This week I was a speaker at the Oracle Modern Business Experience event in London where some 3,500 delegates gathered to get insight into how their organisations can adopt a digital-first approach. Critically this involves becoming more agile; both culturally and technically, in a rapidly changing landscape.
My session focussed on the role of service leaders in today's always on world, where the phrase customer experience (CX) dominates business rhetoric, but so often fails to deliver against the reality of customer expectations. 

I'm old enough to remember a version of this agenda in the last century, back in 1996 when CCA began its journey.

Then, the role of a service leader was more simple, steeped in operations, getting new centralised call centres set up, located and staffed; the choice of ACD (automatic call distributor) machine was about as complex as technology got! Mobiles were in existence but the smartphone hadn't been dreamt of. Curly wired landlines were still in existence and ‘social’ was an expression of mood rather than a communication channel. 

The relationship between operations and the rest of the business was very much parent child with little scope for strategic input or proactivity.

Today the role of a service leader is vastly different, customer is at the heart of the organisation (for some rhetoric, for others reality). 24/7 is however reality and customers can connect when and how we choose, and of course let everyone know how good or awful our service experience is – real-time.

Complexity has increased several fold and it's true to say that the role of a generic call handler is now that of a problem solver with agony aunt skills desirable.

Big data ensures that organisations have the ability to know everything about customer behaviours and intent, whilst AI and robotics promises exciting scope for humans to be more authentic, supported and freed from 'robotic' scripted activities.

Driving this cocktail of requirements forward requires a very different style of leadership at the top, but also in all functions where roles purport to be part of a customer journey - and that's surely everyone?

Much (perhaps too much?) has been written about the challenge of employing millennials, however there is a real urgency for better ways of engaging and motivating this group to ensure that the vast, largely untapped, potential of digital skills are realised, helping organisations to become more agile.

This doesn't mean a denigration of leadership decision making responsibility, simply a 'letting go of ego' to admit that there is a clever source of insight, which if properly channelled can provide rich rewards.

Service leaders today need to be expert at professionally presenting well thought out business cases, which are borne out of accurate customer and employee insight, and of course becoming trusted by peers in all parts of the organisation to stay in the game.

Developing this cultural change is tough and needs constant nourishing; it forms a significant part of CCA Industry Council Leadership Forum for 2017 and you can find out more about this forum and the work they are doing on leadership here.