Curiosity and Consulting: How Mark Uren Helps Organizations Find Ideal Balance

Posted by Dan Smitley on August 08, 2023

Recently Dan Smitley sat down with some of our Sr. Consultants and talked through their unique experiences and perspectives. Sometimes it’s easy to be a consultant that simply stays behind the scenes and helps our customers, but we think they are pretty amazing people and we wanted to spotlight them for all of you. So, without further ado, here’s Dan’s conversation with Mark Uren.

Dan: Mark, let’s first start with your experience. Where have you worked and what roles have you held?

Mark: I’ve had the privilege of working in various executive roles, professional services, technology, and management consulting for over thirty years.  I’ve worked in Utilities, Media, Gaming, Local and State Government, Airlines and believe it or not I ran Australia’s largest specialist veterinary hospital. I’ve done strategy work including implementation; organizational development; operations; risk; process improvement you name it but my favorite work these days is strategy work.

Dan: You mentioned your experience management consulting but “consulting” means different things to different people. What do you mean by it?

Mark: I think there are two different types of consulting. Both are valuable and can help an organization and in fact, Call Design offers both types. The first is the type where the consultant comes in already knowing the answer. They are brought in for a very specific reason and a very specific problem. They have years of experience addressing that problem and already know how to solve it as soon as they land.

An example of this would be having a Call Design consultant come in and help a customer set up the Alvaria WFM platform for their business. The consultant would need to gain some knowledge from the business like the different queues, different groups of agents, etc., but for the most part, the consultant already knows how to properly set up the forecast groups and staff groups.

The second type of consulting is where you don’t already know the answer. You can still have years of experience and knowledge, but the customer has brought you in to address a unique challenge that they might not even be able to articulate. A great example is when I worked with a utility company in New Zealand. The CEO, who by the way was the best CEO I ever worked with (no offense to Michelle Gaffney), was explaining to myself and my counterpart what he needed help with. He went to the whiteboard and drew a circle, “This is what we are today”. He then drew a square over it “But maybe this is what we need to be tomorrow”. Then he erased the overlapping square and drew a couple of triangles off the core of the circle “Or maybe this is what we need to be.” He knew he needed help thinking through the strategic direction of the organization, but he couldn’t exactly articulate what he needed to help him get to the end, or even what the end looked like.

Dan: How do you even approach that? I mean, when a customer can’t articulate exactly how you’re supposed to help, how do you help them?

Mark: With curiosity. That really is the core of a good consultant, in my opinion. Sometimes a customer knows they aren’t heading in the right direction and simply need a new set of eyes. In those situations, the consultant needs to come in and ask as many questions as possible. They have to dig in to understand what’s working well, what needs some improvement, and what’s horribly off the rails.

Dan: That feels simple enough, but that also sounds huge. There are hundreds of things that could be horribly off the rails. How do you know where to focus?

Mark: It certainly can feel overwhelming but it really just comes down to balancing three priorities: the employees, the customer, and the finances. Some organizations do a great job of providing solid returns for their shareholders, but their customer loyalty is awful and their employee retention isn’t any better. Other organizations have great cultures and their employees feel engaged and taken care of at work, but the organization lacks structure and accountability and eventually has to shut down because they cannot turn a profit. Lastly, some organizations provide exceptional customer experience and have created great brand loyalty, but don’t take care of their employees and so their profit is minimized by the constant need to backfill staff.

Imagine a three-armed scale. One arm for customers, one for employees, and one for financial returns. When an organization is healthy and heading in the right direction all three are considered, taken care of, and intentionally looked after. But most of the time one, or multiple, of the arms are out of balance. The value of a consultant is that they can come in with fresh eyes and years of experience, look at the scales, and help an organization understand which arm they need to address in the right way. Not an overcorrection where the neglected arm is now because overly emphasized, but just enough of a focus to be in proper balance.

Dan: Mark, you have years of experience, natural curiosity, an ability to help organizations balance their priorities correctly, etc. and I guess my last question is simply, why work at Call Design? It seems like you could be working for one of the big consulting firms. So why work here?

Mark: Because Call Design North America truly believes in HEFA. At the core of this organization is a belief that employees have the right to be Happy, Engaged, Fulfilled, and Aligned at work. I get out of bed every morning knowing that I can help this organization spread that message and impact organizations. We might not be able to change the world, but we can help change contact centers. Those contact centers could help change organizations, and who knows maybe those organizations can help change whole industries. I work here because I believe in the mission that Michelle and the rest of the leadership team have set and I’m excited to help them improve the lives of their customers.

In the coming weeks we’ll share more about our consultants and their unique perspectives. To check out more information head on over to to see some additional ways we’d love to help you organization. Feel free to reach out to us today and let us know if you need some fresh eyes to ensure your business properly balanced!