The 2012 ATA Convention and Expo

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineThe 2012 ATA Convention and Expo was held April 29–May 2, 2012, at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida. The conference sessions began Monday morning with motivational speaker Garrison Wynn, who bills himself as an advisor, author, and professional entertainer. Early in his career Garrison worked in the call center industry, starting as an agent and working his way up through the ranks to become a department head at age twenty-seven, overseeing a Fortune 500 company’s call center operations for much of the United States. With this as part of his background, Garrison was able to interject his call center experiences and knowledge into what he shared. His presentation, “Making the Most of Difficult Situations: Managing Customer Experience in a Changing World,” was enthusiastically delivered to a packed crowd, eager to begin the conference.

The next general session was held just prior to lunch. ATA president and CEO Phil Grudzinski talked about changes in the world, society, and business and shared how these changes are affecting the contact center industry, – specifically ATA and its members. The obvious assessment is that we are already doing much more than answering and making calls. More than just teleservices, we are also increasingly involved with digital communications and social media interactions. These are not momentary blips that will soon disappear but significant trends that will become more pronounced and essential as we move into the future.

To reflect this and to better serve its members, ATA is embarking on a rebranding effort. With Phil providing the background reasons, ATA chair emeritus Lisa DeFalco made a monumental announcement. Standing in front of the ATA board, chapter presidents, and past board presidents who were symbolically showing their support, she announced that ATA would heretofore be known as PACE: the Professional Association for Customer Engagement. She explained that PACE will be “an association built for the multi-channel customer service and support industry.” The announcement was met with member applause from attendees.

While this was taking place, the ATA staff, now the PACE staff, was busy updating the convention signs with the new PACE name and logo. We started the session as ATA and emerged as PACE. There was much buzz and positive discussion about this during the events and informal gatherings afterwards. If there were any naysayers, they were not sharing their opinions.

The third general session was held on Tuesday morning. Growth consultant Lynn Hinderaker (who calls himself a “postmodern platform trainer and corporate analyst”) was the featured speaker. His message, “Serving the Emotive Customer in the Digital World,” nicely reinforced and then built upon the information Phil shared the prior day about the changing realities in our industry and the rebranding initiative to become PACE. Lynn gave us much to think about in terms of how we run our businesses, the business season we are in, and how the appropriate leadership style and management perspective needs to change over time with each season.

Interspersed with these three general sessions were five educational time slots, each providing four breakout opportunities, for an additional twenty presentations. The convention and expo had approximately 315 preregistered attendees, forty exhibitors, and twenty-five event sponsors.

Sunday’s preliminary events – the ATA golf outing and ATA tennis tournament – were hampered by the weather. Although temperatures were in the 70s, it was raining and windy, with gusts exceeding 30 mph. This weather continued into Monday, with the rain tapering off Tuesday in time for Wednesday’s Call Center Care event, which this year collaborated with Feeding South Florida for ATA’s philanthropic outing that concludes each convention.

Next year, the PACE Convention and Expo will be held March 10-13, 2113, at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona.

[From Connection Magazine June 2012]

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