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Transforming Contact Centres: A Journey of Authentic Leadership and Industry Recognition

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Transforming Contact Centres: A Journey of Authentic Leadership and Industry Recognition

Recently, we had the privilege of Talking Talent with Marco Jetmir Ndracaj, an award-winning Director of Contact Centre Services for Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), at their Newcastle contact centre. Known for his exceptional ability to transform contact centres into industry-leading operations, Marco shared his inspiring career journey, from his early days at Conduit Global to his current role as Director of Contact Centre Services at SSCL where he oversees the delivery, transformation, and strategy of customer service and technology. Notably, Marco was recently appointed to the board of directors for the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, further showcasing his leadership and influence in the industry.

Strengths & Challenges

Marco's journey began 22 years ago when he arrived in the UK without the ability to speak English. Starting in hospitality, he transitioned to the contact centre industry, initially facing challenges due to language barriers and insecurities over his thick Albanian accent. However, a transformative realisation of the true power of authenticity reshaped his perspective on leadership. He now believes that leadership authenticity is not about conforming to expectations but genuinely understanding and caring for both the people and the business, including knowing customers, their needs, and what truly works for them. Marco has since embraced authenticity as his key strength.

He also shared his personal challenge of balancing career demands with the needs of his young family. Extensive business travel, while often seen as a perk, brought a sense of loneliness and presented a challenging juggle with family commitments. Nevertheless, Marco remains focused on creating a better future for his family.

Imposter Syndrome

Marco opened up about imposter syndrome, a common psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being seen as fraudulent, despite clear evidence of their competence. He candidly admits experiencing it frequently and even considers it a sign of success as responsibilities increase in his career. To combat these feelings, Marco offers a valuable solution: writing down achievements and their impact. This practice serves as a tangible reminder of one's skills and accomplishments, effectively countering self-doubt. His empathetic approach and practical advice showcase Marco as a supportive leader who understands and addresses the challenges many individuals face with imposter syndrome.

Effective Leaders Must First be Lifelong Learners

Professional development goes beyond merely climbing the corporate ladder for Marco; it is about continuous learning and expanding his knowledge base. This commitment is evident not only in his personal development but also in his leadership approach.

To be an effective leader, Marco firmly believes in being a lifelong learner. He actively seeks opportunities to reach out to other organisations and leaders, absorbing new ideas, and staying ahead of the rapidly changing industry landscape. He describes himself as a 'sponge,' always eager to absorb as much as he can from his environment.

For Marco, professional development is not solely an individual journey; it is a team journey. His philosophy revolves around investing in the growth and development of his team members, thereby enhancing the capabilities of the entire organisation. By empowering individuals to reach their full potential through continuous learning, embracing new challenges, and celebrating achievements, Marco believes that every individual can truly flourish professionally.

Awards, Recognition & Professional Network

Throughout his career, Marco has earned numerous accolades and awards, both individually and for the teams running the contact centre services he is responsible for. These recognitions include prestigious titles such as the Welsh Contact Centre Awards Team Award for Best Public Sector Helpline of the Year, North East Contact Centre Awards Outsource Contact Centre of the Year, and the Senior Leader of the Year, among others.

While celebrating these achievements, Marco emphasises the importance of learning from both successes and moments when his team didn't win. He sees these instances as valuable opportunities for introspection and team appreciation. Marco actively seeks to understand winning organisations' strategies and considers how to incorporate their ideas into his own business.

Participating in award processes has also brought significant organisational benefits to SSCL. The exposure gained from these awards has elevated the company's reputation, making it a multi-award-winning contact centre business. As a result, SSCL has become an attractive destination for top talent, and the increased visibility has facilitated industry partnerships and collaborations.

Despite the perception that the contact centre industry lacks glamour, Marco passionately advocates for its merits. He believes in fostering a strong industry community, supporting one another, and shaping best practices. Marco's vision extends beyond just winning awards; he aims to contribute to the industry's advancement and enhance its reputation as a whole.

Being involved in awards has brought Marco significant personal and professional benefits that extend beyond mere recognition. One of the key advantages is the opportunity to expand his professional network. As the recipient of the Senior Leader of the Year award, he was invited to judge the category the following year. This experience allowed him to interact with seasoned industry leaders, learning from their wealth of experience.

Regular participation in seminars and events has also played a crucial role in helping Marco build strong relationships. These interactions go beyond networking; they serve as a valuable source of knowledge and insight. Whenever he faces challenges in his organisation or team, Marco can rely on his network for advice and guidance. His role as a judge for various awards has further reinforced the importance of networking, as interactions with fellow judges have proven to be a rich source of knowledge.

Moreover, Marco's dedication to professional development extends beyond himself; he is equally committed to nurturing his team. He ensures that his team members have access to training opportunities and encourages them to network within the industry. He has noticed that his teams have become more engaged and have built their own networks, regularly reaching out to shape best practices and facilitate learning. Marco believes that investing in his team's development not only enhances the organisation's capabilities but also empowers individuals to reach their full potential.

Cnect Wales (The Welsh Contact Centre Forum)

Marco’s recent appointment to the board of directors for Cnect Wales (Welsh Contact Centre Forum) is a notable achievement in his career. This appointment serves as a testament to the dedication and effort he has put into his work in the contact centre industry. For Marco, being asked to join the board feels like a full-circle moment, as the forum has always been a significant part of his career aspirations.

Passionate about changing the perception of contact centre careers, Marco believes that these jobs are not merely stop-gaps but present an opportunity for a fulfilling and prosperous career. He emphasises the importance of the right work ethic and the ability to set clear, smart goals to achieve success in this industry.

He acknowledges that the outside world often remains unaware of the incredible work happening within contact centres, and he is eager to change that perception. He firmly believes that individuals in the industry have a responsibility to share their success stories, elevate the profile of the sector, and showcase the immense potential that lies within it. By doing so, Marco aims to inspire others and foster a greater appreciation for the opportunities offered by contact centre careers.

Recruitment & Onboarding

Marco highlighted how SSCL Government CCS recently revamped its recruitment approach by prioritising candidates with a passion for learning over specific qualifications for their contact centre operations. This shift allowed them to attract individuals eager to grow and develop within the company.

In government contact centres, where security clearance is a lengthy process, the onboarding phase gained particular importance. SSCL recognised the need to ensure new employees' contentment and commitment during this waiting period.

To enhance retention, SSCL made the transition from trainers delivering training to team leaders guiding new hires through their learning journey. This change fostered stronger bonds between team leaders and employees, leading to higher retention rates.

In today's competitive landscape, Marco stressed the significance of onboarding programs that offer a supportive learning journey, promoting continuous growth and development. Rather than expecting new hires to be fully qualified from the start, this approach proves more beneficial and less risky in the long run.

According to Marco, the onboarding process is crucial, and it's where many organisations often stumble. He emphasises that inspiring new hires and effectively communicating potential opportunities within the first few weeks is essential to avoid them forming negative perceptions of the contact centre environment and seeking opportunities elsewhere.

At SSCL, the approach to onboarding is centered on creating an environment where employees can thrive. Marco highlights the significance of providing them with the right tools and instilling a sense of purpose. This purpose goes beyond specific roles, like answering calls, and extends to the broader impact of their work on society.

SSCL ensures that employees are aware of how their contributions support critical public sector operations, such as enhancing the security of London's streets, safeguarding the country's borders, and ensuring efficient prison operations. This larger sense of purpose acts as a powerful motivator, leading to high retention rates and low attrition within the company.

The strong sense of purpose cultivated during onboarding not only retains talent within the organiation but also results in an accumulation of invaluable knowledge and experience that further strengthens SSCL as a whole.

Hybrid-working and Collaboration

The majority of contact centres now operate a hybrid-working model, combining office-based and remote working. SSCL has successfully embraced this with employees working from home for part of the week and coming into an office two days a week. SSCL Government contact centre colleagues gather in offices Thursdays and Fridays. These office days are utilised for team engagement, meetings, training, and catch-ups.

Rather than enforcing a physical presence, Marco emphasises the importance of providing employees with a clear purpose for coming to the office. Regular temperature checks and surveys gauge employee satisfaction, and the feedback has been positive, with many appreciating the mix of remote and office-based work.

He values the balance that hybrid-working brings, recognising the unique energy and camaraderie that come from in-person interactions in the contact centre, and how face-to-face discussions can lead to significant improvements and drive innovation.

The Future of the Contact Centre Industry

Marco acknowledges that artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the contact centre industry. Despite these changes, he asserts that voice communication will remain integral to contact centres.

The complexity of the operations at SSCL, which span multiple departments such as pensions, HR, payroll, finance, accounting, and dealing with diverse government organisations, make the potential contribution of AI technologies even more significant. When advisors are dealing with complex or technical queries, an integrated AI system can streamline the process, enhancing efficiency and reducing customer effort.

Despite these technological advancements, Marco believes the importance of human interaction remains paramount, especially when dealing with highly emotional or vulnerable customers. These technologies should not replace humans but serve as personal assistants to human advisors, aiding with complex queries and reducing customer effort. The future lies in the synergy between humans and AI, using AI to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of human agents rather than replacing them.

He also emphasises the importance of roles such as data scientists in the future of the contact centre industry. He believes that understanding and interpreting data effectively will become an essential skill for teams to produce meaningful outcomes. This necessitates a re-evaluation of what a career in a contact centre means and what it can lead to.

Advice to Younger Self

Marco reflects on his journey, considering the advice he would give his younger self. He advises not to be overly hard on oneself, especially during periods of perceived stagnation or setbacks. He recalls his own experiences at the start of his career, applying for roles and not getting them. These moments caused self-doubt, and he began to question his abilities.

Yet, he now understands that each step, including the perceived missteps, was part of his journey that led him to where he is today. If he had secured those positions, his path may have veered in a completely different direction, and he might not have reached his current position. Hence, he advises embracing the process, focusing on personal goals, and remembering that everyone has control over their own life and career. This advice highlights the importance of resilience, patience, and maintaining a positive perspective throughout one's career.

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