Last week, I attended ICMI’s yearly contact center expo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The theme was “Navigate the Tides of Transformation,” which was fitting for two reasons. One, because the conference was at The Diplomat Beach Resort, which is located right on the beach. And two, because contact centers are at a particularly transformative point in their existence. New technology, five generations in the workforce and an emphasis on providing the best possible customer and employee experiences make for some unique challenges and triumphs in the contact center sphere.
As a newcomer to the contact center world, I was impressed with the strides the industry has made. Customer service has come a long way from legacy phone systems, one-dimensional channel options and disinterested agents. These things still exist, but I left the conference feeling hopeful about where the contact center and CX industries are at this moment, as well as their potential in the future. Here are a few other points I took away from the experiences I had at this year’s ICMI Contact Center Expo.
Ginger Hardage, former SVP of Culture and Communications at Southwest Airlines, began the conference with a keynote about how to create and sustain “unstoppable cultures.” She shared five lies of corporate culture that workplace leaders need to overcome. One lie Ginger shared is that culture is “fluffy.” She emphasized that culture does not equal having a ping pong table—it’s so much broader than that!
Culture is how we feel when we’re at work and how the company values are lived by the employees, starting with the leaders. It’s creating a positive, safe environment conducive to collaboration, input and hard work. This looks different for every company, but you could begin to improve your culture by asking employees what changes they want to see made in their workplace. Their answers may surprise you. Asking for input isn’t evidence of a lack of knowledge or that you’ve lost control of your employees. Rather, it empowers them and makes them feel more engaged.
I also attended Jenny Dempsey’s session entitled, “Creating a Culture of Self-Care in the Contact Center.” This was a session that I’ve been looking forward to since I found out about it! Jenny, the founder of Jenny Dempsey Wellness and Social Media and Customer Experience Manager at Numberbarn, spoke about the need for better self-care in the workplace not only as a means to reduce burnout and turnover but also as a way to create a healthier lifestyle inside and out of the office. Jenny emphasized that workplace wellness “is more than having healthy snacks in the breakroom.” It’s “having the hard conversations” with yourself and others about what you need, and recognizing that people have emotions and lives outside of the office that they can’t “turn off” while they’re at work.
For the second half of her session, Jenny had the audience work with partners to determine what areas of our lives could use improvement and the baby steps needed to make them better. After discussing, someone from each table shared the small step they committed to taking, whether it was taking a five-minute walk each day, or using their commute time to stay in touch with friends and family. Jenny closed the empowering session by encouraging the audience to “first take the best care of ourselves so we can provide the best care to others,” a lesson that can be applied to contact center culture and outside of it.
“Many people come to your contact center wanting to make a difference,” shared Justin Robbins, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Talkdesk, in his Scoreless QA workshop. He encouraged the audience to “elevate the conversation” by avoiding “the checklist mentality and subjective excellence.” Rather than focusing on numbers, which can be “manipulated and negotiated,” Justin outlined a framework that encourages leaders to coach by focusing on behaviors.
The Scoreless QA Framework:
Being a contact center agent is a tough job, and some agents don’t want to stay in that role forever. Justin emphasized that implementing a Scoreless QA framework can not only help your agents focus on the right CX goals, but also help them “get to where they want to be by becoming excellent at the job they have right now.”
Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly common in technology, and contact center tech is no exception. AI was in the product demonstrations in the expo hall and in numerous sessions. ICMI Co-founder Brad Cleveland shared three essential ingredients to a successful contact center, and how AI relates to each of them:
Another great session I attended was called “Customer Experience Leadership—How Moo, UL, Navy Credit and IBM Are Leading with CX!” If you’re familiar with the companies listed in the session title, you know that they are completely different businesses. But despite being unique companies, they’re each in the CX industry—as is every company, albeit in varying degrees. CX isn’t limited to contact centers, though that may be where it is primarily focused on. My top takeaways from this session were:
Leslie O’Flahavan, Owner of E-WRITE, spoke about five things CX professionals need to stop writing to customers and fixes for these commonly-found phrases, which included:
These are all commonly used phrases in the customer service world, and because they’re overused, they’ve lost their meaning. By replacing these tired sentences, customers will feel that agents are empathetic to their problems and confident in agents’ ability to solve them.
It was an enlightening three days, and I’m looking forward to putting these lessons to use in my work within the contact center industry—and in my life outside of it.
Sign up for CX and call center insights delivered weekly to your inbox.