What I’ve learnt from 20 years of People Management.

Hi5 Industry Thought Leader Interview: Ricardo, Head Of Operations, BPO & Contact-Centre Sector

Ricardo, tell us what you do & who you do it for?

My most recent role was as Head of Customer Services Operations at Takealot’s national contact-centre in Cape Town, which also included the Mr Delivery and Mr Delivery Express franchise. And we also did the delivery of FNB’s credit cards to their customers. Takealot.com is a local e-commerce company providing everything and anything South African and African customers want, similar to Amazon. And it’s growing really fast and is a very successful local digital start-up!

How did you first get started in a BPO & Contact-Centre career?

I‘ve been in the industry for over 20 years now. I started as a Call-Centre Agent on the phones. And over the years, I’ve worked my up through the ranks to my current level and I’ve worked at many leading brands over that time, including Amazon and Vodacom, amongst many others.

What makes a good manager in the BPO & Contact-Centre sector?

First and foremost, a good manager and leader is there for his or her agents and support staff. This means knowing the employees working for you and in doing so understanding each person’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as understanding the opportunity for where they can develop and grow their strengths. In a contact-centre, a good manager will always give honest feedback and give quick feedback. And always give them concrete and actionable feedback, especially when it comes to what they need to do to improve — in other words, give the agents the tools and the resources to do their best work. The line manager should always make sure that the employee knows: what they should be doing, what they do well and what they need to do to improve. I always tell the line-managers who work for me, if you’re ‘hard’ enough and honest enough with your direct reports in the way that you communicate with them and develop them, then no one else has to be! If a more senior manager has to get involved, then the remedial action tends to have to be more formal and more serious — this all a result of the problem having been left too long by the line-manager.

What motivates you in your work and career?

I’m passionate about my country [South Africa]. I’m passionate about us making an impact in South Africa, the rest of Africa and in the wider world. What gets me excited about my work, and the contribution I can make in it, is to help ‘show off’ to the world what we as South Africans can do. I want to take everything that I’ve learnt these past 20 years of my career and impart it to the younger generations in the workforce now, so that I can show them how to do things better at work and so that they can build great careers for themselves. In particular, I want to help them become better leaders and managers. And not just the managers, but also the entry-level employees — because if they think like leaders, then they’ll act like leaders and we’ll have a more productive workforce and a more successful BPO industry in South Africa. And, ultimately, we’ll have a more successful and competitive economy here. This aspect of my work, for lack of a better word, gives me great joy!

What sort of things help employee productivity and engagement, in the operations where you’ve been the manager?

Making sure that you have the right people in each role, in the first place! Then making sure that their roles are clear and that they have the right amount of responsibility in order to be able to do the work (but not too much or too little responsibility). Making sure that the right people are able to delegate and that they do so, when and where appropriate. As they say, ‘no man is an island’ so it’s really important to get a team working well together. And that the systems and tools are in place that the staff need in order to get their work done. And relationships matter, so having people who are able to build and maintain relationships helps a lot.

Thanks for sharing, Ricardo!

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