UPDATED FEBRUARY 2020:
The call center is an extremely stressful work environment. Simply knowing how to run a call center isn’t enough for success.
Not for the weak at heart, only some call center managers have the grace, tenacity, and skills to handle the extreme pressures of the contact center manager’s job.
Those with this special ability often create an experience that pleases customers and agents, without exceeding their budgets; a truly remarkable feat.
Below we look into some of the things call center managers must do every day to be successful, along with tips on how to execute them
What do great call center managers do?
A contact center manager’s job is often a thankless one. Not only must they manage an often diverse and large group of customer support agents, but they must also manage the day-to-day running of the contact center itself; and the constant improvement of all those processes.
As the supervisor of a contact center, your job is to make sure that your team of agents provides the best experience possible to your customers.
And that involves everything from deciding operational strategies, analyzing and developing call center technology and processes, meeting the financial objectives of the call center, and recruiting, training, and administering all employees. Oh, and don’t forget staying abreast of the latest contact center industry news.
In short, a great call center manager is the key to a successful contact center.
Here are 7 great things a successful call center manager does on a daily basis, along with some of our top tips on successful contact center management:
1. Talk to Your Support Agents
Agents are quite literally the mouth and ears of your contact center. So, why not use them as a means of providing feedback?
Your contact center agents are on the front line every day, which makes them best positioned to tell you what’s important to customers, themselves and their colleagues, what’s working (and what isn’t), and what the competition is up to. They are an invaluable research tool and can provide a multitude of ideas on how to do things better.
Not only does this help you as a call center manager, but it also makes the agents feel like their voice is being heard, their opinions matter and that they hold an important role in the contact center.
Connect to Get Honest Agent Feedback
It can often be difficult for call center supervisors to get open and honest feedback about new processes or technology—or even new people. But the best managers know how to form close bonds with their team members, creating the space for them to be honest about what’s working and what’s not.
Your support agents hold a vast amount of qualitative information that could help you optimize your call center’s processes. But they won’t tell you if they think they’re going to get into trouble, or—perhaps more importantly—it will create more work for them.
2. Act as True Leaders
A call center manager is essentially a team leader. And they are only beneficial to a contact center provided they do what their title suggests; lead the team of support agents and supervisors.
This means being present for your teams to provide support and advice, for coaching and development, and to essentially guide them to success. Even something small like a 5-minute round-up meeting every day to get your agents pumped can make a big difference.
Remember You Work for Your Agents
Many new call center executives make the mistake of expecting their call center agents to care about the success of the call center as much as they do. This simply won’t work.
Too many managers think that people are working for them; they don’t realize that they should be working for their employees. I always approach my management style from the perspective that I am working for my employees. They’re the boss of me. All 600 of them. — Gary Vaynerchuk
The most effective management style to employ in the call center is one that puts your agents first.
Be the Contact Center Guru
As the manager of a contact center, you must be the resident authority in every aspect of the industry, as well as your business.
Good call center managers are knowledgeable about internal affairs, such as technology, processes, branding, legal requirements, and human resources.
Great call center managers know how these fit into the wider organizational strategy, and how that fits into the wider trends of the contact center industry.
If you want your call center or department to be successful, it’s just not enough to ensure it’s working well or adhereing to some abstract call center management best practices. You don’t operate in a vacuum.
For long term success, ensure your plans align with your wider organizational strategy, stay in touch with managers in other departments, and keep up to date with the latest news in the industry.
Coach and Teach, Don’t Preach
Many call center managers make the mistake of relying solely on data to drive improvements, whether in the contact center’s processes, technology, or the growth of its employees. This is a mistake.
While it can be tempting to keep a close watch over underperforming agents, even with the best of intentions this often results poorly. Nobody likes to be micromanaged.
The best managers look for ways to draw out each agents’ unique combination of skills. Get to know your agents; what makes them tick, their ambitions, their hobbies. Understanding these will help you to reach them when coaching them later.
Then, you can create an individual improvement plan with each agent, using targeted feedback on each of their weak points, the reason why improving them is a good thing, and several tasks they can do to improve.
3. Make Their Contact Center a Great Place to Work
Employee happiness and satisfaction is very important. As a call center manager, you must keep a keen eye on this every day. The way your agents feel about their job will be hard to hide over the phone; a happy employee will rub off their colleagues as well as your callers, improving both the customer experience and the workplace atmosphere.
Happy workers are proven to be more productive and tend to leave their jobs less frequently, mitigating the age-old headache of agent retention.
Ensure that you are providing positive feedback, motivating your staff and welcoming feedback. Remember, a happy call center means a more successful one.
Create Great Incentives for Great Work
One of the best ways to encourage your call center agents to do their best work is through an incentive program.
Whether it’s gift cards for good work, a monthly competition, or an employee-nomination program, employee incentive programs are proven to boost productivity and happiness; 40% of Americans say they’d put in more energy at work if they were recognized more often.
When your support agents feel appreciated, it shows. They way they communicate with callers will improve and they’re going to want to work harder for you too.
Offer Opportunities for Growth
One place where many workplaces fall down is not providing opportunities for career development that most people want.
A call center can offer a lot of options for career development. But only if the leaders of the center are consciously opening up the doors for their employees.
Successful call center managers help their agents map out their career path, identify milestones along the way, and provide the resources and training they need to achieve them.
Those milestones will help you to set goals with your call center team that can help them mark their progress day-to-day.
4. Keep Up With the Latest Contact Center Technology
What’s working and what’s not on the technology front? Technology is changing and evolving every day.
It may sound tedious, but since technology has so many moving parts, how can staying on top of it not be a daily task?
The best call center leaders stay abreast of the latest contact center trends and technological developments, whether that’s computer software or new workforce management techniques.
Don’t Get Attached to Technology
It’s easy for businesses to become entrenched in legacy methods and technology. Don’t get attached to one way of doing things. Great call center managers are testing their own systems every day.
One of the advantages that start-ups have is their flexibility when it comes to technology. Their ability to quickly pivot to a new solution allows them to reap the benefits any new technology might bring before their incumbent competitors.
When you’re tuned into your industry and the technology around it, you’ll also notice when something isn’t working as well as it could early, and improve it ahead of your competitors.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new solutions and methods. Even when a new solution fails, the lessons learned from that failure are valuable to inform future improvements; it’s just as important to know what won’t work as what will.
Be Active in the Customer Experience Community
It may not be possible to do it every day, but one of the best ways to keep up with the latest development in the customer experience industry is to attend contact center conferences and events near you.
Not only are the great opportunities to learn from other call center managers and executives, but there’s also an opportunity to meet and network with peers in person.
There’s nothing quite like talking face-to-face with other people in your position, who are tackling the same issues you face daily.
But the most successful call center executives go further than that, becoming an active voice in the community online too.
5. Review Their Contact Center’s Data
One of the main reasons that contact centers are becoming more and more important to business operations is because of the amount of data that passes through it.
A contact center of any type has the ability to collect a wealth of information, and the best call center managers know how to take advantage of it, and will be monitoring it daily for insights.
Track Your Call Center’s KPIs
There are, of course, a great many data points to choose from in a call center. They will vary depending on your industry and customers, but there are a few that most customer experience managers are checking on every day:
- Average Time in Queue/Hold Time
- Average Handle Time
- First Call Resolution Rate
- CSat/NPS Score
- Agent Satisfaction
Any good contact center leader will be checking these KPIs throughout the course of the day, to get a feel for how their center and agents are performing.
The combination of these five metrics will give them the info they need to make staffing calls on the spot, and improvements in planning later.
Balance Workflow to Meet Demand
Managing staffing levels to balance workflow and meet demand is an essential part of successful contact center management.
Take time to make sure you’re doing this to the best of your abilities.
Workforce optimization isn’t easy. In order to meet call demand without under-staffing or over-staffing, you need methods that precisely predict how many agents are needed to handle the volume.
Unfortunately, even the latest advancements in predictive modeling using AI, accurately predicting the future is challenging, and it’d inevitable that spikes in call-volume will happen.
But the best contact center managers know that call spikes will happen. And they know how to deal with call spikes.
Instead of staffing up to avoid this situation and being overstaffed during regular days, top contact center executives invest in technology to handle the overflow, like call-backs.
These allow customers to “press 1” to get a call back when an agent is free, while a bot takes their place in line. Click here to learn more about cloud-based call-back solutions.
6. Get Their Hands Dirty
Pick up a Headset
Do you ever get on the phone and run a call as an agent?
If not, you might be surprised at how much you can learn from taking a call yourself.
Pick up a headset and get talking! It’s an essential part of quality management in a call center.
Doing so will give you a better understanding of the challenges your agents face and will help you tweak your call center strategy.
Not to mention, being seen getting your hands dirty will also garner respect from your support agents.
Stay on Top of Administration
There’s nothing more frustrating as an employee than having a manager that isn’t on top of their own tasks.
While it can be tempting to fill your time with more glamourous ways to improve your contact center, great call center managers know that the cornerstone of effective call center management is the ‘boring’ administrative tasks.
Scheduling and organizing your support agents, hiring and training new employees, calculating service levels and profit margins, negotiating suppliers are the mundane but essential responsibilities of the call center manager. Embrace them.
Only once these are running optimally is it possible to make any real improvements to your call center.
7. Focus on Agent Engagement and Retention
Cited as the biggest challenge by nearly all respondents, the call center is notorious for being a difficult place to work and makes attracting and retaining quality customer service representatives a tough undertaking.
According to Gallup, 70% of U.S. employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”, a symptom of workplaces that don’t effectively captivate employees.
Drilling down into that, contact centers have an average turnover rate of 35-40%; one of the highest rates across all industries.
There are several things successful contact center managers do to improve agent engagement and retention:
Hire the Best Customer Support Agents
No doubt, this is a lot easier said than done. With the unemployment rate at a record low and a broad range of opportunities for people with the skills to make a good call center agent, it’s harder than ever to find and keep the best support agents.
This makes it more important than ever to hire the right people for the job the first time.
You need people with naturally strong communication and problem-solving skills, who are good at active listening, and an enthusiastic attitude.
Onboard and Train Them Well
One area that many companies let themselves down is onboarding. Don’t underestimate the importance of your onboarding process.
There’s nothing more disheartening than starting at a new company and feeling like nobody even noticed you.
Bad onboarding leaves new employees stressed, disappointed, disconnected, and much less productive, and are much more likely to look for work elsewhere.
Beyond onboarding, continual training and coaching of your agents—as mentioned above—fosters a positive and growth-orientated environment that employees want to stay a part of.
Empower Through Opportunity and Reward
There are many reasons call center agents choose to leave a contact center, but most of them revolve around a lack of opportunity or responsibility.
Ensure that you are actively engaging and rewarding your agents day-to-day. And reward doesn’t necessarily mean physical.
One way to engage employees is by showing them the impact their work has in real terms; perhaps by highlighting the best customer feedback of the day.
Provide ample opportunities for training and career growth to combat the rote work of a call center, which can often leave agents lacking a sense of accomplishment.
If you empower your agents by giving them the tools or responsibility to go beyond the phone and contribute to improvements in other areas, your contact center will reap the benefits.
And don’t forget to them in ways that are meaningful to them. If you’re not sure what these are — just ask!