“Collaboration is the Key” – How a Military Mindset Can Drive Communications and Contact Centre Success
by Jeremy Payne, International VP Marketing, Enghouse Interactive
The last few years have seen unprecedented change in the contact centre and communications marketplace. We have seen the ongoing migration to digital, the growing uptake of automation and AI and an ever stronger focus on the customer experience.
These changes have laid down a challenge to all key players working in the contact centre world – from vendors to distributors and resellers – to work together to achieve the best possible results for their end customers.
The constants in those thriving in this environment are an ability to execute any approach, underpinned by a well-considered strategic plan. Still more important is a continuous focus on team work – vendors and distributors knowing their individual roles but understanding the importance of coming together and pooling skills and resources for the greater good.
With this in mind, Enghouse recently invited Ant Middleton, former member of the elite Special Boat Service, who many will recognise from his hit Channel 4 TV show, “SAS: Who Dares Wins”, to share his thoughts on how to thrive in a hostile, rapidly-changing environment.
In his powerful, thought-provoking speech, Ant focused on key aspects of team work that can drive success, not only in the military but also in the business world and in environments, such as the contact centre, where collaboration is especially key.
Ant began to learn about the importance of team work from his earliest days in the Army. His first few years were marked by great individual success as he picked up the prestigious awards of Best Recruit and Best Personal Trainer (PT) at the Royal Engineers and gained his maroon beret in P-Company. But over time, he became conscious that something was missing. Frustrated and uncertain of the path forward, he left the military.
After time on ‘civvy street’, and a period of soul searching, Ant returned to the forces with a renewed sense of vigour. He had come to realise that what was missing was an understanding of the importance of the team. Army life, just like life in the contact centre or communications channel, needs to be about working together to achieve common goals.
It’s a lesson that any communications or contact centre business partnership can learn from too, of course. There needs to be a mutual understanding of the overall objective of any opportunity, with all the parties involved fully committed on pulling together to achieve the end goal. Any focus on individual business objectives must be subsidiary to the overall focus of the wider partnership, and examples of divergence from this approach must be identified and resolved.
It’s also important when working in any team to acknowledge skill gaps and ask fellow team members or partners to help out. Team work, both in the military and in the business world, is about honest communication with colleagues: playing to your strengths but being open and upfront about your weaknesses.
Ant knows how important this is and wasn’t afraid to ask for help from his team when made section commander during a tour of Afghanistan. Conscious that the promotion had come before he was ready, he was upfront about it, telling the team that while he was going to take the job, he would not always get it right, and he would need the rest of the team to step up. He received unwavering support and commitment in return for his honesty and he knew the team would step into the breach when required.
Again, the parallels with the communications experience are striking. Vendors, resellers and distributors can work together as teams on a variety of projects, helping each other as required. Vendors can, for example, provide critical product training support while resellers could help open new markets to vendors by giving them the benefit of their vertical expertise. All this team work is likely to benefit the end customer too, by ensuring that they receive technology and supporting services that are tailored to their specific business environment and needs, enabling them to better engage and interact with their own customer base.
In line with this focus on mutual support, Ant recalled a troubling moment in Afghanistan, when pursuing an enemy combatant, where he was paralysed with fear and unable to punch his way through a door into a room where he knew the combatant was likely to be hiding. A fellow soldier sensing Ant’s hesitation gave a reassuring squeeze to his shoulder. Just knowing that his team had his back gave Ant the strength to carry on.
There is a lesson here for businesses too. When times are hard, colleagues or partners working on the same project, will give each other a reason to step outside their comfort zone, but will need to be safe in the knowledge that if they fall, the team will be there to catch them and put them back in the fold. That’s the very essence of team work: dedication and commitment to each other.
From Ant’s perspective, success in any mission is not about dedication to the cause, it’s about unswerving dedication to each other and having the certain knowledge that if one team member is in difficulty, the others will pitch in to help him or her out.
It’s another compelling example of the fact that as Ant himself says: “If you have got a team where everyone is sticking together and is honest with each other, and you can communicate in that way, then you will be unstoppable. You will be able to take those calculated risks that push you onto that next level because you know that you have got a team behind you that will catch you if you fall. You will feel that you can take on any task – no matter what the job is.” It is the reason that the best teams succeed both in the military and in the business environment, of which the contact centre world is such a compelling example.
No matter the field of operations, however, the message coming through loud and clear from Ant Middleton’s speech was that if you can understand and be honest with yourself and if you have the right people around you focused on working as a team, that will help you to achieve a huge amount. It might not seem an obvious parallel but it is true nonetheless that the contact centre world has a lot to learn from the military experience.
Jeremy Payne is International VP Marketing at Enghouse Interactive