Friday, February 3, 2017

The Contact Center: People Helping People

By Sean Hawkins & Ana Simões

When we think of the contact center, one of the first things that come to mind is numbers. This is an environment focused on KPIs, metrics, and data of all sorts. Countless hours are spent analyzing data to ascertain effectiveness and impact, all with minimal cost. Staff are focused on QA scores, CSAT averages, handle times and many other data points. 

It can be overwhelming and quite frustrating! Why doesn’t leadership see customer service employees as people to be valued and respected, assets to the company, and a trusted source of information on the customer?

Yes, it is important to collect data as a starting point. Numbers provide us with crucial information, especially that which will improve the service offered to customers.

Contact center data can indicate trends related to your product, helps evaluate agent performance, and can be distributed to other parts of the organization to increase sales, improve your product, or drive traffic to your sites. However, most companies became so focused on numbers, they end up forgetting that customer support, and business relationships as a whole, is a human to human endeavor. We are interacting with people. 

Sadly, some companies view their customer service department as a cost center. Employees are considered entry level, which implies inferiority. Numbers can be used to suggest someone is a liability, resulting in them being replaced.

Certainly, there will be some that are not cut out to work in a call center and even with the appropriate training, they will have difficulties achieving standard level KPIs. They will end up with results well below average. Nonetheless, it is my opinion that employees should be seen as assets, as a professionals that, if treated with care and respect, will keep the customers happy and returning. That adds to the profitability of the company!

Let’s be honest: it’s not the company’s executives alone that create a thriving service department. Excellent, competent leadership is important but, it’s the support staff who build the rapport, and serve as the face of the company. They speak on the behalf of, and stand in the place of leadership and other departments within an organization.

Contact centers rely on their agents to take good care of their customers. However, if we fail them, they will not be engaged. They will lose passion and interest in what they are doing. Treating the employees poorly is reciprocated to customers!

Everyone in the customer service department is working directly with customers, or supporting those who are. Our world is all about human interaction. We expect our staff to display empathy, sympathy, compassion and to have great people skills. All of this is for the people they serve. At what point while they be served?  

It is time to put the focus on people. Not only the customer but, those who diligently serve them. I’ll never forget the lesson I learned from my mentor, Sarah Stealey Reed. She would always remind me, “behind those numbers are people.”


Ana Simões is an experienced customer service trainer and recruiter. Her background as a psychologist provides her with an insight into the mind and behavior of customers and agents. The result is a unique, personal approach to the contact center.

Connect with Ana on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Currently the Manager of Support and Product at Framework Homeownership, I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors. 

I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries and environments including sales, BPO, and SaaS to name a few. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with Sean on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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