Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Charity Makes Organizations Great - Pay it Forward

By Ron Rhodes

Thus far my articles have almost exclusively been dedicated to themes to service my colleagues in the fields of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Contact Center management. This writing is not an exception. BPO is a people-intensive industry in which organizations are defined by their ability to attract and retain talented personnel. What kind of company do you want to work for?

People, especially the expanding millennial workforce, respond favorably to organizations with a well-communicated sense of purpose and are led by leaders with progressive insight, vision, and compassion. The importance of charitable activities through which companies and their employees can solve individual problems and have broader community engagement cannot be overstated. Charitable programs add credibility to brand, equal to or beyond that of earnings and dividends. More significantly, they provide unforgettable moments and paint the time people spend with companies as positive experiences with lasting illumination.

Charity is “the voluntary giving of help.” One of the seven virtues, the word charity is often used interchangeably with love. I know this, but I’m not sure where I learned it.

Apartment 3J, 180 Troy Avenue, Albany Projects, Brooklyn, New York. Sometime in the early 1960s, a small boy interrupted his mother to ask if he could stay up a little later and watch The Millionaire, his favorite TV show. Though he couldn’t yet form the words, he found the show’s premise, hopeful and inspiring. His mom said yes and that night for sure there would be no monsters in his closet.

The Millionaire was all about a wealthy philanthropist who, through his agent, a poised, dignified gentleman named, Michael Anthony, would present unsuspecting recipients with “a cashier’s check for one million dollars.” Each unique episode told the story of how this unanticipated charity would help them face mounting challenges in their lives. Somehow their benefactor knew and the doorbell rang just in time. “I’m Michael Anthony…” the visitor always began. He presented the gift and he never left without the subtle suggestion that in time they should “pay it forward.”

Although Robert Fredrick Smith was born in Denver - a long way from Brooklyn - in December of 1962, just a tad late for the show’s original run, I enjoy the speculation that he caught a few of the 206 episodes of The Millionaire as they re-ran on CBS. Whoever knows what experiences give birth to an idea? If not this or not solely this, I am positive of the influence of his Ph.D. parents, both educators, or the fact that his mother carried him in her arms during the 1963 March on Washington. He was not quite 9-months old, but who’s to say that as Dr. Martin Luther King eloquently offered the words, “I have a dream,” young Robert’s soul was not subliminally and permanently touched? If not one of these or any of these then surely the words a young carpenter once spoke in Galilee, “…for this is why I have come.” Mark 1:38.

Whatever his inspiration, on Sunday, May 19th, 2019, investor Robert F. Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stood in front of the 400-student graduating class of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and announced that his family was making a grant to pay 100% of their student loans. This is clearly an initiative to help them begin their adult and professional lives without the burden of the department that they were certain to have been pursued by for many years to come. Mr. Smith, of all people, understood the business equation, expedite positive cash flow. The personal equation is even more substantial, however, invest in the asset of infinite possibility, reinforce it with a sense of charity, legacy, and pride. Take this gift, make the most of it and then pay it forward. The world will be a little better for it.

I watched Mr. Smith’s speech on CNN from the Philippines and I was awestruck by the gesture. Between stories of war, starvation and political unrest, between meteorological catastrophes and toxic, immature tweets, a single man made an unselfish investment in the future of people he didn’t even know. Candidly, I have never wished for or am sure I would ever want 4 billion dollars net worth. To prove this, I have exhibited the poorest personal investment and savings habits as the years have gone by. But I do wish and will strive to be as unselfish as I can be on, at least, a relative basis. My life has been a continual trail of blessings and perhaps underserved opportunities so when the man said, “pay it forward,” I applauded. (I also liked the movie.)

So, what now? I’m the General Manager of a small BPO that supplies accounting, healthcare, real estate, technical support, and graphic design services to US companies. Our president and I have been preparing to launch a charitable grant program for our employees to help them with their personal challenges. This can be anything from unanticipated medical expenses to the restoration of property loss and personal debt. I had the honor of helping to launch and administrate a similar program in another company and I know, first hand, the rewards of being on the giving end of Robert F. Smith moments, though a little smaller in stature.

Charity makes organizations great. While mob mentality and bad intentions can be contagious. The effects are usually short term and often a cause for deep regret in later life. Human kindness and generosity, however, are compelling and irreversible life-long influences. As leaders in our industry, regardless of your role, you can have a profound impact on the character of your organization and the advancement of mankind, one person at a time. Remember, you yourself are the recipient of the hopes, prayers and good intentions of so many others. Pay is forward.
Passionate about mentoring and developing the industry’s future leaders, in 2000, Ron authored Fundamentals of Call Center Management, a guide intended to help entry level managers, as they begin to master their craft. Having spent 20 years with category leaders, American Express, Nestle, Moore Business Forms (now RR Donnelly) and Comcast, Ron's background includes an additional 10 years of key global BPO assignments with TeleTech, Convergys, Stream, STARTEK and now Connext. Ron's international experience includes stints in Jamaica, Canada and currently the Philippines.
Connect: LinkedIn 

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Magic of Trust

By Gail Meintjies

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
I can’t stand being micro-managed. It drives me mad. I can’t stand doing things without knowing why they must be done. Just going through the motions because that’s what the job entails doesn't work for me. I work extremely well under pressure. If there’s a short deadline or an overwhelming challenge, that’s when I perform at my peak.

That’s me; I know my strengths and I know what makes me tick.

I’ve been part of many teams, and I’ve led a good number of teams over the years, and this is what I’ve learned – one size does not fit all.

We don’t all enjoy autonomy or work well under pressure. Some people prefer to do what they are asked without challenging the routine.

And that’s okay.

When I’ve gone into a new team, started my own team, or taken over a team, I have one rule that I go by.

I don’t want to hear the gossip, or the technology glitches, or even the issues the team had with their previous leader.

When I meet a new team member, the first thing I want to know is who they are. What their goals are, what pushes them over the edge, what inspires them, how they function.

Building trust

According to Forbes
, problems that most teams experience are as a result of a lack of trust. This includes poor performance, a lack of commitment and tension.

The common definition of trust is having a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone.

If you do not take the time to get to know your team members, personally, there is no way to understand their reliability, their truth, or their ability.

Here are some tips from Forbes on how best to get to know your team members:
  • Listen: Ask questions in personal meetings, as well as in a broader forum. Listen without judgement, listen to learn and understand. Take notes, either mentally or after your meeting, because in this way you remember more. When next you’re meeting with that person, connect with something you’ve learned about them.
  • Be Brave: The best way to learn about what inspires and motivates people, is to share your own story and experiences, and share your interests, fears and goals. When team members see that you are genuine, they will be willing to trust you.
  • Work with the Team: Whether you’re a leader or a team member, one of the best ways to show individuals that you’re truly interested in them, is to spend time in their space, with their permission. People generally enjoy sharing what they are doing and showing others what they know. It will boost their morale and again show them that you’re really interested in who they are.
  • Recognition: Appreciation is a fundamental human need – not only does it show team members that the work they are doing is appreciated, it shows them that they are valued.
Guidelines for building trust and connecting are always helpful, but there’s one thing that I believe must be present, and that’s being genuine. These actions need to be done with genuine intent, genuine willingness to learn and understand, genuine want to connect with people.
When you truly understand your team members, you can appreciate their actions and reactions in the situations they face, and you will be equipped to journey with them through the trials and tribulations, in a way that is meaningful to them.
In a work environment I believe that it takes perseverance and hard work to create a trusting environment, and that the work begins with me.
Gail Meintjies is a skilled Customer Service professional, offering 12 years’ dedicated experience in the banking industry and 4 years’ earlier experience in journalism. Her background is rich in mentorship, coaching and training, and the consistent delivery of exceptional customer service.

Committed to process improvement, and possessing excellent problem solving skills, Gail has the inherent ability to identify situational needs and provide rational and intelligent solutions. Her exceptional organisational skills, attention to detail, and self-motivation, enable Gail to manage multi-levelled workloads with diligence and focused precision. 

Connect: LinkedIn

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Why We Need Less Leadership

By Kathryn Frankson

Ok, ok so we still need leadership. But, as someone who just wrapped an Experienced Manager training I'm now convinced that we actually need more management. Even typing that feels a bit underwhelming because management conjures up thoughts of scheduling, status reports and approving PTO; however, when done right management is truly the catalyst for achieving business outcomes. Why? Because management is exactly 3 things: 
  1. Clarifying the Objective
  2. Creating a Plan to Meet the Objective
  3. Facilitating the Plan
People are fundamentally motivated by understanding what they need to do every day and having the resources and trust to do so.
And as someone who recently shifted into a new role with a new team and new projects, this was a timely reminder.
It's easy to get swept up and anchored in the positives of leadership, because there are many. Leaders influence culture, leaders drive change, leaders have vision and clarity which motivates others to follow.
But to execute strategy and unite teams, especially as we all take on more, faster, in an ever-changing market, the need for banding collaborators together with clarity around objectives and a road map to get there...is more important than ever.

Kathryn Frankson is a B2B event sales and marketing professional at UBM. A believer that 2019 communication means knowing how to get the markets attention through thumb stopping content, audience development and storytelling, she executes sales and marketing strategies in the catering, food service and special event space.

Connect: LinkedIn 


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

5 Ways Tomorrow's Contact Center Will Deliver Value

By: Andrew Gilliam

Imagine what the world will be like after you've checked off every box on your customer experience to-do list. Pre-purchase anxiety no longer exists, thanks to careful messaging and word of mouth. Product issues are eliminated at their root-cause, before goods leave the factory. Service failures are anticipated, and recovery is automatic. Customer journeys are frictionless and fault-tolerant, because they were meticulously studied, optimized, and fortified. Contact centers played a vital role in bringing your organization to this paradise, but will they still relevant? Yes, more than ever!

This article explores the contribution of contact centers towards the end of an organization's customer experience journey. Their mission, methods, and role within a company will change dramatically, but important work will continue to happen in the contact center. These fives ways are just the beginning of how tomorrow's contact centers will continue to drive value.

Proactive Engagement
Today's contact center mission is painfully reactive. Customers experience a problem, and they call. Customers have a question, and they chat. Customers are overwhelmed, and they tweet at us. With so many customers to help, it's hard to imagine making more work for ourselves. In the future, that's exactly what we'll do. As companies perfect the customer journey, the problems, questions, and uncertainty that contact centers mitigate will disappear. Instead, they'll focus on a more noble purpose: engagement. Contact centers will be freed up for post-purchase check-ins and follow-ups that nurture relationships instead of repairing broken ones. Contact centers will always be the face of the organization they serve, but tomorrow's contact centers will be friends instead of repairmen.

Community Building
Online support communities are nothing new; they originally promised to reduce support costs by relying on customers to help each-other. Many companies have online forums, but most have become ghost-towns where pleas for help go to die. Ubiquiti Networks' community-driven success demonstrates the full potential of customer communities. They don't provide traditional phone or chat support for most of their enterprise networking products, which helps them to offer disruptively low prices. Instead, customers go to the online support forum for help, where they interact with other customers and senior Ubiquiti engineers (who actually built the products in question). Ubiquiti representatives also have a strong presence in third-party communities and on social media. They're not there to sell, Ubiquiti's existing customers take care of that.

As customer journeys are refined, root-causes are solved, and automation steps in, the mission of tomorrow's contact center will shift away from near-term resolutions to long-term relationship building. With their day job out of the way, contact center professionals will refocus their creativity and skills towards building strong customer communities.

Harnessing Unstructured Feedback
Through engagement and community building activities, there's no doubt that tomorrow's contact center professionals will be exposed to an abundance of feedback. The unstructured feedback gathered from these activities will prove to be some of the organization's most valuable knowledge, provided it's leveraged effectively. Capturing, structuring, and applying these lessons learned will largely fall on contact center leaders close to the front-line. Unlike traditional market research, companies will gain insight into how products actually perform in wild, uncontrolled environments.

Product Development
Contact center professionals have always had to be experts in the products, services, and markets they support. In the future, smart organizations will use the in-house expertise from their contact center to design, refine, and promote their products. Not only will the contact center be an invaluable test bed, but they'll be the inspiration for future product and service offerings. Front-line contact center employees are closest to market demand, they interact with it daily. Solutions generated in the contact center will be at the forefront of the product lineup.

Content Marketing
Content generation is currently relegated to a few artsy interns in the marketing department. It can be an effective way to share a message and build a reputation, but it's time consuming and won't always hit the mark with customers. Worse, it can come across as being too "on-message" or lacking in personality. As demand for content increases, tomorrow's contact centers will step up to the challenge with renewed passion. Contact center professionals often have untapped talents and creativity. Paired with their deep knowledge about customer needs and challenges, they'll create content faster and more effectively while making sure customers have a laugh along the way.

Andrew Gilliam is a passionate customer experience innovator and change agent. He’s developed new employee portals, created effective surveys, and built silo-busting escalation systems. Andrew’s background in Information Technology put him on the front-lines of customer service as an IT Support Center Analyst. His vision: deliver Amazing Customer Service and Technical Support™.

Learn more at andytg.com, follow @ndytg on Twitter, and connect on LinkedIn.