Rafael Manzon: A Man on the Move

By Ann Byle

Rafael Manzon has spent nearly a decade contributing to the contact center industry as part of the ATA. Now he puts his years of experience to work in his new role as CEO of Contact Center Compliance Corp (CCC).

“The ATA gave me a unique perspective on the entire industry,” says Manzon, who was director of business affairs for the international, nonprofit trade association. “I could see the industry from the call center, the consumer, and the government perspective. This will give me a huge advantage as I set the vision and direction for CCC.”

Manzon, who will report to owner and board chairman Ron Allen, calls his move an “organic transition” to the company. “We’re both a little irrationally happy about working with each other,” he says.

Allen agrees. “Rafael brings years of industry experience working with contact center professionals and governments the world over. He brings strong leadership and team-building skills in addition to a focus on forward thinking and creative technology solutions for our clients.”

Early Years: Manzon, who turns thirty in May, has been looking to the future since childhood. His parents left behind a civil war in El Salvador when Rafael was seven, finally settling in tiny Crawfordsville, Indiana. By age twelve, he owned a Web design company, “a clear sign that my passion for industry would not be easily suppressed,” he says.

His father was one of his earliest and most influential mentors. “He was strict, but he always showed me love,” Manzon says. “He taught me to be methodical, solution-oriented, and able to stand on my own two feet.”

He’s still close to his parents, who visit weekly and with whom he speaks almost daily. “While my dad was making me stand on my own, my mom showed up with the food,” he says with a laugh.

Other mentors include Ms. Crull, his third-grade teacher who took a scared boy who spoke no English and mentored him for three months in his new language. Manzon also credits David Parker, the businessman who hired a young man with a bad resume and taught him about sales after Manzon’s eighth visit to his office to ask for work.

There’s also Bob Kobek, Bill Morris, and Chris Moore – each who took time to coach and guide him through many business adventures. And Tim Searcy, who he credits most at ATA: “Thanks to Tim, I was CEO of my own business unit inside the ATA.”

Life Lessons: Manzon’s business and life experiences have brought both important and difficult lessons. His work at a printing press after “dealing with a temporary academic setback” taught him that the world is real and hard work really does pay.

“The ‘what’s-in-it-for-me lesson‘ was tough, too,” he says.  “Everybody says a good businessman always wins, but I had to learn that everyone around me had to be happy for me to be happy. A deal that was good for me alone wasn’t necessarily a good deal.”

Positive lessons were just as vital to Manzon. “People are most important,” he says. “When I needed opportunities, it was very much about people, not about my experiences. I know I’m here today because of what people – family and friends – have done for me.”

He credits his desire to learn as well. “To have a passion for learning has been a huge help for me,” says Manzon. “You never know what you don’t know.”

Most important, perhaps, has been the life lesson to always have the courage to ask. Manzon has asked for help, asked for opportunities, asked for explanations, and asked for advice. “If you ask for a new opportunity, the worst they can say is no. By not asking, you’re limiting yourself from forward movement.”

Looking to the Future: Manzon sees only positive things on the horizon for the contact center industry. The key, he believes, is the customer. Without customers, there is no contact center industry. Therefore, companies must make that first customer contact a “sacred moment.”

“I believe contact centers are becoming about answering real problems in the customer’s chosen forum on the customer’s first try. I think the industry has realized that the real magic happens when the customer makes contact with the company. Each consumer has a favorite way to contact the company – by phone, website, chatroom, text, etc. – so the company must make that contact organic,” says Manzon.

Before that “sacred moment” happens, the company must know its customers. That is, they must know what information their customers want and how they want to get it, and then make that contact natural and easy.

“The future for contact centers is focusing on contact with the consumer; the future is creating organic communication that considers only the consumer’s desire. We’ve heard before about doing what was good for the company. All that becomes irrelevant when we listen to what the consumer says they want,” Manzon says.

His dreams for Contact Center Compliance are just as far-reaching. Because he sees a company with happy and loyal clients and a great product reaching into a growing market, he forecasts only growth.

“CCC is at a point where we have explosive growth potential. I can see our current product line taking a bigger part of the market share, being on the forefront of the do-not-call space, and even an expansion of our product line,” says Manzon.

“Legislation is changing all the time, and our team is on top of these changes,” he says. “Our clients depend on us to keep them compliant. That’s what makes the job so exciting.”

Allen, owner of CCC, looks to the future as well. He sees his company entering a new and exciting chapter in its history. “I look for Rafael to lead CCC in continuing to offer the highest-quality solutions the industry has come to expect from Contact Center Compliance. He will lead the creation of future technology solutions that will assist our sustainability as a valued industry and continue to make contact centers an irreplaceable component to world commerce.”

Allen calls Manzon a natural fit for the company with his enthusiasm for life and business and his continual willingness to learn.

“Strong strategic relationships foster creative ideas by bringing great minds together. I believe that both our clients and the industry will benefit from more strategic partnerships, and I believe Rafael is the one to forge those relationships. His ability to quickly assess how to bring value to companies within the industry and know how to use technology to achieve this makes him a natural fit,” says Allen.

Manzon will add executive CCC offices in Indianapolis, and he will travel often to the company’s California headquarters. He sees a huge advantage to CCC being available to customers from 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time to 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

And personally? He and his wife, Marcie, would like to have more children. Their daughter, Katie Ann, is four months old and has “melted my heart.”  He’ll continue to dabble in boating, motor sports, and computers, and maybe even play a hand or two of his favorite Texas Hold ’Em. Friends and family will remain his top priority.

“If I could paint my ideal age fifty, it would look an awful lot like today,” says Manzon. “I would like to be as happy as I am now.”

[From Connection Magazine May 2011]

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