Customer experience (CX) leaders often miss opportunities to generate significant enterprise value by not investing in the true potential of their contact centers.
More than “cost centers”, contact centers are CX hubs capable of supporting strategic goals of the organization while driving business growth and delivering highly differentiated experiences―making the CX leader a growth diver, a strategist, and a business leader.
I’ve had the opportunity to be a CX leader for my entire career and I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. CX leaders, learn how to empower the value of your role and initiatives as strategic drivers within your organization by:
- Earning strategic recognition for your contact center.
- Structuring your organization to deliver on customer goals.
- Trusting your people to extend grace.
- Becoming a solution maker.
- Focusing on purpose and elevating your team’s roles.
- Rethinking your metrics.
- Not relying on surveys as your only source of truth.
- Using our free tools for CX leaders.
1. Earn strategic recognition for your contact center by getting involved in cross-functional initiatives.
The contact center, while so critical to a business, is often seen as a separate entity, a group that functions without impacting other departments or the business’ bottom line. However, when it becomes a part of the strategic conversation and imperative of the business, the contact center moves from being reactive to proactively addressing the core reasons customers need support. It becomes a voice that more than communicating how problems are handled, it takes action to prevent them.
If you work in a contact center, you may feel like there’s an impenetrable wall to collaborate with or influence the rest of the organization. This is where “earning strategic recognition” comes into play. When I was in high school, I realized that the difference between getting a B and getting an A were extra credits, taking initiative, having a point of view, and presenting information outside of the sphere of what was expected.
At the start of my career, I trained 2,500 phone operators on how to weave shirts and what it felt like to wear a down jacket in order to understand the point of view of our customers. I documented this training and experience, strategically connecting it to growth, which got the attention of the right people and made my career take off. But nobody was expecting this of a 24-year-old Italian girl; I needed to earn strategic recognition to make them shift their perception of me.
Whether you’re a contact center advisor, manager, or in any other role, take the initiative. If you take the time to listen and internalize what’s being said, you develop a unique perspective and have an opportunity to become a key contributor to strategic discussions.
Integrating the information and knowledge that the contact center has into the business is critical, but there’s also a lot of work to be done cross-functionally. Ask to be involved in goal mapping, rebuilding goals by customers, or having customer sensing chat sessions. You need to dig your way out of the day-to-day work and get involved in cross-functional work groups.
Earning growth: A fireside chat with fearless CX leaders
2. Structure your organization to deliver on customer goals, by breaking down silos and partnering with the revenue-generating arm of the business.
Typically businesses build journey maps based on the internal organization chart of the company. An alternative route is breaking down organizational silos to meet the customer’s needs.
Every part of the organization is accountable for its own goals, and the strategies and initiatives to achieve them are often developed and executed separately from the rest of the organization.
For example, let’s look at the inner workings of an insurance company. Actuaries are very good at running numbers and finding out the risk assessment for a certain customer. However, the marketing department promotes new member benefits, which also impacts customer experience. The key here is to duct tape the silos together around what I call a ‘goal map”, by understanding the real goals of your customers, and establish a joint plan for what you need to do to deliver a common goal.
The contact center needs to become a part of every company goal and not be seen as another stage in the customer journey. So, glue yourself to another leader who’s running operations, sales, or even the CEO, and come together as a group of leaders who recognize that the organization isn’t optimized until you work together. This way, you become part of the strategic solution. This is where there’s an opportunity to drive the focus of the contact center to growth, versus being a cost center.
3. Trust your people to extend grace.
Many thought that with the advent of self-service and chatbots, the agent’s role would be diminished. In fact, . Once customers reach a human, they expect a superhuman; they expect an agent who’s a Memory Maker, a customer rescue artist, or at least someone who has the tools and knowledge to solve their problem in one sitting.
I know an airline that does this well. They aggregate and organize the information from the contact center, and work with the rest of the organization to identify the top 10 reasons for customers to reach out. For this airline we know they’re calling about:
- Canceled flights.
- Lost luggage.
They created a “We trust you” toolkit to empower agents to take action according to guidelines safeguarding the company’s interest. It works as a way for their CEO to say “You’re the one living the moment. So you make the call on what the situation is, but we proactively created this series of options for you to extend grace”.
All of this proactive trust requires hard work, diligence, deliberateness, and cross-company agreement. It also relies on the company’s confidence and reliability towards the agents’ decisions.
CX Champion’s Kit
4. Stop being a reactive reporter and be a solution maker.
When I was growing in my career at Lands’ End, I reported to the group running the call centers. In our weekly meetings, everybody’s report would be what I call “the reactive report,” or “here’s the tough stuff that happened.”
My report approach was to not be about the problems, but focus on the solution and even going beyond into what we should do next. Due to this proactive attitude, the Lands’ End founder said to me, “You’re now the conscience of our company. As we grow, you report to the executive committee, and you’re gonna help us make sure we stay on the path of what we do.”
When we went public, I presented . I had the Lands’ End customer journey map on velcro boards in the meeting, and I ran up and down that wall showing the growth of customer lifetime value based on different scenarios.
In my career in customer experience, I’ve worked at a lot of different companies: from Mazda, Coldwell Banker, and Allstate to Microsoft. As you can see, unlike a lot of fields, CX experience is transferable from industry to industry. The power of this role is that you can move industries and, more than ever, that work is recognized, valued, and wanted. Our role is seen as growth energy, as part of the growth initiative—you need to position it as such. Move from being a reactive reporter to a solution maker, and integrate into the rest of the business.
5. Seek to retain top talent by focusing on purpose and elevating your team’s roles.
In every industry, people are choosing to be part of organizations that have a purpose that’s greater than the tactical set of action items they’ve been locked into in their day-to-day.
To empower your employees, give them a seat at the table. Encourage them to brainstorm new ways to drive revenue, customer loyalty, or brand awareness through the call center. Help them build a career that’s outside of the contact center, extending into other parts of the organization. This way, they can take their experiences and learnings from supporting customers to find new solutions for CX.
It’s also important to break the mold that defines your employees’ roles and empower them with trust. For example, the Cleveland Clinic changed the primary title of their contact center agents from their technical title to “caregiver”. Small changes like this go a long way into shifting the culture within an organization and .
6. Measure what matters by rethinking your metrics.
A lot of organizations don’t measure the right performance indicators because it’s often easier to measure the obvious metrics. For example, in healthcare, hospitals measure how long you sit in the waiting room. But is that really what you as the patient care the most about? No, you care about how long you’ve been sick or how many unnecessary MRIs you were able to avoid. So what are the customer-driven metrics we need to measure?
I love to look at “what happened versus amount of time after an interaction.”. ? Is there a correlation between renewals and growth? Did an unfortunate conversation end a relationship? We need to start looking at these outcome behaviors instead of the top-level metrics (like average handle time) we typically measure.
7. Don’t rely on surveys as your only source of truth.
So often after calls, we ask, “How would you rate your operator or your call center agent?”. This only questions the agent’s ability to solve their problem. To get a better picture of the customer’s experience, you have to fully understand the customer by having fearless and open-ended conversations with the customer about what’s important to them. You need to move from validating to understanding your customers. To me, a survey is a tool that should be handled with moderation.
Resources for CX leaders.
CX leaders, it’s vital that you see the worth of your own work before you can expect others to. I encourage you to keep learning and reflecting. Here are some tools for you: