By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
For many years, it’s been my pleasure to attend the annual ATA Convention & Expo. This year’s inaugural springtime event was no exception. Each year, I look forward to seeing and interacting with others in the contact center industry. Although I connect with many throughout the year via email and phone, nothing surpasses the value of talking with someone face-to-face. Plus, each year I make new acquaintances and talk to people who I would have never otherwise met. As a result, I am richer for the experience and more connected to the industry.
The great value that I place on the ATA convention results from a trio of participants: the exhibitors, the attendees, and the ATA staff and volunteers. Notably, it is a positive environment in which helpful and supportive attitudes abound. I also salute ATA for, quite simply, knowing how to put on a great event. More impressive is that they did it this time with a six-month turnaround from the 2010 convention. The high attendance (during a time when other conference participation is languishing) is a testament to the value members place on the ATA and to the board’s wisdom in moving the annual event from the fall to the spring. (Correspondingly, their annual Washington Summit will move to the fall.)
The key realization that I gathered from this year’s convention is that the level of complexity within the contact center industry is rapidly rising. As such, it is becoming critical for outsourcing contact centers to specialize, either in their niche or by their expertise. I sense that the days of being all things to all clients are coming to a close. That is not to imply that outsourcing call centers can’t have multiple areas of specialization; market and competency diversification is always a wise strategy. However, fading fast are the days when simply knowing how to train and schedule staff to politely answer the phone will be sufficient to capture and retain clients. This transition is in part due to the heightened expectations of clients and partially from the increased complexity in most verticals, primarily attributable to burgeoning government regulations.
This year’s event marked the departure of ATA’s long-time CEO Tim Searcy, who has returned to his roots in the operations side of the industry. Normally, the exit of a leader of Tim’s stature would be challenging, but ATA has a solid staff and a strong board to keep things moving forward. Plus, interim president Bob Kobek is experienced and well-versed with all things ATA. Tim added a fitting exclamation point to his ATA tenure during his keynote address, as he looked towards the future with expectation.
Also looking to the future is the ATA-SRO (self-regulatory organization), which continues to gain traction as more call centers become certified and with some RFPs now stipulating said certification. ATA-SRO certification is positioned to become the expectation for top-tier contact centers.
Also, as covered last month, ATA unveiled its new Customer Experience Professional (CEP) designation. Starting at the convention, ATA members began earning the credits needed to receive this new and promising designation.
[From Connection Magazine – May 2011]
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry.