Back Office/Call Centers/Data Centers

Contact Centers 2004 - The Year of Big Picture Thinking

30 Sep, 2004

By: Fredia Barry,Gerry Barber

As we reflect on the year just ended and look forward to the future, we see an industry that is thriving, yet undergoing tremendous transition. Our collective ability to think clearly and expansively will help ensure the viability of call centers in year 2004 and beyond. A shift toward big picture thinking and a more balanced approach to managing our centers will be the winning combination. To further illustrate this, here are four key trends worthy of our attention in this year.

Trend #1: A Shift from Outsourcing to Rightsourcing

To outsource or not to outsource is a question with which many organizations are grappling, particularly those in the U.S. What we have learned is that outsourcing can help reduce operating expenses...and, in some cases, increase other expenses that weren’t initially anticipated.

At the center of the outsourcing controversy is its impact on our customer relationships – the very drivers of our businesses that we’ve worked hard to cultivate and retain. Also, in our efforts to outsource all or parts of our operation, some of us have become so mired in minute details that we’ve lost focus of the big picture.

In 2004, there will be a greater focus on the strategic value of the call center and with this will come a shift from outsourcing to rightsourcing. Rightsourcing is essentially about making strategic or “big picture” decisions that are “right” for our businesses and our customers….decisions that are operationally efficient and effective. Now, more than ever, we must count on those charged with making decisions for our centers to have the business acumen and big picture understanding to lead our centers in the right direction.

Trend #2: A Balanced Approach to Technology Utilization

As an industry we have become much smarter about what technology can and cannot do for our organizations. Many of us have lived through technology implementations that went painfully off course. In most cases, the cause of the derailment was not due to deficient technology but to the organization's failure to align technology needs with business objectives.

At the end of the day, technology is an enabler. It can help us operate our centers better, but it can’t run our centers for us. Too often technology is looked upon as the fix-all solution or often purchased because it’s the latest or greatest. Definitely technology is an essential component of every center, but more important is having competent professionals who can balance all the factors necessary to make sound technology decisions. Truly, technology is only as good as our ability to identify the right application for it and effectively utilize it.

Trend #3: Meaningful Metrics

Unfortunately far too many centers are being managed by meaningless metrics. While traditional call center productivity measures are important, what really matters are the real-world metrics that impact our unique customers, employees, and bottom-line business.

Call center executives must move beyond consuming themselves with the details of daily operations and see the big picture of how their call center contributes to the success of the organization. The responsibility doesn’t stop here though – they’ve got to get the message across to corporate management and be able to back it up with metrics that are linked to business factors of significance in the boardroom.

Trend # 4: More Leaders with the “Right Stuff”

The beginning and ending point of any call center’s success is the strength of its management team – everything else is secondary. Call center executives must demonstrate a clear understanding of strategic issues and be able to communicate about the impact of these issues on the center, the organization, and customers from a high-level perspective.

Unfortunately far too many call center executives lack the required proficiency to link what’s important to the center to what’s important to the organization. Call center executives who want to be seen as leaders must influence corporate objectives. Those who accomplish this will be the leaders of tomorrow’s successful centers.

Thankfully we have a wealth of resources in the form of conferences, networking forums, training programs, and industry-defined performance standards to help develop call center leaders and keep them on top of their game. And, we are one of the few industries with its own standards and certifying board, the Call Center Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) – an organization exclusively focused on helping call center executives become highly effective leaders.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, the challenge ahead is to stay focused on the big picture. Let’s make our priority the things that have the greatest positive impact on the success of our organizations. Then, take the time to help others in influential positions – including those above and below us in the organizational hierarchy – to see how the call center contributes to that big picture. These two key activities, guided by strong leaders, will set the stage for the call center industry’s success long into the future.

The Call Center Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) is the worldwide standards and certifying body for call center professionals. The not-for-profit CIAC is dedicated to advancing the business of call centers by cultivating call center executives with multi-disciplinary expertise. Go to for more information.