Reflections on Future Of The Contact Centre Leaders Forum

I’m not sure exactly how many crammed into the bijou theatre at the top of Blue Fin, but it was standing room only for most of the day. Certainly more than a hundred bright minds made it an event that zinged all day.  It was also Friday which meant the conversation had to be good enough to stave off competing priorities.

Editorial Director Steve Hurst and the Engage Business Media team had mustered a great mix of presentations to feed imaginations and debate. We began with the inimitable Nicola Millard, togged in waistcoat and trademark doc martins who delivered a particularly tight performance of her research based exploration of how today is way different from the way it was.

A little later we were treated to an exclusive preview of Dimension Data’s global benchmark which confirmed the supremacy of customer experience and customer analytics as 2016 hot topics for investment.

One of the major themes that threaded its way through the day was engagement. The notion that employee and customer engagement are deeply inter connected is of course the central predicate of the engagecustomer.com site.

First off to explore this was the splendidly titled Simon Separghan aka Director of Global Contact Centres & Omnichannels at Barclays.

First time I’ve heard Simon speak. I’d gladly work under his watch. He gets it. Towards the end he shared a great video on their SkyBall initiative which I initially thought was something to do with Bond, but turned out to be even cooler.

It’s a global annual awards event celebrating successes – and wait for it – the event is for colleagues and created by colleagues. And boy were they having a good time on this video. Creativity in full flight: all in the cause of recognising those making a difference.   A great example of how big cultures can make individuals feel important again.

The dynamics of engagement were then expertly revealed by self declared rebel Cathy Brown, otherwise titled Executive Director for Engage For Success. I’m as keen as mustard on the whole topic. I personally thrived throughout my early career in an extremely empowered culture and know what happens when human potential is let off the leash of command and control.

Sadly Cathy confirmed just 30% of the UK work force feel this in their daily work experience. On the day of writing this I listened to the announcement that UK productivity has taken another turn for the worse. I can’t help but think these two facts about the state of UK organisations are connected. Let people shine and output is going to improve. It’s not complex psychology.

Another noteworthy contribution came from chef turned academic Dr Giles McClelland. He is very into providing rigorous academic proof that giving people some slack around how they define their work boosts motivation and output. So called ‘job crafting’ involves redefining your job to incorporate your motives, strengths, and passions. It’s all part of encouraging greater self management.

I just googled the term and there is extensive evidence that it works in practice. It’s well worth checking out and then introducing at your next leadership meeting.

So that was the engagement theme in its various guises. What else caught my eye?

I delighted to say that innovation is becoming contagious in the previously stagnant world of contact centres. Samuel Kaye, Head of Customer Service Centres and the Co-Operative Bank told his story of the journey they have been on. Paul Baxter finished the day with the Chaucer Direct equivalent. Both were convincing testimony to the fact that things are a-changing at a pace in our industry.

Sandwiched in between was the dangerously digital Mikhail Naumov who provides the AI smarts for how Unilever’s contact centre proposition is being re-imagined under Megan Neal’s watch as Global Head of Engagement Centres. She talked ecosystems and on demand – my kind of language.

Then, like a bottle of finest merlot, the afternoon was expertly finished off quaffing fine insights from Mike Havard. A vintage performance to complete a very satisfying day.

If you did not make it this time, make a note to be there the next time. We all learnt a lot.