Monthly Archives: January 2008

Cast in a new role

In what felt a bit like an unexpected call in the middle of the night, back in October, the 21st to be specific, I received an email from a former client of mine with whom I have consulted off and on since around 1988 asking whether I’d be willing to consider “an assignment for a year or so in New Mexico.” Having already retired and, I’ll admit, having begun to resign myself to the inevitable decline that leads to the end of life, I was surprised and invigorated by his suggestion so I followed up with him just to learn what the possibilities were. That conversation and subsequent events have now led to a new opportunity for me, a new role. And just this last week, I received a formal offer to become the Call Center Manager for the Vertex Outsourcing call center in Las Vegas, NM — not Nevada mind you, but New Mexico.

Las Vegas, NM, is a relatively small but historic town nestled in the northeastern quadrant of the state at an elevation of 6,424 feet, higher even than the Mile High City of Denver. This site was chosen as the location for the call center because of its lack of disruptions due to weather (316 days of sunshine a year) and because of the work ethic and skills of its bilingual local population. However, this small, historic (which also implies old) town became something of an obstacle in locating a qualified individual to move there and manage the operation. And that, it turns out, was what caused my friend to think of me. Because I am 66, unattached and don’t have small children who would have to attend the Las Vegas school system, my maturity and prior experiences made him think of me as a desirable candidate who might be open to moving there.

“A year or so,” as originally suggested by my friend, has actually turned out to be two years when we got down to specifying the details of the agreement. I will move to New Mexico, maintain my house here in Knoxville, and return here after the two year contract is up. My objectives are to develop and sustain a culture in the center that causes the employees to feel valued and respected and that results in their conveying those same things to the customers in the calls they take from them. Although there are of course performance metrics that must be met as well, the primary objective for me is to nurture the kind of environment that is rarely sustained in a call center, so that customers are treated as valued assets rather than interruptions in the representatives’ busy, stressful and sometimes monotonous day. That’s an interesting challenge that I have often tried in my consulting assignments to help other managers achieve with, I will acknowledge, varying degrees of success. Now for the first time in my career I’ll have the authority and accountability to do just that myself. I welcome the challenge, and I believe I’ll find it both educational and interesting.

The other major goal I’ll have while there is to identify and train my replacement. Through modeling the behaviors needed to run a call center in this way and by coaching this potential replacement in his or her use of those same behaviors, I’ll seek to create an environment that can keep going without interruption when my time on site is up.

I haven’t yet decided what this move will mean to my blogging. Since beginning to discuss the possible move, I’ve chosen not to update my blog because I didn’t want to discuss these events online until they were firm enough to be revealed. And once I do assume the new role, I’m not sure how much I want to blog about what will surely occupy most of my thinking throughout the day, nor do I know how much time I might have for an activity like blogging. I suppose I could keep writing about technology as I’ve done through much of the last couple of years, but there are other blogs that already do a better job of that than I do. So my blogging may be a casualty of my new role, but that hasn’t yet been decided and remains to be seen.

At least now you know what has been going on with me for the last several months and why I’ve not been posting here as frequently as I used to. I’m about to embark on “Perry’s Excellent Adventure” in New Mexico, so if you happen to be traveling through the southwest feel free to look me up. I’m sure I’d welcome seeing a face “from home.”