraging technology. I also see integrating technology into the guest experience becoming more prevalent and making self-service more accessible. From making a reservation, to checking in at the hotel, I’ve seen that customers really like to have the option to self-service with technology. We’re never going to not have agents and we’ll always have customers who prefer to call, but it’s also important to provide options through technology for customers who prefer that, too. Technology allows us to meet the customer where they are.
What are some of the ways you are driving change and innovation within your business?
Always keeping a fresh perspective on things – whether it’s a process, a technology or the like. I try to regularly take a step back and re-evaluate things – just because that process made the most sense for us a few years ago, doesn’t mean it’s right for us today. Same goes for technology – some of our technology was implemented years ago, so it’s important to make sure we’re optimizing how we use them in today’s environment. I also like doing things that help bring the customer and agent experience to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes, I’ll do this by diving into agent-related tasks and hopping on the phone so I can stay up to speed on what it’s like and see if there are areas we can improve the experience – for the agents and the customer.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in contact center operations?
I started out as an agent, and I think the best advice I have is not to take everything at face value. What I mean by that is, just because you were taught a certain process, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. If there’s something that’s plaguing you everyday, chances are the process and can be improved. Don’t be shy to raise it with your management. I always value input like that from my team. For those in management, my advice is to stay connected to your agents and jump in with them when you can. Not only will it help you improve the operational process by gaining another perspective, but it builds trust with your team members.
Looking ahead, what are you most excited about in the customer service industry?
I’m both curious and excited to see how things evolve. It’s such a big industry, and there are so many forward thinkers, I’m interested to see how we collectively increase the customer experience. Customer expectations are always changing and evolving, so I’m excited to see how we meet the customer where they are and evolve the contact center with those changing demands.
Discover more Customer Service Innovators with Replicant’s 50 Leaders Transforming Contact Centers.