Leading through non-stop change

Customer Service Recruitment Industry

I recently attended the Contact Centre Institute of New Zealand (CCiNZ) National Conference for the second year in a row. After last year I was wondering how they could possibly top last year’s exhibitors and speakers; the event continues to get bigger and better.

For those that weren’t able to attend or might be interested in some of the day’s content, I thought I would provide an overview of the speakers.

CCiNZ Chairman, Haig Davidson, welcomed the event audience stating, “There is no time for complacency in our ever-changing environment of technology and customer experience. Today is going to be an insightful day to reign in how we should lead our staff and our business units in this ‘cloud’ we find ourselves in”.

Sir Gordon Tietjens – Rugby sevens legend and coach

Keynote speaker, Sir Gordon Tietjens, gave some insight from his experience leading in the sporting and business worlds. I was captivated during his presentation. My key takeaways were:

  • Feedback is the key to growth. Have courageous conversations
  • Consistency in performance comes from nutrition – you are what you eat. Promote a healthy eating culture, subsidise healthy food, etc. Encouraging nutrition results in overall employee wellness
  • Be positive to get the best out of people, pick employees up from miss-steps or mistakes. Address negatives in a positive way and deliver the message well
  • When recruiting, don’t go for the person with the best CV – select on coachability and character
  • Nip any negativity within the culture in the bud and don’t let it fester
  • 80% of business usually comes from 20% of your customers, so nurture them

John Cray – VP of Product Management at Enghouse Interactive

Something to ponder from the second speaker, was a prediction from Frost & Sullivan:

  • “By 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator”.

Eileen Oliver-Free – Head of Commercial at Skills

I didn’t have time to write down much from Eileen because I was too busy laughing! She is highly motivating and her leadership tips were to:

  • Identify how to motivate your team to bring out their individual strengths
  • Enable your team and share knowledge
  • FEC – Focus, Enable and Care

Lisa O’Neill – keynote speaker and motivator

Next up was Lisa O’Neill, another hilarious and highly entertaining speaker. Some of her advice for those working in customer service, for energy levels were:

  • Get eight hours sleep, try setting an alarm to go bed – because going to bed is equally as hard as getting out of bed
  • If you lose an hour of sleep each night, by Friday you’ve lost close to an entire night. You’ll die from loss of sleep before you die of lack of food
  • Stay hydrated – because the only difference between a grape and a raisin is water

 Michelle Dickinson – Nanotechnologist

Michelle had some tough acts to follow and she delivered with her passion for nanotechnology. My key takeaways were:

  • To have goals, but don’t have them too far in the future that you get stuck on the goal and aren’t able to adapt it. Don’t be so focused on a goal that you forget why it was a goal in the first place.
  • Do something you love, find your passion and educate yourself to increase your skill-set.

Pranay Anand – communications industry veteran

Pranay spoke about his 17-year communications experience and the highlight for me was a story he told about a telecommunications company that dared to think differently by offering its customers a free sim card and free voice calls, only charging for text and Wi-Fi. The owner lost $750 million USD and increased their net worth to $6 billion USD.

Nigel Piper – GM of Customer Success at Xero

The final speaker, talked about his learnings during his four years at Xero and leading a team that has seen their customer base grow from 100,000 to over 1 million. Well known for its unique offering and flexible workplace culture, some things to learn from Xero are:

  • They like being different. A’s hire and attract A’s; culture is everything
  • Don’t schedule your staff, be flexible, let people snooze or take time out when they need to
  • They don’t care what people wear to work as they aren’t in customer facing roles
  • Have an emotional attachment to what you do


On top of the excellent speakers, there were some great exhibitors including training providers, software, equipment and tool companies, and recruitment agencies with interactive stalls to visit between speakers.

Future events

If you work in the contact centre industry and didn’t get to this year’s event, I highly recommend that you register next year, or become a CCiNZ member so you can attend events throughout the year. I also attended the evening annual awards ceremony and there were some deserving winners. Congratulations to all those that were nominated or took out an award!

CCiNZ awards