How to Create More Meaningful Connections in a Remote World – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series

In this episode of the webcast, I’m joined by Shameem Smillie, the Director of Global Contact Center Solutions at Mitel for a conversation around connection, personalized customer experiences, and what ‘meaningful connections’ mean in a digital world, what the future of work looks like in post-pandemic times — and some practical ways businesses can think about strengthening their communication skills.

Let’s face it, the last year has been a slog. Almost a year ago to the day, for many of us the world shut down, our companies shifted almost overnight to remove work, kids shifted to remote learning, and we hunkered down. And in case you’ve not noticed, it’s largely been cloud solutions and collaboration applications/platforms that have made this shift possible.

We kicked off our conversation talking about the rapid shift involved globally as organizations and their workers shifted to work from home and how navigating work, family, obligations regarding children and beyond have played a role.

Shameem shared with some of her thoughts on a change in the demographics that has embraced technology, how the BandAid solutions that were initially put in place by many organizations in the early WFH days are now being evaluated (and often replaced), and how her expertise in customer experience helps her be especially attuned to meaningful moments of conversation and the things organizations can do to empower and facilitate them.

Our conversation touched on:

  • Remote work is here to stay
  • Consumer appetite is for faster, more personal interaction and the businesses rising to the top are those that understand that and put good communications first
  • What businesses seem to have struggled with the most as they adapted to a WFH, distributed workforce
  • What kind of adjustments companies are going to need to make as we gradually ease back into a more normal of doing things
  • The tangible ways that businesses can strengthen communication skills
  • What the foundational technology is, the must-haves, in order to get communication technology and communications skills where they need to be so as to deliver not only the optimum in customer experience (think contact centers) as well as the optimum in employee experience.

Shameem also shared some great customer use cases, including touching on some verticals who have experienced hyper accelerated growth over the course of the last year, and how they’ve navigated a sudden pivot in their work, collaboration, and communication style, and their experiences and success stories that we can all learn from.

If you’re looking to up your communication game and focused on how to create more meaningful digital communications in a remote (or hybrid) world, this is a conversation that I think you’ll enjoy — and benefit from.

If you’d like a deeper dive into this topic, download an ebook developed by Mitel that I was thrilled to participate in, Mitel’s Now of Work. The ebook features insights from a group of well-known industry experts and focuses on the integrated solutions for remote, hybrid, and in-office workforces that are the future of work, and how using streamlined communication for better collaboration, understanding best-in-class practices around security and compliance for tech solutions is the path to a future of work that is personified by meaningful communications that are both collaborative and hassle free.

You can watch the interview here:

Or listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast channel:

Disclaimer: The Futurum Tech Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

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Shelly Kramer: Hello, I’m Shelly Kramer. Welcome to this LinkedIn Live conversation this morning. Today I’m joined by Shameem Smillie the Director of Global Contact Center Operations at Mitel. And we’re going to have a conversation around connection and personalized customer experiences and what meaningful conversations mean in a digital world. And we’re going to also talk about some practical ways that businesses can think about strengthening their communication skills. So before we get started there, let’s face it.

This last year has been a slog. I’ve been seeing lots of posts today. That today was the anniversary for many people where life just shut down and our worlds just shut down. Our companies shifted almost overnight to remote work. Kids shifted to remote learning, and we all kind of hunkered down and worried about what was to come and in case you’ve not noticed what saved us is cloud solutions and collaboration applications and collaboration platforms. And that’s really what’s made the shift possible. So for those things, I am very, very grateful.

Shameem, I know that like me, you’re not only a business executive, but you’re involved with your family. You’ve got work from home, you’ve got children working from home, learning from home. You’ve got your own set of challenges, and I think when you add to that, the fact that your background is in customer experience, I think this has probably been a really interesting time for you, no?

Shameem Smillie: Yeah. No it’s been challenging and it’s been interesting and it’s been really, really diverse. I was thinking about our chat today and how long we’ve been in lockdown. And I want to say, especially in Europe, because I’m just jealous of some of the things I’m seeing on social about other people making those small steps to get back to whatever the normal is going to be. But I think when we started back in March, I think it was like a year ago, it’s been a year.

Shelly Kramer: It’s been a year.

Shameem Smillie: I just don’t think any of us could have imagined how long this was going to last. And I think by March of last year, I’ve been to the U.S. twice. I’ve been all over Europe, I had a significant birthday. So I’d gone away for a weekend with my girlfriends and then nothing. And part of my job is travel and meeting customers and at culture we always say is face-to-face, people want to see the whites of your eyes. And all of us said, we have to practice what we preach, drink our own champagne and use the tech that I love. And what I talk about every single day and put it into practice. And that was a lot different. And it was a challenge for even the tech vendors, it was a challenge for people and it was a challenge for businesses in learning to adapt to the change in behaviors, I guess, of consumers. And it’s been like that ever since, a massive whirlwind massive.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I’m really fortunate. My team and I, we’ve been working remotely for decades, so you didn’t have to change anything. And I have teenagers, I know you have a 15 year old and a 13 year old, you have stepchildren about the same age as my kids. And at that age, them shifting to virtual learning wasn’t that big of a thing. But I will say because of the nature of what I do, and some of my focus is as a tech analyst and I travel all over the world like you. And when I saw the city of Wuhan, China shutting down a city of 12 million people, I actually did know what was ahead. And I told my kids in March, you’re never going back to school this year. You’re done. There’s no way this is going to happen.

And I saw what was happening in China. I saw what was happening in Europe. We don’t have blankets that you can just put over whole countries full of people. It seemed inevitable to me that this was coming, that it was coming soon and that we were really going to see a massive shift. And so I was very grateful that my team and I were already experts at video collaboration and so it didn’t impact our lives so much, but it also helped us be able to quickly jump in and serve our customers who were not accustomed to these changes and we were able to quickly be able to change our service offerings and instead of meeting our clients at in-person events and doing interviews and that sort of thing, we could shift to video. So we were very fortunate.

I’m also a very pragmatic person. So for me, I knew that the summer was absolutely positively not going to be the same. And I was very surprised my children go to a small private school and they’ve been able to have in-person school for all year basically, and other kids in our community haven’t been able to do that. So we’ve been very fortunate, just kind of having that knowledge a little bit was helpful, but I want to shift a little bit, I want to talk about human connection and I want to talk about how maybe that’s been missing, the missing ingredient in business. And I will say, I think we talked about this a little bit in another conversation. I feel like to me, what the pandemic has done and what is shift to work from home has done is actually served to humanize us.

And as a woman and I’ve been raising kids my entire career. There’ve been times literally when I’ve had to go hide in the basement in a Cedar closet to have a conference call and pretend that I was a competent professional when I had three year old twins upstairs. And today I think that what many of us have seen in this shift is that it’s not uncommon to be having an event like this and to have somebody toddler come in and sit on their lap or somebody’s cat crawl into their lap, or that sort of thing. And I feel like to a certain extent as a woman, and I’m a woman business owner and I’ve owned companies for the past 25 years.

So I’m not worried about keeping my bosses happy, but I have tended to sort of hide my humanness and kids and my family from my clients and from the world, because I sort of felt like, maybe that made me less attractive, which is a terrible thing. So I feel like perhaps in the whole human connection thing, maybe this pandemic has taught us that it is those families that we have that surround us, that make us who we are and the melding of business and personal together is a good thing. And we’re just not hiding those things anymore. I think for women, especially, that’s maybe a little important.

Shameem Smillie: It’s fascinating that you said that. I think that’s exactly what’s happened. And I just want to go back as well to some of the things that you were saying about the fact that you were prepared to work from home, you were enabled already. And my situation was somewhat similar. And I think even though, in Mitel, especially we’ve been equipped to work from home. And my contract, officially is a worker home contract. But even though it’s work from home, I was able to go into the office, go see customers. So I had a lot of flexibility and I think what’s happened though, is sometimes too much of one thing is not always a good thing, but equally I think we have to recognize our privilege in terms of we’ve got the tech, we’ve got the capabilities and space is such a commodity… Sorry, the opposite of a commodity is such a precious resource for a lot of families where you know, that they don’t want a video sort of coming into their homes because they don’t want people to see their spaces because sometimes those spaces are just not for video.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely.

Shameem Smillie: And I keep reading and seeing and talking to people about families that don’t have access to the tech that allows them to do that homeland in, or even to do their jobs and bandwidth who would have thought that bandwidth would become such a utility as in it’s crucial, it’s as important as electricity almost as without that we’re all paralyzed.

Shelly Kramer: Right.

Shameem Smillie: And there’s all of those, I think that is exacerbated. And this created a compelling event. That’s forced businesses and us as humans to make technology our friend and see the benefits, leverage the benefit so that we could enhance our lives and get what we need to connect to other human beings.

Shelly Kramer: Right. Well, and sometimes to your point about privilege. I cannot agree with that anymore. And I will also say that, that’s kind of been one of the mantras that I’ve preached to my children as we’ve navigated this. I’ve said, we are so fortunate. You need to step back and check yourself. We have a house and we have plenty of room and we have a house with a yard and all of us have a corner that we can go to and your mom’s a techie. We have every piece of equipment on the planet. So it’s been great to see initiatives certainly here in the U.S. about trying to bridge the digital divide as it relates to bandwidth.

And as it also relates to technology equipment, and we’ve seen lots of big companies step up, Dell for is top of mine. And they’ve done a ton of work with their sort of refurbished computers program and getting them into the hands of people who need them. I know Amazon and Microsoft have done some great things as well. So that’s such an important thing is just recognizing privilege. And I think that it’s incumbent upon us who are privileged to do everything that we can to help bridge that divide, to help get people the technology solutions and the equipment and the bandwidth that they need. And I think that we’ve seen a lot of that happen and we need to keep seeing more of that. I think that’s super important. So we’ve talked a little bit about remote work. What do you think is ahead as it relates to remote work? Is everybody heading back to the office?

Shameem Smillie: Well, I had a conversation just the other day where I’m already hearing that because the vaccines are being rolled out, people are starting to talk about going back to the office. And I think a lot of businesses are talking about almost going back to the world that we were in pre lockdown and pre COVID. And in part that quite saddens me because I think we should have learned a lot of lessons from this last year. And the one thing I would hope that we take from it is that we can survive. We’re very resilient globally as people. And what we do need to do is be more flexible to the people that work in the same organizations and work in going into the office all the time is not necessary anymore. Obviously depending on what your profession is, but I think there should be choice.

People should be allowed to do hybrid models where they go into the office a couple of times a week maybe, and work from home. To your point, if you’re a parent and you’re juggling lots of responsibilities at home, it makes sense that you can go and do the school drop-offs, pickups and still have a fulfilling career and a fulfilling job that isn’t restricted by the things that were restricted by pre COVID. But that means trusting your people and trusting people to do the right thing, even when nobody’s looking, because I think the fact remains that if you don’t have that trust, then that therein lies the problem and people who are not going to do the right thing are not going to do the right thing regardless. So we shouldn’t think that we have to micromanage to get the best out of our people to get the best from the business to serve our customers.

Shelly Kramer: I think business leaders have learned a lot as a facility of a shift to work from home. And I think that many leaders who felt like there’s no way that people can be as productive and there’s no way that we can trust people or all those things. I think they’ve learned that it can happen and that people are productive. And I talk with people all the time. In some instances, people are so much more productive working from home. I’ve always been one of those people. I do a lot of writing. I do a lot of thinking. I love quiet. I’m perfectly well-suited to work from home, so I’ve loved seeing that and how that’s changed. And I do think that, what we’re looking at is a hybrid situation and that people who love officing and gathering and going into a physical place, I think that we’ll see that.

And I think that we’ll also see people being able to work from home with greater ease. And I think that we’ll see a combination of both, and I think that’s good for people. I think it’s good for business. I think it’s good for employees. And I think that’s important. I know a lot of your world at Mitel is really being immersed with customers and their experiences. What kind of challenges have you seen businesses struggling with as they’ve adapted over the course of the last year?

Shameem Smillie: Well, we’ve been talking about, and I think the world has been talking about, especially in tech, digital transformation, but even though we’ve been talking about it since forever, a lot of businesses still haven’t executed on their plans, on their strategy. And obviously the pandemic came, smashed everybody against the head and they had to execute pretty quickly. But I think because nobody foresees how long this was going to last. Some of those solutions are implemented where I call them bandaid solutions. They were there very temporary and very fragile. So a lot of organizations are still sweating their assets that they’ve layered on siloed applications and in the hope that we could revert back and be back to, what it was pre COVID and that isn’t happened. So what needs to happen is that there needs to be a refresh plan a continual evolution whereby the measures that are put in place are permanent. So a lot of organizations need to rethink their infrastructure because you can’t build on a rocky foundation. There’s just no point.

But equally, whatever you put in place, make sure that it’s going to be with you for the long-term in terms of making sure that it provides flexibility, that you can turn on new services because tech is evolving pretty dramatically. And I think what COVID did was almost create hyper growth in technology and people are consuming it much, much faster than they’ve ever done before. And you talked about demographics as well. I get really frustrated when people talk about a certain age group are the ones that use chat and video. And I just want to call BS on that because it’s just not true. My mother is 81 years old and she videoed me for the first time on her own of her own volition.
It was two weeks ago. I nearly fell off my chair. I have to admit, but it was just one dress. And it was her need to connect with me that drove her to get past her mind and use the technology and we’re chatting on video all the time when she’s in her eighties. And I think it’s never been more important but it’s our job. It’s our responsibility as tech vendors to make it easy for everybody and remove the barriers to tech and make it consumable and easy to consume by everybody. That’s what we all should be doing more of.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And I think another lesson that the pandemic has taught us, and many of us who are immersed in the digital transformation space, know this and have known this for a long time. But the news flash is that the rate of technology change is not going to slow down. In fact, as quickly as it has seemed to move, it is going to continue to get faster and faster and faster. And so it really is understanding that this is a journey, understand that digital transformation never ends and that you always need to be evaluating your systems and your processes and your equipment and everything. I think that’s a really big deal. And by the way, my 83 year old mother-in-law was just speaking with her last night. And she was telling me about, she had done a zoom meeting the day before with her church group and nine 80 something year old ladies are used to meeting in person and spending time once a week being good Christian ladies. And they’ve made a switch to zoom and it just never occurred to them that they’d have to.

And one other point that I think is relevant here is that we did some research earlier, probably in late 2020. And one of the things that we learned that people told us that they had done as a result of the pandemic is that when they needed to shift to work from home, many of them did not have the right systems in place. They did not have solutions. They hadn’t really thought it out. And what they said to their employees was we don’t care what you use, just go use whatever you need to do. There’s not a company-wide edict. You want to use Microsoft teams, you want to use zoom. You want to use this. You want to use that. All of these other solutions out there, there was rarely a corporate mandate that this is what we’re doing.

And what that caused is a lot of different silos within the organization, huge security risks. And then what happened as the year progressed is that companies started saying, “Whoa, we’ve got to get strategic about this. We’ve got to get our arms around this. We’ve got to make a plan. We’ve got to make sure we have the right vendor partners in place. We’ve got to make sure our context centers are doing what they want to do, all of that sort of thing.” So I think it’s really interesting, how we’ve progressed as we’ve gone through the course of the last year. So as we shift into a more normal way, what are your thoughts on what kind of adjustments businesses are going to need to make?

Shameem Smillie: Well, I think it’s clear that you need to be online. You need a mechanism to allow your customers to engage, not where you are, but where they are. And in a remote world, it’s going to be online. It’s going to be on the internet. And I think most businesses need to improve on their online presence. They need to make things easy for customers to contact them because I see so much. I’m a bit of a geek and if I see a chance on the business side, I have a go at it because I’m just interested in what looks good. What is good? I’m probably a bit of a tough customer as well, but there’s so many businesses that are almost in that they tried to stop their customers from contacting them, putting walls up, forcing them to go down a route that suits the business and I think customers is really savvy. They know when that’s happening to them. And I think that is a big mistake.

Shelly Kramer: It is.

Shameem Smillie: And I think whilst, video is good and chat is good. And artificial intelligence is wonderful. Customers sometimes just want to talk and we should allow them to and provide that service for them because it’s their right as a consumer. And thinking about positively, when, when we are in a better place, customers will remember the businesses that absolutely took care of them, took away the roadblocks and the bottlenecks and allowed them to communicate on their terms on a media of their choice at a time that’s convenient to them. So gone on the days where we have Monday to Friday, nine until five, closed on a weekend. [inaudible] the window. If I wake up at three o’clock in the morning and I want to communicate, I’ll get business done for me. I should be able to do it. Today, I want to self-serve, tomorrow I might want to chat, but on Sunday I may want to call in. I should have all of those options and use them as I see fit.

Shelly Kramer: I think that every person watching has had an experience where you think, you’re in the middle of an experience as a customer, and you think, I cannot believe like this does not need to be so difficult. And then the more difficult it becomes, the more you resolve to think about how you can replace this vendor with someone who actually shows you that they care about you and that they’ll make the experience easy. And sometimes those customer relationships are a hundred thousand, $200,000 customer relationships. And it really is as customers. I think we want what we want when we want it. We’re not generally unreasonable. We just want you to meet us. Like you said earlier, it was such a salient observation, that you meet them where they are. With that in mind, what do we tell the brands out there, where do they play? How do they win? What capabilities do they need to meet their customers, where they are and to be able to serve their needs?

Shameem Smillie: Well, I think first of all, they have to understand their customers and they have to understand what it’s like to be in the customer shoes. And I just want to caveat that none of this is new. These are things we’ve been talking about since forever, but it just needs to be done and done properly. And the amount of times that I speak to businesses and I ask, “Okay, do you know what the customer experience is today?” And a lot of them do but a lot of them don’t. And do you understand all the different touch points, all the things that cause your customers misery and pain and the frustration? And they think you just have to do the basics, understand the customer journey, but understand your people as well, understand what it’s like to be an agent in the contact center, understand what it’s like to be on the front line, dealing with not just customer issues, but solving customer problems and challenges, because it’s not all about selling and upselling.

It’s about nurturing and maintaining those customer relationships. And I think more important almost needs to be made on customer retention more and not just when the contract is about to expire, but to your point, it should just be something that’s done all of the time. Not when you’re thinking, “Oh, they’re going to go to the competition.” Because I think customers will put up with an inordinate amount of let’s call it pain. If we communicate with them authentically, we’re open and we’re honest, transparent, and they will just be so understanding, especially if I’m talking to somebody about home and they say, “Hang on a second, my stepdaughter just needs this.” Or I live four feet from my cat litter tray and sometimes it just stinks and I just have to do something about it and people are just so nice. Fundamentally people are nice and they will be accommodating and they will be flexible. And I think we have to do the same.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah, I agree. And I think that really the secret to a competitive advantage is really so easy. It’s all about having a customer centric focus. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been immersed in solving a problem through a contact center or some other method with a company. And just thinking about there is no way that any senior person has walked through this customer experience, the way that I am walking through it, because if they had these things would not be happening. And by the way, this is not the call center agents fault.

Shameem Smillie: Exactly. Thank you.

Shelly Kramer: No, and it is. So when you think about how do we establish a competitive advantage? It’s really easy. Customers first. Every part of that experience put under the microscope and think about what technology solutions you’re relying on. How are they serving our customers? How are they integrating into the rest of the organization? And I think that’s really what it’s all about.

Shameem Smillie: How many times have you spoken to somebody in a contact center? And they’re like, “Oh, I’m really sorry. My system’s really slow.” And you know, they’re having to navigate lots of different applications. Their [inaudible] hasn’t got enough horsepower to manage everything. And I know what that’s like, and it’s really frustrating.

Shelly Kramer: And the other thing to keep in mind is the customer mindset. When we have to call a contact center, we are not happy. We are not calling because we are having our best days. We are calling as a last resort because we have a problem that we can’t solve on our own. And so we’re sucking it up and we’re taking a deep breath and we’re phoning friends, we’re asking for help. And so, really empowering those contact center agents to be able to provide the very best service in a quick and seamless way, and to have personalized information at your fingertips. And it’s not rocket science, the technology exists. So I think that’s really important. I want to get-

Shameem Smillie: Sorry. You just talked about empowerment and I think as well on the people side of it, the people within the business, it’s obvious that a lot of them are not empowered because if you think about some of the things that happens to a customer, how often they have to put you on hold, but they’re putting you on hold because they have to ask their manager permission. Can they do X, Y, and that, and I’m sitting there thinking why isn’t the person empowered to make these kinds of decisions? Because they know me, they know what I’ve just gone through and all it does is make that interaction insanely long and then frustrations just build and build and build.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. So talking about these things, I think is so fascinating. Can you share with us any customer success stories that you’ve experienced that might help our audience here kind of understand what it is that other customers are experiencing and how we can get them there?

Shameem Smillie: So one of the beauties of the solution that… It sounds insane. Because I have a passion and I love customer experience, and I love contact center technology as well, because when it’s used for the power of good, it does wondrous things. And anybody that knows me knows I have this insane love for inanimate objects, but it’s just because I’m just into it. But anyway, my point is that and it’s not because I worked for a tech vendor, I live and breathe this every day. The same solution is the same solution, regardless of whether you use it in the office at home. So it becomes familiar, it becomes easy. It becomes intuitive. I think anything that’s a problem to use where you need a degree in rocket science is going to cause anguish, it’s going to cause anxiety. And it’s going to add pain to the agents, to the customers out there serving.

So the winds have been when one of the scenarios is when we pivoted to working from home, a lot of my Dell customers already had the capabilities to do that. They didn’t have to write any additional checks, but literally all they had to do was have you got a internet connection at home? Yes. Well, you can either use a soft phone or a desk phone and you’ve got this exactly the same setup. So if you can reduce the amount of change that a business has to experience, then it makes things much, much better. And I think that was one of the pluses is that they already had the capabilities and part of my job was reminding businesses that they have got that capability already there today.

And they’ve somehow just forgotten about it because they’re getting just bogged down in the day-to-day of trials and tribulations of business life. So being able to flip a switch and get everybody homework in and realizing you can still be as effective and safe and secure, I want to highlight safe and secure because that is critical to all of this as well. And that’s been one of the bonuses I think of being able to add more value and have different types of conversations about the benefits of this technology, I guess.

Shelly Kramer: Awesome. So talk with us a little bit, we’ve had a question here about what capabilities do we need? What equipment do we need? What are the tangible things that we need to be able to deliver?

Shameem Smillie: Wow. You need infrastructure. So you need internet. You need a communication platform to be the base. And yet it kind of depends on what your business needs, but you need an application that’s going to allow you to manage, measure and enable your agents to communicate with customers. But more importantly, none of this is new and none of it’s rocket science is its still all about people, process systems, have you got the right systems in place? And you can have the best systems, but if your processes are not aligned to the environment that you’re working in, then it causes anguish. And understanding the types of, how do your customers communicate with you today? How do they want to communicate with you? Just because they’ve always emailed in today, doesn’t mean that’s where they want to continue to do.

It’s going to be more convenient that they want to engage. I don’t know, on WhatsApp or on Facebook Messenger or on Twitter. And we need to be able to manage it, monitor it, understand where customers are talking and join them in those conversations to offer our assistance. Cell service is critical. So there’s lots of things that we can do ourselves. We don’t need a human to be involved and we should be leveraging that talent. And I do believe agents are super talented. We should be leveraging them for the complex, for those conversations that require a deeper sense of empathy, which wouldn’t necessarily fit a chat bot as an example.

But chat bots have their place in the world when they’re used and they’re used really well. They can take tens of time and effort from agents and from opening times, I just want to know when are you open? When are you closed? That’s something I shouldn’t need to talk to a human about but just being able to Google or go onto the chat bot on the business website and find out under my own steam… Sorry, I just want to make sure that I’m being clear so I can go off on a tangent.

Shelly Kramer: Yeah. I think it makes perfect sense. And what I really think is to me, one of the most important things that you’ve said is that we could be talking about this is the equipment you need to buy. The reality of successful digital transformation and having a customer first focus and everything else is that technology alone is never the answer. It’s all about technology plus people plus processes. And so from a strategic standpoint, when you’re thinking about how do we do this? How do we put a strategy in place? How do we use this to develop a competitive advantage? It always goes back to the right technology solution.

And I will say that having the right vendor partner in whether it’s my Mitel or anyone and I don’t mean go work with anyone. But my point is partnerships are so important and finding that vendor partner who truly has a track record of success in what it is you want to accomplish, who has a great service and support component to whatever it is they’re selling you and you can tell who those partners are and when they fit it’s a beautiful partnership. And then focusing on your culture and your people and how they adapt to new technology solutions and how they adopt new technology solutions. And then what processes do you have and how do you augment those processes with things like RPA chatbots, all that sort of thing. When do you do that? When do you rely on humans who can bring the empathy and the critical thinking to solve problems? And all of that is part of a big puzzle that when you put it together the right way, it really makes magical things happen.

Shameem Smillie: I couldn’t agree more. And you said that so wonderfully. And I think, one of the things that I wished would happen more often is that bringing in the stakeholders and recognizing the contact center personnel need to be part of that conversation. They are key stakeholders. They understand the business. I think contact centers are the hub of any business. It’s the heart. It’s where everything happens.

All the meaningful conversations, whether it be happiness, pain is a revenue generating hub as well. Yet a lot of decisions are made outside of that community. And when I engage with a business, the first thing I want to know is, where are these operate?

Where are the operational people? Where are the people that use this stuff? And we need to understand what are their pain points in order to solve business problems. We need to understand what that looks like. We need to understand the challenges, we need to understand all of that so that we can work with them to help them understand where technology could be their friend and not just launching, lots of speeds and feeds and features and tech at the problem, because none of it works unless all those magic components is used. So eloquently just laid out, addressed at the same time they’re often parallel activities.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely, absolutely. So as we wrap up our conversation this is the future of work. And the future of work we know is powered by technology and working alongside people. And we’re pretty sure the workplace of the future of the workplace of now is going to be hybrid. And we’re going to have people working from corporate offices. We’re going to have people working from home. They need the right technology solutions to make them be able to serve customers. And really with all of it, it’s just starting with a customer centric focus. And I think that really is the secret to success. What do our customers need? How can we get it to them? What technology can we rely on to help us serve our customers more effectively? What are the processes that we put in place to make that technology work? So I think that it’s an exciting time.

Shameem Smillie: Yeah. And never stopping, always doing your checks and balances. What looks good today doesn’t necessarily look good next week and just look into do continual improvements all the time.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. Well, Shameem Smillie from Mitel. Thank you so much for hanging out with me today. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you and just to share thinking as we navigate these interesting journeys that we’re on. And I do hope that we’ll do it again soon. You’ve been awesome.

Shameem Smillie: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Shelly Kramer: Absolutely. And for all of you who hung out with us today, thank you so much. We always love seeing your smiling faces. And if you have any questions, pop them into the chat. I think we’ll also share some resources. We’ve got an ebook from Mitel and we might have some other resources that we’ll share there that will help you if you’re on this journey yourself. And with that, we are over and out for the day and have a great rest of the day.

Author Information

Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”


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