What makes a great operations manager in an outsourced customer service world?
We have operational leads throughout the business in a range of different areas, but here in our latest online Q&A, we sat down for a chat with Jean-Pierre Hansen, our Head of Operations based at our South Africa offices in the Cape Town suburb, Retreat.
Jean-Pierre has been with us now for over four years and was one of several colleagues nominated for a Cape BPO award in 2022.
Q. Can you tell us about your role as operations manager?
In my role as a head of operations I have a team of 95. This is made up of 90 advisors, but also five team leaders who report into me. I’d say that I manage some key areas in my role. These cover, ensuring operational excellence, regular performance reviews, driving performance, and also mentoring our leaders to ensure quality and consistency.
The overall strategy for myself and my team is to provide nothing but excellent customer service both internally and externally for our colleagues and our client, which is a large UK-based energy supplier.
Our strategy places the customer experience and the customer journey at the forefront and core of all our decision making, this means ensuring that all employees have the right tools, training and support they need to be competent and confident in their jobs every single day.
Q. So being an effective operations manager means you have to hit some tough and wide-ranging KPIs. Which of those KPIs are you responsible for?
As a head of operations, achieving, and even exceeding, our KPIs is never far from my mind.
We have a wide variety of them and it starts with surveys and feedback mechanisms from our client which allows us to measure and track customer experience, telling us how well each interaction was handled. Through this I can acknowledge where our employees have done exceptionally well, but also identify any knowledge gaps or additional training needed.
We are also measured on how much time an advisor spends consulting colleagues to help solve issues, alongside the percentage of complaints we have successfully dealt with or escalated.
What is really different is that we are also measured on the numbers of 1-2-1s we hold, absence management, performance management and call calibration, which allows us to monitor consistency of calls.
So basically, there are a wide range of KPIs covering a variety of areas. As operations manager, I need to keep all of these balls in the air.
Q. Does that need you to lead in a certain way in terms of your style?
My leadership style is based on one of my strongest values – honesty. As I know from my own experience, when leaders are not open and transparent, it can lead to employees putting up walls or barriers that hold them back from optimal performance.
I pride myself on building strong trusting relationships across all levels of the business by delivering results and being a consistent leader. My team often describe me as being empathetic, a quality that strengthens my ability to be relatable and motivate people to reach their full potential.
More than anything though, I look to lead by example, and I am conscious of how my behaviour inspires and influences those around me.
Q. What do you believe makes a successful individual in your type of job?
I believe a successful individual can shine if they show dedication, commitment, persistence and humility. More than anything, never make anyone feel you are above them.
It’s important to show your appreciation to your team, let them know when they are doing a great job, guide them when they are needing extra coaching, and be the all-round manager people respect and want to work with and for.
You also have to be someone who is competent, has good organisation skills, forward thinking, as well as being able to multitask as you will have many balls to juggle
You have to be able to manage multiple teams, clients, as well as understanding their individual needs and that of the business – everyone wants to receive an excellent service.
It’s important to be able to analyse data and report back in a way that your audience understands, whether this be senior management, advisors or clients. Communication is also a skill needed, as your team need to have a clear understanding what their targets and performance measures are and if they are meeting these.
And finally efficiency is key. There are targets to be met, employees to be trained, reports to be shared – all of which are needed on a daily basis and helps drive the business forward.
Q. What do you do in terms of your own personal development to help make you a success?
To improve my own personal development, I am doing several things behind the scenes.
I have started an online Business Management Course through Udemy (an online platform) and aim to complete that this year.
Sigma Connected as a business is also very inclusive and as a member of the LGBT community, I am also looking to develop my own understanding and champion true diversity and inclusion within the industry. I believe that education is very important when it comes to understanding oneself and those around you who seem to be different from you. Representation is important and the more I can do to use my platform for good, the more I am motivated to be the voice of those who look up to me.