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.
Vanessa Hardy-Bowen, Director of Guest Care & Contact Centers at Spirit Airlines
Can you share more about your background and how you got into the customer service industry?
I actually started off in the education field and was working in the contact center as a side gig and ended up falling in love with it. I loved that no two days were ever the same – it’s an ever-changing and evolving environment. I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years now and started on the BPO side of things. I’ve had the opportunity to live in Panama and Jamaica running various programs within contact centers. I grew companies from incubator programs of 10 to some growing to more than 1000 employees, handling customer service, billing, data entry, collection calls to retention and welcome calls. I ultimately moved back to the states and have been with Spirit Airlines since 2018.
How has the contact center changed since you first entered it?
Technology evolutions and their impact on the scene has been the biggest change. I’ve seen that with repetitive, basic inquiry-like calls and processes, technology can scoop those up. Gone are the days of waiting for someone to help with basic call types and, to some degree, some complex issues as well. It also helps create consistency in the customer experience – customers know they’ll get the same consistent level of service every time. Another positive impact is that by peeling off those types of calls from the overall volume and letting technology handle some of it, you have the opportunity to reinvest resources back into agents. It’s really just created an avenue for consistency in many of your customer experiences and opened up a way to streamline your interactions in a way that’s a win for customers and for agents.
What are the biggest challenges facing contact center leaders today?
I’d say the biggest challenges tend to always be things we can’t plan for. Things like system outages, weather events, or, and most recently, the pandemic. This will generally result in five to ten times the call volume you would have normally – you just can’t plan for that. I’m not going to have 10x the staff, that’s only going to be utilized maybe 2% of the time out of the whole year. So for me, going back to the impact of technology, being able to flex up or down using technology allows a smooth experience for the customers and helps to mitigate the impacts of the unpredictable.
What are some of the ways you are driving change and innovation within your business?
Where we are today in the industry, utilizing automation and various tools that allow you to be able to understand a broader scope of your customer base and their needs has really helped tremendously. Things like speech analytics or text analytics allow our teams to understand drivers and intent better. The more robust information available relating to the experiences or the struggles that customers are having is invaluable in making business decisions. You no longer have to rely on a slow, manual review of a tiny fraction of your business. Now you have the ability to have 100% of your volume scanned, reviewed and categorized, which allows us as a business to be able to dig into identifying pain points and potential fixes. We can quickly make improvements whether it’s from a policy or process standpoint or even a simple system fix that wasn’t identified before.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in contact center operations?
I would say always be open to change and always stay curious. It’s easy to get into a pattern of being hyper-focused on the day-to-day challenges, versus taking a step back and looking at new innovative ways to improve existing processes. It’s important to be open to learning about new tools and technology, because you may find something that isn’t even necessarily related to your industry at all, but it’s something that you can get an idea from to make an impact. To me, always being open to learning is key. There’s always an opportunity to do something a little bit better so try to always keep that in mind. It’s instrumental to making sure you and your business continue to evolve and improve.
Check out our previous spotlight and discover more Customer Service Innovators with Replicant’s 50 Leaders Transforming Contact Centers.