People and Processes Rule Remarks at ICCM 2005
Some of the contact center industry's top players showcased their latest tech offerings at the 2005 ICCM Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas, but Monday's keynotes drew attention to people and processes. John Cleese kicked off the conference's first full day with his featured keynote, "Creativity and Corporate Learning." At first glance, the actor and comedian may seem like an unlikely choice for providing insight into delivering contact center success, but he is also a business lecturer and founder of Video Arts, which focuses on using humor in training.
Cleese focused on the importance of creativity, communication, and innovation. He made note themes from Guy Claxton's book, "Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less." The hare brain concept refers to deliberate and conscious thinking used to apply reason and logic to known data, and is best suited for situations where the problem is clearly defined, according to Cleese. Tortoise mind is Claxton's coinage for a slower, more contemplative way of thinking, and works best in more complex instances. Both ways of thinking are needed, but the latter offers more innovative solutions.
The concept was echoed in Monday's second keynote presentation, "The Journey to World-Class Call Center Certification," delivered by Jon Anton, Ph.D., director of research at BenchmarkPortal. "Believe it or not, the call center is changing very, very rapidly, and unless you're there reinventing and having a lot of [tortoise] thinking, you're probably going to be left behind," he said. Anton's focal point, however, was one he vigorously touts--the importance of benchmarking. "All of us really want to know how good we're doing," he said. "The only way you can do that is to compare yourself to others like you."
To further illustrate the importance of benchmarking, Robin Noma'aea, director of operations at Caesars Entertainment, Reservations Contact Center, which earned a Certified Center of Excellence nod from BenchmarkPortal, was on hand to discuss the center's benchmarking success. The contact center, which has 150 agents and fields about 3 million contacts per year via customer touch points, including email, chat, fax, and voice, wanted to compare itself to industry peers to help identify improvement areas. That, coupled with additional factors, including Harrah's Entertainment's announcement in 2004 it would acquire Caesars (the merger was completed in June 2005), spurred the center to reexamine its processes. "We needed to know where we stood [to know] where we were going to go," Noma'aea said.
As with many other customer-facing organizations, the center had issues with elements including agent development, real-time expert help, and measuring caller satisfaction. To close these gaps, Noma'aea discussed some of the center's solutions: Communicate with agents and engage in assessment initiatives to identify agent weak spots and then structure tailored training accordingly to empower agents to make better decisions. Gauging caller satisfaction with surveys is also critical. The gaming company uses technology from Interactive Intelligence that allows callers, when in queue for an extensive period of time, to give their phone number and have the system call them back. "We took that application and we turned it around and we used it for our caller satisfaction survey," Noma'aea said.
In closing, Anton noted the importance of investing in key areas including equipment, processes, technology, and people. "Once it's there we find that our Centers of Excellence, by and large annually--they operate much cheaper."
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