page title icon 3 Seismic Challenges Facing Contact Centers

Understanding the challenges of engaging and retaining agents in the era of flexible work arrangements.

In this episode of the Fast Leader Show, Jim Rembach welcomes Nicole Kyle, an expert in the contact center industry since the 1990s. Nicole seeks to understand the current challenges in the industry and explores three seismic challenges facing contact centers. While skill development has been a focal point, Nicole emphasizes the importance of career development and how the majority of agents now view their role as a long-term commitment. 

Nicole introduces a competency model for leaders consisting of seven competencies, with a mix of hard and soft skills. This model emphasizes the significance of how leaders engage with their teams and work together, rather than just following processes. Their company offers certifications in these competencies, recognizing their value in developing effective leaders. 

Flexibility is crucial in structuring career development, and Nicole’s company uses a segmentation model to categorize employees based on their motivators. This enables them to tailor career development programs to individual needs. Moreover, Nicole expands on flexibility in the workplace, encouraging leaders to consider not only work location but also the type of work and distribution of tasks to prevent burnout and foster engagement.

Agent engagement and retention are major challenges for customer contact leaders due to the ongoing shift in the labor market. These challenges revolve around effective management dynamics, operationalizing flexibility, and offering flexibility that meets personal needs. Nicole’s insights on leadership competencies, personalization, motivation strategies, and operationalized flexibility provide valuable guidance for industry professionals.

Tune in to this episode of Fast Leader Show to gain valuable insights on navigating the current challenges in the contact center industry and learn how to maximize agent engagement and retention. Get ready to rethink leadership and career development strategies for a future of flexible work.

Nicole Kyle is Managing Director and co-founder of CMP Research. She was born and raised in Rhode Island and is an only child. Nicole’s been playing tennis since she was 7 years old and loves to read fantasy books to “escape.” She started her career in customer contact research in 2012.

Nicole joined CMP in November 2021 from Gartner, where she spent eight years leading research and advisory. Nicole is known for her exceptional work in customer contact, future of work, future of workplace, and employee engagement, delivering frame-breaking insights that have supported critical decision-making across hundreds of enterprise-level leadership teams. Prior to Gartner, Nicole was a journalist and still maintains the natural curiosity of a journalist in her research.

She works on publishing on gender equity, the gender wealth gap, women’s relationship to money, and educating normies, creators, & historically excluded communities about crypto and web3. Co-creator and co-host of I Also Want Money, a podcast to demystify, demasculinize and democratize wealth. She creates content to explore the intersection of money, equality, creativity, and technology. The historic concentration of wealth oppresses and excludes; closing the gender, racial and social wealth gaps, is essential to drive real change.

The legacy she is proud to leave behind includes contributing to positive change.

She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

Fun Fact: Nicole lived and worked in London for five years.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @nicolekyle get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“Skill development is important, but it only goes so far on the career development journey. Agents view their role as a career, not just a job.” – Click to Tweet

“Leadership competency models should focus on both hard and soft skills. It’s about how leaders engage with people and work as a team.” – Click to Tweet

“Flexibility in the workplace extends beyond work location. It should include the type of work and distribution of tasks to prevent burnout.” – Click to Tweet

“The major challenge for contact center leaders is agent engagement and retention. Effective managers and flexible work options are top priorities.” – Click to Tweet

“Empathy training and emotional intelligence are crucial competencies for highly effective managers in a flexible and distributed context.” – Click to Tweet

“Personalization is key in engaging agents. Our segmentation model helps managers understand their team members’ starting points and aptitude for flexibility.” – Click to Tweet

“Short-term, external-based motivation strategies create long-term issues. Identifying a starting point is necessary to improve performance and tenure rates.” – Click to Tweet

“Operationalizing flexibility is a significant driver of agent satisfaction and retention. It goes beyond just offering remote or hybrid work arrangements.” – Click to Tweet

“People now recognize the transferable skills gained from customer contact and are interested in developing a career in the field.” – Click to Tweet

“Knowing the potential career development in customer contact improves agent satisfaction. Agents need clear paths for advancement and opportunities in the business.” – Click to Tweet

Advice for others

Be more confident. Confidence allows you to break free from those holding you back.

Holding her back from being an even better leader


Best Leadership Advice

Do not take advice from people from whom you would not seek it.

Secret to Success / Tools


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