Carita Vallinkoski, Senior Executive-Expansion Management at Competence Call Center AG in Vienna, Austria is Chair of the final judging committee of the Customer Service & Contact Center Team categories in the 2012 Stevie Awards for Sales & Customer Service. (The final entry deadline for the awards is January 18.)
We asked Carita what it takes to create a successful customer service or call center team.
What are your top tips on how to create a successful customer service or call center team?
My years of experience as a Contact Center leader, building up Call Centers, and leading large teams of people, have taught me that the employees are the main asset in a company, so my top tips are:
- Treat every human being with respect and empathy
Be it employees or customers.
- Always give your team a vision.
Your people need to know whom to follow, what direction to take, and for what purpose. Make sure this information is clear and easy to understand.
- Support and motivate your team
Investing your time, energy, and love will help your people in providing excellent customer service because they will feel that you care about them and that you take them seriously.
- Care about your team and your team will care of your customers
Always remember that your employees are the entrepreneurs in your company.
What item of news recently caught your eye and why?
The passing away of Steve Jobs touched me very deeply. He was a great person, and I remembered some of the sayings from his Commencement Speech in 2005: “We are here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?” and “… the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it.“
His autobiography (I, Steve: Steve Jobs In His Own Words) motivates, inspires, and helps me because his thoughts and views resonate with me. For example: “Sometimes the things that sound so simple are the most important and difficult ones in life, like: do what you love.” I have the book on the dresser opposite my bed and whenever I catch a glimpse of Steve’s kind face it helps me to contemplate these views and to motivate me. He changed all our lives and I thank him for that every second of the day.
What is your favorite sport or hobby?
In my spare time I love to be outdoors, to walk my dog, and to watch and interact with animals. I also love talking to people from all over the world, to encounter new cultures, and to get to know different views and opinions. I´m always keen to share new ideas, to broaden my mind, and to try to become a better person. I think about life a great deal: about helping people, animals, and the planet—I still have to find a way to do that!
If you could choose another profession, what would it be?
I would love to either take care of animals or to be an aid worker with Caritas or Médecins Sans Frontières. I wish I had the strength, backbone, character, and energy that it takes to be an activist for some good cause protecting children, animals, or nature. I would love to fight unfairness everywhere in order to make the world a better place.
Instead, I channel this energy into what I do in my work life by helping employees and customers. Thomas Kloibhofer, our CEO and founder, taught me from my first days at CCC that it is “always about helping.” The most satisfying thing about this work is to be able to say: “Today I helped hundreds of customers to have one challenge less and to be happier.” That is a great feeling.
What quality or qualities do you most value in your business associates?
Integrity, honesty, humor, values, ethics, and good morals. Plus a good common vision and the same understanding of partnership. The sense of being a unit, the sense of togetherness, and of “having each other’s back”—always.
As someone at the top of your profession, what keeps you inspired or makes you hit the ground running in the morning?
What keeps me inspired is the vision of helping customers at the end of the line and of developing our employees. I want to be there for the employee on the one side and for our company on the other, and to bring these two worlds together. And finally, I want to bring in the customers and their interests.
I never forget where I came from: I was a customer service rep and sales agent and I know how tough and challenging this life can be. My aim is to develop an even better service understanding and environment for everyone. My wishes are to continue watching our company grow and our people developing—and to grow old as part of this company.
About Carita Vallinkoski
Carita Vallinkoski has held the position of Expansion Manager at Competence Call Center (CCC) since 2007 and has been responsible for the continuous development of existing CCC locations, the evaluation of potential markets, and the set-up of new CCC operations. During her time as call center manager, she had overall responsibility for personnel, commerce, and technology, and the management of more than 600 employees.
Carita was awarded the CAt-Award for Call Center Manager of the Year at CallCenterWorld® in 2001; and received the award for Best Contact Center Leader in the world at the 2006 Contact Center World Conference in Las Vegas for her management services in the call center business and for her strategic leadership of employees. Her seventeen years of call center experience in the areas of outsourcing, consulting, training, call center set-up, implementation, and employee motivation make her a leading expert in the call center and customer care industry in Europe.
Competence Call Center is one of Europe’s leading call centers.At ten locations in seven countries, more than 3,000 service professionals provide top quality international call center services. CCC is a financially strong, rapidly expanding company with a clear focus on quality. For more information, go to www.yourccc.com.
Q&A with Carita Vallinkoski, Customer Service Awards Committee Chair Judge