Managing change across diverse customer contact locations and cultures - 6 in fact - is no easy task. However, as Vice President of Customer Operations at Travix, a big part of my job is doing just that. I am responsible for ensuring that my team members, whether they are in Germany, Singapore, India, the Netherlands or elsewhere, are aligned with the company values and with one another, are happy in their roles, and doing their best to deliver top-notch customer service. Because happy employees make for satisfied customers, and in the dynamic travel industry in which we operate, this is absolutely crucial to success.
A true honor
Over the last year, I developed and began implementing an omni strategy to better steer my team’s behaviors towards a single Travix culture, represented by our core values. And to my surprise, this is precisely what my voting peers and the Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) recognized as exceptional, especially given the geographic spread and socio-cultural diversity of the team. They selected me out of a total of 70 nominees to be CCMA Manager of the Year for 2019! What an honor it is to be chosen out of so many impressive candidates!
For anyone reading this who is not aware, the CCMA is a Dutch organization which asks people working in the customer contact field to nominate a leader for the award. After being nominated, I had to share a file of information about myself with the CCMA. The selection of nominees was then narrowed to 10 finalists. Each of us was asked to choose a theme and to carry out a number of activities in line with it. I chose ‘Leadership & Culture’ and made a number of social media posts on LinkedIn for instance. You can read one here and here.
The award means more to me than I expected, striking me personally on a very deep level. I have won awards in the past, but this one is a clear recognition of the way I live my work life, and life in general. The award confirms how I view and define my change strategy, where I place both our people and our customers on the same level. Great customer contact and customer generation goes hand in hand with employee well-being and their performance.
“The award means more to me than I expected, striking me personally on a very deep level. It is a recognition of the way I live my work life, and life in general.”
To bring about the change, I actively steer my contact center managers to live the Travix values through active coaching and performance management. As we deliver service through people, both culture and leadership are my main drivers. We have a great team of people working globally who collaborate together to provide our customers with a happy experience. Since our people are also our customers and our customers are our people, we need to ensure that they have confidence in our goals and are willing to commit to our purpose and corporate values. My personal commitment list reflects employee engagement as a key measure but it is also reflected in the product development roadmap as part of our strategy. Our roadmap, therefore, aims for a low-effort customer experience and a low-effort employee experience.
A ‘low-effort employee experience’ is linked to the technology we supply our people with.
For example, our customer contact teams used multiple systems prior to the introduction of the omnichannel technology. Now they only need to use one single platform. For 2020, we are focused on creating 'agent-guided workflows' where we will, for instance, consolidate our mid- and back-office systems to help simplify our processes. Also, instead of manual capture, we plan to enable automatic labeling of contacts to enable the teams to focus on customer engagement while supporting data consistency. It is through creating such low-effort employee experiences like these that we can deliver low-effort customer experiences as well.
My advice to others?
To others like myself working in or with contact centers who are trying to be and drive the change, here are my top three pieces of advice. First, it’s important to start with a clear vision. To do this, you need to understand the market well, assess the company in relation to the market and how the customer contact team can contribute to every aspect. The second tip is to define the road to get there – develop a roadmap. What are the goals? What needs to happen to get there? And how can you maintain the level of focus to make it happen?
The third point is the day-to-day element. It’s where you connect the strategy to the people. How do you engage them and get them to live and breathe the values and the change needed to happen? This element is the most important, because as the saying goes: “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This means, you can create all the plans you want, change systems or processes, but if people don’t embrace the vision and strategy to get there, they will continue the same way of working and you will get the same results, simply because of the underlying company culture. Culture is stronger than any plans you can make.
As I end this blog, I’d like to share a quote with you from famed vulnerability researcher and thought leader, Brené Brown. She writes in her book Rising Strong: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” This quote inspires me to be courageous in my work every day, to stay true to myself and to have fun with myself and my team at the same time. Together, we can be and drive the change in Travix, for our customers.