Hall of Fame Contact Center Advice for Modern Times

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Not too long ago, all of our skilled jobs were learned and developed through apprenticeships and mentoring. And to capture some of the wisest contact center advice we often have to look to our mentors to guide us.

I was humbled and reminded of this fact as I spent some time asking Gerry Barber some questions at ICMI’s Contact Center Expo.

Here is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Jim Rembach: Hey, I’m with Gerry Barber. Hall of famer with the contact center industry through ICMI and we’re at the ICMI Expo. He’s also a board member at Call Center Coach and I wanted to ask him a particular question that was important to a lot of emerging leaders or frontline leaders in the contact center.

When you we’re on the podcast of the Fast Leader Show you talk about the importance of being able to set a vision and get your team going in the right direction – so you made a point about the critical component of connection that we all need but when you have somebody who’s a frontline leader or supervisor coming into your organization what do you tell them?

Gerry Barber: First off, you have to have the vision and purpose and understand that, then you can take from there are extrapolate that and help an individual who’s coming into a leadership position to do the right things. You know most of us in the contact center going to take some great representatives and say you’re a leader.

But that magic wand that you hit them over the head with isn’t going to give them what they need. So, I like to evaluate where their gaps are – fill those gaps so they can be successful every day because they’re managing your precious resource – your people on the phones. And retention to performance all equate to how good that team leader is.

Jim Rembach: Now you also mentioned something to me about a time line expectation – what are some of your expectations of that development?

Gerry Barber: So, you know we want people to hit the ground running and so I think there’s a couple of pieces that are necessary, you’ve got to invest in them and give them an opportunity to get some training very shortly after they get that new title. And then within the first six months being able to operate and then have their performance standards based on what they do and what their team does not just their individual items.

Jim Rembach: So, when you start talking about learning curves, turnover rates, what are some of the struggles that you’ve seen and how you’ve seen people try to make short cuts that ultimately damage them in the wrong run.

Gerry Barber: Well we stop thinking about what our communication style is with our teams. And I suggest to our new team leaders to over communicate on a constant basis. Tell them more than what they need but go into the why. Our corporation, our financial institution Pinnacle Financial Partners is all going through book clubs on the book Why. So, it’s important to know the why.

Jim Rembach: So, when you start talking about why – often times we may position that as a company answer to the why, however what kind of why do you help people come up with?

Gerry Barber: I want folks to know why they make a difference. There used to be a concept called power of one – very good concept. Each of our individuals make a difference and if they’re in the right place at the right time – actually everyone works smarter not harder.

Jim Rembach: So, when you start thinking about the future and where we are you’ve seen some changes in your you know couple decades in the industry – when you start looking at how it used to be verses where it is and where it’s going what one thing stands out to you from a frontline leader perspective?

Gerry Barber: It’s certainly tougher than it was thirty years ago – twenty years ago – the why becomes the important piece of helping our individuals understand how they fit into that puzzle – so their peace – and how it connects to everyone else.

Jim Rembach: When you start thinking about cross-channel, cross-function, inter-departmental – all of those things that we talk about as far as bridge-building for a better customer experience. How can somebody make some moves to start moving that ball up the hill?

Gerry Barber: Well, first off, I think our reps truly want some variety of work. And so, if you can build a great multi-channel operation and use technology to help folks get periodic work types into their daily activities they’re going to enjoy it more. I’m not a believer that you have to have certain people doing chat or certain people doing emails or certain people doing phones. I think if you hire right from the beginning and get the right people on the bus – they enjoy the change of skills during the business day.

Jim Rembach: Good point. Gerry Jerry thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom – we wish you the very best.

Gerry Barber: Thank you.

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