A New Breed Of Service Leaders

The last couple of weeks I’ve been visiting some of our Oracle Service Cloud customers in the beautiful (and scorchingly hot) country of Spain. It’s always inspiring and energizing to see how our customers are using our tools and especially hearing them talk about the how our tool has solved some serious issues they were facing before and what business value they’ve achieved.

As I was listening to our customers explaining how they have been deploying our solution and explain their approach and strategy I couldn’t help thinking how much has changed in the last decade. Ten year ago when I was visiting contact centers team the stuff I heard Contact Center managers talking about were:

  1. the on-going burden of staffing and training their team,
  2. the need to closely monitor agent performance and efficiency,
  3. and, perhaps above all, a never-ending stream of complaints about their peers in IT and how difficult it is to get anything done with those guys.

If I contrast that to what I see when interacting with contact center leaders today I see a new breed of service leaders emerging. I will try to summarize some of the characteristics I’ve identified by observing these service leaders recently.

  • They are empowered by technology. Where 10 years ago technology was a necessity to route calls to agents and store information, in the contact center teams this was only reluctantly accepted simply because they didn’t own the technology. It was IT that owned the systems. Now, with the cloud, I see service leaders in charge of the implementation and optimization of the tools and systems in their teams. Whereas 10 years back changing processes and tools had to be avoided as much as possible because of technology and complexity around it; now precisely using technology service leaders change processes and tools frequently to create value for both customers and agents.
  • They get their hands dirty. Where a decade back a service leader would barely know the tools and systems, today they will have deep knowledge of products the agents user and the underlying architecture. They will directly engage with technology vendors and are not-afraid to challenge them.
  • They form their “own IT department”. They are often heading a large organization, with groups and corresponding team-leaders, but they surround themselves with a small group of capable young professionals that want to make a difference and have a passion for technology. Empowered by the cloud, a couple of said individuals basically become “the contact center’s own IT department”. They are able to deploy changes to systems, publish knowledge and resolution flows, change agent interfaces and processes, manage upgrades, etc, all on the fly and independently. This way they reduce the dependence on central IT and they are able to consume innovation the moment it becomes available.
  • They have a roadmap. They have a vision and they have a plan to move towards that vision. They understand that its a journey and the prioritize according to where they can achieve most value. They believe in trial and error and in taking a step-by-step approach towards implementing systems for their agents. This agile, iterative approach is very different than big multi-year, multi-million System Integrator projects we were used to in the past.
  • They can navigate the political landscape. These leaders are equipped to navigate the political landscape in their organization. They are increasingly assertive of the importance of service in the customer experience equation and they have the hard facts to prove this in the business. They will have a wide variety of data and insight available based on the many customer touch points their department manages and they understand the value of their data for other lines of business. Gone are the days where the contact center was the red-headed stepchild of the organization.
  • They are proud of what they are doing. This new breed of service leader is very vocal about how they work and they share their story, best-practices and success with peers, the press, industry associations, university students, etc. These leader understand that networking is very important and they lead not just their own team and inside the business but beyond as well.

These were just some recent observations I’ve been making on how service leaders have changed. I am sure I missed some. Which features do you think are part of the modern service leader?

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