Contact Center Leadership Tunnel Vision


Contact Center Leadership Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision is defined as “the tendency to look at things from only one point of view; prejudice or narrow-mindedness.” A single point of view rarely serves Contact Center leadership well. Contact Center leaders with tunnel vision typically focus on a single factor, condition, or outcome. The focus is so intense that they disregard input to the contrary or fail to acknowledge other factors. This strips the leader of clearly seeing the big picture … the ability to consider the overall view and deliberately consider multiple perspectives of a situation.

Often there is an uncomfortable reality that underpins the adoption of tunnel vision. It is when senior-level leaders impose tunnel vision by directing Contact Center leadership to deliver on and be evaluated on things like pure production metric objectives.

“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” —William Arthur Ward, American Motivational Writer

Tunnel vision may inspire leaders to see to it that metrics are met; this is a real risk to leadership focus and development. Some leaders are driven to deliver on a set of metrics by whatever means necessary in order not to risk their job, bonus, or future opportunities. They travel down a road of metric manipulation to yield outcomes as if objectives are being met. The tunnel vision environment has sadly robbed some leaders of the ability to grow and learn beyond the very basic elements.

There are times when tunnel vision is appropriate. I want my surgeon to have tunnel vision, my builder, my pilot, my hair stylist, and my Contact Center agent when I am engaged with them. But my leadership … no, I don’t want leadership with tunnel vision.

I believe that tunnel vision’s roots are in fear. There is fear that change will fail, you won’t look good, you’ll do the “wrong” thing, etc. This fear is often cloaked in a false sense of confidence that reinforces the status quo: “This has always worked, so why should we change it?” “Nobody wants a new system,” “Everyone here is happy with the way things are.” If this type of sentiment is inside your head or on the lips of leaders, tunnel vision is taking over.

Additional negative impacts also occur, for example:

  • Contact Center management education is not provided or pursued.
  • Opportunities are missed or overlooked; lack of education inherently limits the ability to identify what to look for and to consider alternative approaches.
  • Tunnel vision inhibits risk; leaders become cautious and reluctant to deviate from established paths. (“We have always done it that way.”)

When you see organizations with low morale, high turnover, and poor overall performance, you will most likely find a tunnel vision team struggling to meet daily demands. The time has come to ask yourself, “Do I have tunnel vision?” “Do my higher-ups have tunnel vision?” “Have we hog-tied our agents due to tunnel vision?” “What else do I need to know?”

A single point of view rarely serves Contact Center leadership well.

Tunnel vision curbs your curiosity and leaves you behind. To move beyond tunnel vision begins by asking questions. Questions are at the heart of curiosity. I know one thing for sure. If tunnel vision blurs the big picture, it down-right strangles curiosity.

Curiosity is defined in the dictionary as “a state in which you want to learn more.” I feel that curiosity is a core competency for today’s leaders. The Contact Center industry is and has been since its inception full of change; to lead any portion of it requires curiosity. Changes have been driven by many factors, including organizational, operational, marketplace, and the near endless development of technologies that support interactions with consumers. Keeping up is part of the job and it doesn’t just happen. It happens because “you want to learn more.”

An important part of the Contact Center leader’s job is to educate others regarding the important role the Contact Center plays in the big picture. As a starting point, I offer initiatives in three areas for leaders to focus their curiosity and shun tunnel vision:

  • Alignment to Strategic Objectives
  • Identifying and Managing Outcomes
  • Learning and Development

Align processes and technologies to strategic objectives.

I have frequently addressed the need for Contact Center leaders to align processes and technologies to the organization’s strategic objectives. Understanding strategic objectives means that there is clarity around executive perspectives for the vision, growth, efficiency, and the Customer Experience. (See Pipeline, Contact Center Leadership: Developing a Strategic Game Plan, August 2023.)

The tunnel vision environment has sadly robbed some leaders of the ability to grow and learn beyond the very basic elements.

When executive perspectives are understood, the job of Contact Center leadership is to operationalize strategic objectives and craft a reporting scheme that contextualizes outcomes within strategy. Leadership sets a course to identify “friction” points that consumers experience; they report on that friction with a plan of action to reduce or eliminate it. The strategic context for such a plan is the positive impact on both the consumer and the agent. When friction is removed from the consumer, it is simultaneously removed from the agent.

Identify and manage outcomes.

Think outcomes, not metrics. You don’t run around asking for a three-minute call just to assure the right number of people! That is not the way to manage outcomes. The experience elements are the outcomes to look for: first contact resolution, knowledgeable agents, quality interaction, and reduction in errors. These are the more strategic outcomes. The key is to “operationalize” these outcomes by determining exactly what is required to produce them. First contact resolution is an outcome of excellent processes, strong technical infrastructure, and targeted training. When deficiencies are identified and recommendations made, they are most likely to succeed when presented for budget as a contributing factor to achieving any of the strategic objectives. So, report on things like the means to achieve first contact resolution and NOT the three-minute call!

Review Learning and Development activity and effectiveness.

Learning and development are critical in this day and age. Most organizations have been and will continue to pursue automation/digital access for high frequency, low complexity tasks. This reserves human capital for more complex interactions. Complex interactions tend to vary in duration and complexity. They require a solid grasp of how to handle the contact, regardless of channel or whether agents are premise-based or remote. Effectiveness must be measured by accuracy and quality of the interaction. If these are missing it is time to reevaluate the program.

Once you know what you want, you can ask the questions about WHAT must be done to get there.

Understanding learning and development activities does not end with the front line, although realistically that is often the case. Supervisors, Team Leads, Trainers, Workforce Management (essentially leaders at every level) need to really understand Contact Center management which has long been defined as “the art and science of getting the right number of people, in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.” (Gordon MacPherson, Founder ICMI)

Curiosity is the antidote to tunnel vision; it allows us to clearly see the big picture. Curiosity in leadership is about the WHAT. WHAT are we doing well? WHAT are we struggling with? WHAT do we already know? WHAT do we need to know? WHAT state are our cross-functional relationships in? WHAT are our Customer Experience objectives? WHAT do our managers and supervisors need? WHAT do agents need? WHAT is new in the industry? WHAT do our measurements really tell us? WHAT problems have been identified/solved in the past six months?

How do you and your Contact Center want to experience the future? Once you know what you want, you can ask the questions about WHAT must be done to get there.

SOURCEContact Center Pipeline September 2023
Kathleen Peterson
Kathleen M. Peterson is the Founder and Chief Vision Officer of PowerHouse Consulting. Kathleen is an acclaimed Contact Center consultant and recognized industry visionary. She offers a refreshing and sometimes challenging philosophy to positioning the Contact Center as the true lifeline of the enterprise—believing that vision, brand, leadership and execution combine to deliver a powerful customer experience. Kathleen has emerged as one of the most sought-after experts and consulting partner in the field of customer experience working with the world’s top customer-focused companies, and is published widely in the most prestigious industry journals in the U.S. and abroad. As a featured speaker at conferences and Fortune 500 companies, she has shared her humor, knowledge, and experience across four continents, including Contact Center conference keynotes in the United States, London, Paris, Turkey, Dubai, and Hong Kong. Kathleen also served as Conference Chair for the North American Conference on Customer Service Management.