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Meet the Team: Paul Barclay, Chief Operating Officer

Paul is a career customer operations and service specialist with extensive B2B/B2C leadership experience across many sectors and business sizes (including Sainsburys, Homebase, AkzoNobel, Close Brothers and Premium Credit as well as co-founding Tabeo, a Fintech startup).

Along with considerable multi-channel transformation, change and project management experience from both leadership and system implementation perspectives, Paul likes to work collaboratively, focusing strongly on engaging people and developing teams to deliver success.

Q1) How did you break into the contact centre industry?

In my early career, I joined the Sainsbury’s Management Trainee scheme which had a reputation for delivering strong operational leaders.

Combined with my focus on people, it was a natural move from managing customer service and checkout teams in large stores to leading the contact centre for Homebase. It was during Homebase’s acquisition of Texas Homecare that my journey in the contact centre space was cemented. Once I’d integrated the centres from both businesses, there was no going back.

Q2) What experiences have shaped your leadership style?

Over the years, I’ve merged customer operations across acquired businesses with different cultures, co-founded a start-up with just a handful of employees, and worked across the world for a multi-national FTSE100. In every case, success was built on getting the right people together and giving them the space to operate and shine.

Without exception, bringing teams on the journey with me and my leadership team has delivered the highest performance, the best transformations, the highest team and customer satisfaction, and the greatest rewards.

Q3) What achievement are you most proud of during your time at Cirrus so far?

Driving as much collaboration as possible between functions. Our customers don’t see – and don’t want to see – any disjoint between subject matter experts, sales, developers, operations and customer success teams. Facilitating the various functional areas and teams to work collaboratively and always think first about our customers, the businesses, and their needs is immensely satisfying.

Q4) What’s your current number one goal for Cirrus?

Showing our partners and customers that Cirrus is not just another tech business.

Our business is contact centres and everything that comes with them. We have the people, expertise and knowledge (supported by tech tools) to help our customers add value to their businesses by maximising their team’s productivity, minimise cost, and improve employee & customer satisfaction.

Q5) What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

The two most valuable pieces of advice I’ve received apply both in business and home environments.

  1. Be decisive: procrastination is perfectionism in disguise. Be pragmatic to achieve success.
  2. Create deliverable action plans: intentions are nothing without discipline and planning.
Q6) What is the most common challenge you hear about from clients?

More often than not, we hear customers discussing how to best manage the range of enquiries from their customers in a way that delivers the best use of automation and agent help – and across multiple channels. It needs to be seamless, preserving customer satisfaction and delivered in a cost-efficient way.

Customer needs rise as society demands better service. Automation can help in some cases, although often human interaction is more valuable or appropriate. That’s where Cirrus really delivers, using voice and digital channels to offer the most appropriate solutions (and combinations) for both high volume, low complexity challenges, or for low volume, high complexity environments. And of course, delivering in that omnichannel scenario.

Q7) What do you see as being the biggest development in the contact centre industry in the next 5 years?

Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is advancing rapidly and is leaving the early days of rather poor voice recognition in its wake. We’re now seeing semi-automation, automation and AI evolve into truly usable offerings. Cirrus’ artificial intelligence solution is already being used across multiple sectors to great effect, typically alongside voice and other digital and social channels.

Will automation and AI eliminate agents? No. I believe the flexibility to offer either automated, AI led, or human service is the sweet spot for contact centres in the future. It’s all about balance.