When his former employer was acquired in 2016, Rob Duncan was given the opportunity to be his own boss. A longtime executive in the customer service space, he had a vision of replacing traditional call centers with remote-work capabilities, giving contractors the freedom to choose where and when they work.
Today, Omni Interactions partners with over 25,000 contracted on-demand customer service providers to support their clients (and they’re continuing to expand their network!) Here, Duncan shares why customer service gets a bad rap, how Omni is working to change things, and the most important factors to consider when venturing out on your own.
Tell us about your professional journey. What inspired you to go out on your own and launch Omni Interactions?
I had always dreamed of starting my own company. Not long after my former employer was acquired by another call center, I was presented with an opportunity to do something new and on my own. I knew there was a better way to organize and think about a people-based business. A company focused on taking care of its team members and removing the pressure of the financials. At Omni, we all truly believe if you take care of your people, the financials will take care of themselves.
What are some of the best things about being a founder?
The best part is not having a boss to explain decisions to all the time! I also really value the freedom to take risks and be creative without fear of failure. I want everyone at Omni to feel the same way. One of our guiding principles is to fail fast and iterate fast. I believe this is one of the reasons we’ve been so successful. We let our team members be themselves, bring new ideas to the table and try new things without fear.
In your mind, what are the fundamentals of stellar customer care?
The best customer care resolves issues in a timely and accurate manner. If someone is contacting customer care, it’s usually due to a problem. I know I want to speak to someone who can resolve that question quickly, as we are all busy. The representative should be able to understand the customer’s issue, use all of their resources to find the accurate answer, and then follow up to ensure the issue is resolved. The key item here is using all your resources to help solve the issue. That could be your fellow contractors, the internet, technology, or training. Don’t limit yourself to one resource when looking for answers.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
Early in my career growth, the biggest challenge I had was presenting in front of people. As they always say, public speaking is people’s biggest fear. When I was younger, I was not comfortable presenting in front of a group of people. Like anything else, I had to work at it to get better—and I came to find out that I have a point of view people want to hear.
Can you tell us about the interview process at Omni and what you look for in candidates?
We like to have several team members talk and interact with candidates. This gives us the opportunity to have several points of view on a candidate and, more importantly, it gives the candidate the opportunity to hear from people across the organization and see for themselves if Omni would be a good fit for them. We are looking for people who are “force multipliers”—meaning, they have a real expertise in their area and know how to leverage technology solve problems. We are growing rapidly, and looking to hire across a variety of sectors: talent acquisition, digital learning, gig force management, digital technology and transformation, as well as client success.
What’s your elevator pitch for working at Omni?
We think differently about how we are approaching this industry. We aim to solve customer issues faster and better, in ways you don’t see in traditional, legacy companies.
What skills and traits have helped you succeed in your career?
I believe there are a few key skills that help someone accelerate professionally.
First, you don’t need an Ivy League degree to be a good problem solver. Don’t be afraid to tap into your own life experiences and expertise to come up with creative solutions.
Next, be resourceful. There are so many ways to learn quickly about a subject or issue you may be dealing with. Talk with your friends and team members, scour the internet, or read a book on what others have done in similar situations.
Lastly, become a force multiplier. A force multiplier is an expert in their field who understands how to leverage technology to solve problems in that field. Become an expert in your field by studying as much as you can about it and then learning about all the technology related to it.
Why is it an especially exciting time to work at Omni?
To start, we are one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. But more importantly, it’s rare to be a part of a team that’s transforming an industry. That’s what we’re doing here at Omni. We’ve eliminated the geographical sourcing boundaries of traditional customer service models, and that enables the most qualified gig professionals to learn and work anywhere in the country.
What advice do you have for someone who is interested in joining Omni?
Please do your homework and check us out on social media. See if what we’re doing is something you would like to be a part of. We are looking for people who think differently and creatively to solve problems. During the process, be yourself and give us examples of how your skills, personality and experience would make you a great team member. We are a diverse organization pulling from all backgrounds and walks of life.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
A piece of advice that has stayed with me is this quote from the entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rhone: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” To improve yourself, you must be a learner, a student of the world. Take interest in people and what you can learn from them.