It’s not far-fetched to say that the contact center is the single most critical operation in any company. If a company has a poor relationship with its customers, its other operations might as well cease to exist. The contact center is the place where the company and its customers meet. Whether this place is a battlefield (hello, Comcast!) or a collaborative and productive environment is a choice every company makes, and it usually starts with one person.
The VP of Operations is usually the contact center’s biggest decision maker. In most medium-sized and large enterprises, this is the person who crafts strategies for people, processes and technology and sets the tone for an organization’s relationship with its customers. It’s therefore critical that this individual understand people: both a company’s customer support personnel and customers themselves.
An informal study conducted by Contact Solutions evaluated the top skills and abilities that a prospective VP of operations must have to be successful. Unsurprisingly, strong leadership and coaching skills topped the list, followed by an ability to analyze metrics. Experience in call center management, interpersonal and communications skills and an ability to multitask rounded out the top five.
Percent of time skill sets mentioned in 32 job specs for VP Operations:
People skills are critical, but they can’t exist in isolation, nor can technology skills and operations know-how. A successful VP of operations must live in the place where people engage with technology and call center processes, and spend his or her time ensuring that knowledge is successfully bridging the synapses of the call center’s neural pathways. This means there must be a strong ability to evaluate metrics in real-time and adjust operations accordingly in order to make improvements, and help call center employees understand how their actions affect the company as a whole. Successful navigation of the complex area where people interact with solutions leads to a boost in employee engagement, improved efficiency in customer support (which, in turn, keeps costs down) and a radical improvement of the customer experience.
A skillful operations executive can ferret out information bottlenecks, correct the performance of lackluster agents with coaching and training and identify integration troubles with contact center solutions that may be leading to delays, errors and duplicated effort.
What a VP of Operations can’t be is a micromanager who stands guard over each customer interaction. This is the job of call center managers and supervisors, who will take their cues from above. A collaborative and open environment, supported by the right technologies, will lead to the best possible outcomes for both a company and its customers. It will prevent inefficiencies and “we’ve always done it this way” thinking while at the same time helping employees, from managers to front-line call center staff, align their professional goals with the overarching goals of the company.
After all, a skilled and engaged workforce and a robust technology support structure are fairly useless if they aren’t operating in collaboration.