New call center managers have a lot to wrap their minds around. Coming in fresh to a new company allows you to implement improvements and make real change happen. But with the opportunity to grow comes with, well, growing pains. Overhauling your call center operations can seem outright impossible without a little guidance and know-how. Whether you are that new call center manager or a seasoned pro who wants to pick up some new ideas, we’ve packaged everything you need to know to help you improve your call center performance.
Start with Some Self-Reflection
The success of your call center agents depends heavily on your ability to lead them to that success. Just as any great sports team is only as good as its coach, a call center team is only as good as its manager. Begin your journey to operational improvement by reflecting on your skills as a manager and developing goals to improve your management approach. Consider asking yourself these questions:
1. Have I built a good rapport with my team members?
Depending on the size of your call center, this could mean different things. If you’re in charge of a small team of call center agents and have no supervisor working under you, you must ensure you know your call center agents by name and demonstrate to them that you’re invested in their growth. Say “hello” every time you see them on their shift and try your best to get to know them on a professional but friendly level. You’ll be working very closely with them on training and development which means there needs to be reciprocal trust on both sides.
If you’re managing a larger team and have multiple supervisors reporting to you, you’ll need to develop this level of trust with them. Be sure they feel comfortable reaching out for assistance if they have questions. Keep up to date on their personal goals and the goals they have for their team.
According to Zippia, only 48% of employees surveyed believe their company’s leadership abilities are “high-quality”. Determine what your employees think of your leadership skills with an anonymous survey. It’ll allow you to work on holes in your management skill set you may never have known.
2. Do I respond to team members’ emails promptly and in a friendly manner?
This comes along with rapport-building. If you’re constantly missing emails or replying in short three- or four-word messages, your team will likely feel uncomfortable approaching you with any issues or questions they might have.
3. Do I know the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) and keep track of them regularly?
There are plenty of call center metrics you can use to help determine how you’re doing, the most important ones being:
- Average waiting time
- Average handling time (AHT)
- Call volume Call abandonment rate
- First call resolution
- Customer satisfaction (CSat) score
- Net promoter score (NPS)
Keeping a pulse on your most significant KPIs will help you determine what your contact center is excelling at and where you may need some improvement. You should also be communicating these statistics with your team regularly.
4. Are my expectations clear to my team?
If you haven’t clearly defined your expectations for your team, then you can’t expect agents to meet them. Write down a list of expectations you have and be sure to relay them to team members at a staff meeting. Make sure your expectations are realistic, measurable, and delivered politely. Include dinner for team members at the meeting and be sure to ask for feedback. Then, adjust expectations as you see fit, based on employee feedback, and send out an email that states everything in writing.
5. Have I set realistic goals for my team and encouraged them to set their own?
Goal setting is a skill in itself (one that we cover in more depth below). Setting goals keeps call center agents engaged and excited about career expansion. If you haven’t established a goal-setting process with your team members, we have you covered in our goal-setting section below.
These are just a few of the essential management skills you’ll need to be a great leader. Every few months, it may be helpful for you to revisit these questions and see if you answer them any differently. Identifying one’s strengths and weaknesses makes for impressive and inspiring leadership.
Master the Basics of Call Center Operations Management
If you focus on streamlining the processes you have in place to manage daily tasks, your contact center will run smoother, agents will be happier, customer experience will break records, and KPIs will dramatically improve. Implement these changes to improve your call center operations:
Be Thorough When Hiring
Acquiring new talent isn’t as simple as it sounds. When you seek new employees, interview them thoroughly, conduct background checks, call references, and have one or two of your team members meet them before you decide to move forward. If you employ people you can trust to work efficiently and who already demonstrate the skills needed to excel at your contact center, they’ll require less training and be happier at their job, reducing churn.
The more inclusive your hiring process, the more likely you are to find call center agents who both fit in with your team and stand out through the innovative ideas they bring.
Offer On-Going Training
The training you offer new employees is incredibly important. Especially since the move to remote and hybrid work environments, training new call center agents can be challenging. No matter how you decide to approach your employee onboarding, you must ensure it’s comprehensive and built to extend over months, not days. Trying to cram everything into a one- or two-week period can lead to burnout, overwhelm, and poor agent performance right from the get-go. This training should include:
- In-depth lessons on how to locate company information quickly, as they’ll need fast access to this info during customer interactions.
- Role-playing games to give newbies a glimpse into customer interactions before they start on calls.
- IT training on information confidentiality and security as well as any relevant technology.
- Empathy training to ensure new hires can actively listen and assist customers with their needs.
Training should be ongoing, and available to every level of employee. This keeps agents engaged in their work and more likely to stay with the company for longer.
Encourage Staff with Coaching and Goal Setting
Actively encourage and help your employees to set meaningful individual goals that follow the SMART rule: specific, measurable, achievable, relative, and timely. For example:
- Increase your CSat score from Y to Z by [this date].
- Help to train one new hire by [this date].
Once you’ve established the goals with your agents, be sure to keep track of their progress with bi-weekly or monthly check-in meetings. Congratulate wins no matter how small and collaborate on resolutions to challenges they might have along the way.
Use Tools to Improve Your Scheduling
Properly scheduling your team is one of those tasks that seems easy, but every established contact center manager will assure you that it’s super complex. Besides needing to take each agent’s schedule into account, it’s also imperative that scheduling follows your call forecasting. For example, if you know Thursday mornings before noon tends to be the slowest period of the week, then scheduling fewer agents at those times makes the most sense from a costing standpoint. However, the fact that fewer agents are working on Thursday mornings means you may need to exclusively staff the period with experienced agents who can complete interactions efficiently and without assistance. Newer agents tend to need experienced agents around them, which means it’s better to schedule them during busy times when more teammates are there to help. Your call center software should have forecasting tools that can help with this process.
DID YOU KNOW:
Fonolo offers Voice Call-Backs that allow your customers to choose to receive a call-back when it’s their turn in the queue. For unexpectedly busy days where not enough agents have been scheduled, Voice Call-Backs smooths out the call spikes and take some pressure off the agents.
Employ Call Center Technology
Your team is only as efficient as the technology you provide for them and the same goes for your customers. Offering an optimized self-service customer experience is a game changer for both your customers and your agents. Tech like Web Call-Backs that sorts out your queue for you, Voice Call-Backs which give customers the freedom of choice, and omnichannel support options like chatbots and social media interactions, give your customers flexibility throughout their journey with your business. Your agents will benefit from the less overwhelming workload and have more time to offer high-quality customer service. Your customers will be happier, too.
Create Sustainable Changes That Evolve Over Time
Overhauling your call center operations is time-consuming and labor-intensive — but it’s so worth it. Make changes little by little to keep things as seamless as possible. You’ll also want to make sure you’re constantly testing your processes and strategies to improve them over time. Remember, the most successful call centers are ones that are flexible to the changing needs of clients and employees.