Off Center
 
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Most conversations about contact center evolution revolve around technology. We often hear about how some advanced new system, application or channel is going to “reinvent” the way contact centers operate and the way customer care is carried out.

While such advances can be exciting and, occasionally, even influential, in my opinion contact center evolution should be measured in terms of talent, not technology.

For me, the real sign that the contact center has truly evolved will be when employees from other areas within the organization routinely start applying for agent positions.

Yeah, I said it.

Let’s face it, customer care can’t be taken to the “next level” until companies stop viewing the contact center and the agent job as purely entry level. In other words, the contact center should strive to be a step up – not just a stepladder – in the organization.

If the customer experience is as critical as corporations and business analysts say it is, then the contact center is, indeed, a highly valuable component of any company. No other department or area within an enterprise has as much direct contact with customers, can glean as much useful customer data, or has as much of an impact on customer sentiment as the contact center. So why aren’t we doing more to enhance the image of the contact center and the agent position, and why aren’t we paying agents what they are truly worth?

Once companies stop viewing the contact center as a back-office operation and start viewing – and promoting – it is a dynamic hub of invaluable customer influence and revenue generation/protection, it will cease to be merely a pit stop for employees and start to become an attractive destination for them… especially if they know they can earn a damn sight more than $9.00-$10.00 per hour to start.

This isn’t just a pipe dream. I see a future where ambitious, creative, caring and analytical employees from Marketing, Sales, IT and other key departments scramble to get their resume and cover letter ready whenever an opening on the frontline of the company’s contact center is announced. And I see a future where existing agents happily stay put whenever those aforementioned departments announce job openings of their own.

This is the Age of the Customer. Organizations that don’t do everything they can to attract and retain the level of talent needed to consistently delight and engage the customer will soon find themselves lagging far behind their competitors.

So, you can continue to rush through the hiring process to fill contact center seats with whomever has a pulse and deal with the customer defection and agent turnover that results, or you can strive to create the type of culture and environment that attracts proficient knowledge workers who are committed to delivering the level of service and support the customer deserves – and demands.      

This piece originally appeared as a guest post by Greg on the FurstPerson blog. (The original title was “Attracting Agent Talent from Within the Organization”.)