Have you ever heard a child answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with “I want to work in a call centre” I know I never have.
How sad is that for leaders in an industry that employs approx. 500,000 people in the UK?
This leads me to wonder – why don’t people see our industry (outsourcing/call and contact centres) as a career choice?
What is it about us, that when asked down the pub what we do our response (usually in low tone) is “I only/just work in a call centre” closely followed by “I’m only there as a stop gap/until I find something better”?
How have we allowed our industry to be so maligned? In my view this has nothing to do with the advisors or Team Managers in our industry and everything to do with leadership.
Check your brain out at the door
Our industry doesn’t encourage free thinking in the operations population, advisors answer the phones, deal with customers and our team managers manage the KPI’s through the dreaded “Performance Management or Disciplinary Processes”. This isn’t managing people and it’s certainly not engaging.
Our industry has commoditised people – we talk about continuous improvement and lean or systems thinking but we’ve lost sight of the individual. We talk efficiency and lose effectiveness, we think one size fits all when it comes to training and wonder why we have variability in speed to competence. Then we take good advisors and make them team managers without equipping them properly for what that means. I’ve lost count of the number of managers in our industry (and I’ve interviewed a lot), who lack the confidence to use their brains and common sense, who look for the documented process (read disciplinary, performance management etc. etc.) so that they can tick a box, how does that drive engagement and ultimately great performance.
And we wonder why…….
Our Industry is a Teenager
I’ve been reflecting a lot on all I’ve seen in my time in the contact centre industry and my conclusion is that our industry is a teenager when compared to others like, banking, manufacturing etc., we’re unsure of our identity, or what we want to be when we grow up. We struggle to clearly identify who we are and what we are about. We follow the next ‘big’ thing, the leaders in our industry spend so much time focussing on the need for technology, is it any wonder advisors feel under-valued? I’m all for ‘AI’ or ‘Robotics’ or whatever the next shiny solution is, but why do we persist in focussing on this rather than people, we need both, customers need both, clients need both. Why don’t we realise that if we continually focus on technologies we undermine the self-belief and confidence of our people and make them feel under-valued – now why would anyone want to stay in a business or industry that continually seeks to find a reason not to have them around.
The reality is people need people and customers will always need someone to solve their problems at some time in their journey. The customer service job is getting harder, more complex and will continue to do so, we need technology to help both customers and our people.
Build the right culture – here’s what we’re doing at Kura
Here’s the thing, if we want people to be truly attracted to building a career in our industry and for young people to see us as a clear career choice, we need to truly change. We need to create an environment where we encourage our people to speak out and truly listen to what they have to say, advisors have most of the answers in our businesses. We need to equip our managers and learning departments to deal with individuals and to personalise how we manage.
Everyone in the industry is facing these problems, and at Kura we’ve decided that it’s time we had better address them. At Kura we’re out to do something very different in our industry, we’re putting all our energy on our people. Our vision is one day to be recognised as “unrivalled in developing people” – a bold statement I’m sure some will say, but we’re actively putting the ground work in now to ensure one day this is a reality. Some fundamental changes we’re making:
- Building the right environment – restructuring all our sites to ensure they have learning zones, assessment rooms, and quality one-to-one meeting rooms so our people can grow and develop.
- Performance and capability boards so our people know their strengths and where they perhaps need a little assistance.
- Equipping our managers to treat people as individuals.
- Career opportunities and personalised structured progression plans so everyone is clear how to reach their career goals.
I’ll know Kura is successful when, we never have to advertise a job, when the best advisors can earn more than managers, when our learning and development programmes are such that they attract the brightest and best, when we are seen as the true professional services sector that we have the potential to be.
We work in an industry with over 500,000 people in it. We can attract lots of people and yet our attrition rates are such that we have constant vacancies, but the industry as a whole tinkers around the edges of change. I’m not saying at Kura we have all the answers to these challenges, but we’re out to make a difference and we’ll see how it goes.
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