From Agent to Innovator: An Interview with Contact Center Technology Visionary, Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy is the Managing Director – Technology at Vistio. He is responsible for the design, development, configuration, implementation and support of Vistio’s platform and infrastructure and is a results-oriented technology leader with a proven track record of delivering innovative and award-winning solutions in support of business strategy. Sean has held multiple CTO positions during his 20+ years of IT experience, was responsible for the automation strategy and capability for one of the largest BPOs globally and has led multiple IT organizations through rapid growth, acquisition and post-acquisition expansion and integration.

Listen to the full interview here

Hi Sean. Thanks for joining me. Do I have your permission to record this call for quality assurance?

Yes, absolutely.

Excellent. Well, we’ll jump right in. So, Sean, you have a long career in creating, monitoring and working closely with contact center technology and technology that enhances the efficiency of the workplace. Can you give our readers some insight into your background, where you started, and how you got to where you are today?

Sure, yeah. So, I started my career in the network, PC, telephony infrastructure end of things, and then switched over to software development. So having worked in both sides of that from the infrastructure and the software development side, gives me a good understanding of everything that goes into the technology stack of a contact center. So, when we talk to customers around how their telephony has been implemented and how the agents have to work with each part of the technology stack there, we have a pretty good understanding of all of that.

And then how I got to where I am today, I think the best way to answer that is like my approach to it was I found what I love to do, which was learning new things, creating new solutions, and helping people around me realize their potential, whether that’s friends, family, employees, customers. Sometimes it meant long hours pushing myself beyond what I thought were my limits and volunteering to take on challenges that maybe no one else wanted to take on. But that’s how I’ve ended up in the type of role I’ve enjoyed over the last number of years. And a lot of that’s been in the contact center end of things and technology there, but front office and back-office automation technologies. And I’ve been lucky to experience many different types of programs and contact center environments and seeing the common struggles that they all deal with and develop solutions to resolve those problems.

Can you share a little more about your day-to-day role and responsibilities here at Vistio, particularly how you advise senior leaders who are using our software or members of the internal team?

Yeah. So being the executive managing director of Vistio I have responsibility for running the company overall, but my sole responsibility really is for the technology vision, the evolution of our technology platform, our team that consults with our clients on their tailored solution as well as the configuration of management of that solution because when we engage with a client, it’s an ongoing engagement for the lifetime that customer is with this. So, I spend a lot of time with our clients discussing what our vision is of how we can evolve the approach to the best customer experience and how that fits in with how they view things and how their company feels about their customers and the type of service they want to provide. A lot of it is engaging to work on that partnership that we can develop together because every situation is unique, every company we work with is unique and should be unique. But we have a common approach that we like to use to engage with those customers to develop that tailored bespoke solution.

Very good. Throughout your long career in contact center technology, what are the main pain points you have seen from an agent’s perspective in regard to technology?

Well, one of my first jobs was actually as a technical support call center agent, so I have firsthand knowledge of what agents have to deal with. I understand the stress of having that call arrive and not knowing if you’re going to be able to answer the customer’s question. If the customer already is going to be upset, how I’m I going to deal with that. There’s a lot of knowledge. I went through all that training. I need to remember everything and it’s quite a lot of stress involved in that and wondering what you are going to face next. So, when it comes to customer service, you find sometimes it’s forgotten that it’s a human being that’s answering the phone and talking to the customers.

Just because it’s a company, you put an answer to a question somewhere in a knowledge base or on a tab of a CRM system doesn’t mean that job is done. We try and we focus on the agent experience and that means looking at that customer service function from the agent up and not the other way down and really try and understand what it is they have to deal with and not just add more technology and expect that that’s going to resolve the issues.

What are some of the tried-and-true solutions to the pinpoints you’ve mentioned that have been successful time and time again that you’ve seen?

It’s really getting that understanding. I think one of the tactics that we’ve used many times is actually sitting with the agents, listening to the calls, looking at how they have to interact with the various systems and truly understanding what are the common scenarios that happen. It is a lot easier to say, hey, look, if we can improve that interaction, we’re going to have an impact to a large percentage of the calls coming in and reduce that lift and stress that the agents have to do and deal with. So, it’s been taking that, I guess, a scenario-based approach, just look at each individual scenario and solve for the scenario rather than trying to pull the ocean and think we can drop this screen in here and that’s going to solve everything. It truly is that iterative approach of let’s look at the problems, understand them, make a change, see what the impact of that is good or bad, and learn from that experience to then make the next change in that iterative approach.

What are some examples of how technology has changed or impacted the industry both positively and negatively?

Well, technology continues to evolve. And from a contact center point of view, that means they’re different ways for a consumer to engage now. So, you’ve got social media chat and a classic phone call, then there are technologies such as AI and robotic process automation, which people think of as solutions that are customer service issues. But these are just tools, much like a carpenter has tools. In addition to these tools, you actually need a vision to create something unique. We focus on this vision and what tools are appropriate for each situation and create that tailored solution based on each client’s unique needs. Technology on its own doesn’t solve problems. And I think that’s a common mistake made.

Many companies, for instance, have invested heavily in reporting and business intelligence platforms expecting that, that just by implementing the technology platform, they’re going to improve how their business operates. But without the valid source data and the processes on what steps should be taken from the visuals presented just yet another technology platform spend, that doesn’t deliver. And regardless of the technology, you look at just purchasing it, and implementing it is really just part of the solution. It truly is that how do you take these technologies and use them in the right way?

What is something that you wish more people understood about contact center processes, best practices and the technology?

Less is more, I think. There’s only so much if you were to study user experience and how people absorb information as they look at it. You really have to focus on the situational point of view what is the minimum amount of information you can put on the screen at any one time. Every item you add makes it harder to find an item on the screen much like any puzzle. So, it truly is trying to get to that situational what I need, when I need is much like in just in time manufacturing process. We don’t want all the pieces lying around all the time when you’re trying to make something, you just want the pieces you need for that step.

What career or practical advice do you have for people looking to grow their skills and impact the technology used in contact center management?

So, I’m a big believer in find what you love to do, so if you always have the greatest impact doing what you love. And if you love helping people then customer service may be the perfect area for you. Spend time with the agents listening to calls, watching what they do. Depending on the type of business with the correct training, you may be actually able to take some calls. So, think big. Imagine you have this magical machine that automatically gives you the answer you need to give the customer without having to remember anything yourself. Make that your singular goal to provide that to your agents. Don’t get caught up in platforms and upgrade cycles and features of systems that sound exciting, but don’t get you to your goal. Focus on what are the pieces you need for your solution and keep driving towards that. And when you’re ready or even if you need help defining your ideal solution, call us and we’ll help you get there.

If you could talk to your younger self, what would you warn yourself about or tell yourself to do differently in regard to your career?

Well, honestly, I wouldn’t tell myself to do anything differently. Sure, things I could have done better and mistakes I could have avoided, but I hope I learn from those mistakes, and I really love what I do and who I work with. I wouldn’t want to change any of that. I don’t spend a lot of time looking back. I’m just not built that way. I think if you’re someone who embraces change and you become a change agent yourself, it’s about looking forward, not back. One very important thing I think I’ve learned is that just being busy doesn’t mean you’re being productive. I think reserving time to be able to just think can be amazingly productive.

And I think with the way that people are serving work remotely, how people are gauging what productivity truly is now is going to change how people approach their work. It’s not going to be can we just book lots of meetings and everyone’s in lots of meetings. So, we must be getting something done. It’s going to have to be a different type of measurement. I think being innovative and bringing some ideas to the table is going to be part of what people see as being productive. And you can only do that if you give yourself some time to actually think.

What advice do you have for professionals responsible for managing contact center floors and choosing the best technology to streamline their agent’s processes in order to assure great customer experiences?

Well, I think key is to find people and partners that you have the same passion to help you deliver the type of customer experience or customer service that everyone deserves. Regardless of the company, your customers, they’ve purchased a product from you or service. And when they need help with that, they should be getting excellent service. It’s a strategic key to every company now. So, you need a partner that you can talk to that isn’t just trying to sell you another platform for your agents to learn to navigate. They need to operate as a partner. But we at Vistio believe we can be that partner.

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