How to Become a Successful Contact Center Leader

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Even the highly experienced call center agents, in pair with an extensively selected solution and other factors, can’t perform at the utmost level without successful call center managers. The leadership role is the central role in the firm as the manager is the brain and heart of a contact center team. He is setting up the strategic goals and team goals, he is the pivotal person in the decision-making process, he is creating development plans, provides constructive feedback, and performs call center management.

But being an effective leader means you ought to be equipped with specified skills, and characteristics as well as work hard on self-development. Contact center team leaders are liable for the working circumstances and atmosphere and they ought to construct strong and trustful relations with operators. If honestly, an aptitude for leadership is needed to become an effective leader. Successful call center managers need various essential skills, such as soft skills like excellent communication skills, interactive communication abilities, constructive feedback providing, interpersonal skills, and fast-solving of customer service issues. 

Call center leadership development is a long-lasting process that demands serious effort. A challenging factor of call center management is that an effective leader has to boost both customer satisfaction and agent engagement and motivation. For a sample, the call center manager job description includes such business goals as avoiding the high employee turnover rate (almost impossible in this industry) and creating more opportunities for agent engagement - such as permanent training sessions, bilateral feedback, and one-to-one meetings, and so on. For an effective call center leader, the list of duties and commitments may be even longer. 

In this article, we are going to answer all popular questions about call center leadership skills, successful call center managers' tactics, management style differences, strong call center staff building, and many others.

Call center management duties

No matter the position, you have a specified and detailed pack of commitments to do. The same is the situation with contact center team leaders. Even though some responsibilities are dissimilar for various businesses, most are used in every call center. 

A great number of successful call center managers make contact center team leaders take on all the work with the call center agents, so they become the confidants of the bosses.

It doesn’t matter what are the department features, contact center team leaders have to accomplish four things: organize coaching and look for agents' progress, control their enactment to avoid imperfections and immediately fix the difficulties, and evolve as a messenger between operators and a manager, and take part in setting advisors’ goals and providing them with feedback. 

What is needed to find a team leader employment?

Actually, there are not many requirements to be employed as a team leader. The education in high school is enough, but most of the contact center team leaders have bachelor’s grades. A small number of team leaders have master's grades. Another part has only a high school degree.

If talk about call center leadership skills, then the main requirement is bearing an experience as a customer service representative. On the contrary, most team leaders have such a background. What is about the length of this experience, at least one year is needed. 

Such call center leadership skills are important because of the essence of the assignment - team leaders have to be acknowledged all nuances of all processes, be familiar with all aspects of the operator’s job, and bear enough soft skills to construct a positive work environment. Interpersonal skills of extinguishing conflicts and building strong relations are also needed. 

What about the career perspectives?

The contact center team leaders have various opportunities for career development in the future. The lowest position for a staff leader is the supervisor’s role, where many contact center team leaders start their path. The highest destination that may be reached by a team leader is a call center manager, and that is not that difficult to pass through this way. To acquire career targets and become an effectual leader, it is enough to spend additional time learning the essential skills, filling skill gaps, and constructing a personal management style. 

What metrics are operated to evaluate the manager's effectiveness?

There are two answers to this inquiry: short and long. The short one is: the rates that are utilized in the exact unit and exact case. The long one is: there exist distinct areas where the staff leader has his influence on the processes, so evaluation ought to be organized by different criteria: productivity of operators - AHT, ACD, FCR; customer satisfaction - CSAT, CX; agents satisfaction - NPS, surveys; coaching and training activities’ efficiency.

This approach is complex and it covers all fields of team leader’s activities and duties. On contrary, numerous team leaders don’t have any KPIs, but this question should be answered by their call center manager. 

Six attributes of an ideal team leader

As a leader, no matter supervisor or manager, your duties are to inspire dozens of individuals to do their best from day to day and resolve hundreds of customer complaints with the highest level of effectiveness. Customer satisfaction is your greatest goal, so all activities and plans should be focused on achieving the best customer service experience. Call center staff depends on your actions and rule, so the performance of all the agents is your responsibility, and their success, as well as failure, will be yours too. 

Such an amount of pressure and responsibility isn’t easy to deal with, and there are a few people who are ready to become really five-star team leaders. They have a unique pack of talents that allows them to beat the troubles, save cold minds and move further in any situation and any circumstances. 

Actually, dozens of abilities would be wonderful to have for every supervisor, but six of these are truly vital and we will describe each of them in detail. 

Standing as a leader means comprehending how to rule

Leading is not only about a strong personality but is also about communication, especially motivation and engagement skills. A leader is a person who has no doubters across his subordinates, and his ideas, objectives, and advice are appreciated by employees. You ought to be the authority for operators, and they must listen and do what you say.

The true leader knows paths to motivate every member of the call center staff, understands all strengths and weaknesses of workers, has a complex vision of the firm's development, prefers flexible and non-standard approaches, and bears enough empathy and energy to push people to follow him. 

The list of the skills of a team leader in BPO contains such abilities as extinguishing conflicts and building a strong team. Contact centers(especially outsourced (BPO) ones) are structures that suffer from high agent turnover, burnout, and attrition rates, so this is a great challenge for any leader and he should be ready for this what is even more vital  - he should be charged by such challenges. 

Working as a supervisor is an intermediate phase for leaders prior to they evolve into call center managers. Nonetheless, it is a crucial experience to be acknowledged ruling dozens of agents as well as making them grow and accomplish their objectives. Only similar background may prepare for further career steps. 

Forming strong relations 

This appointment is all about relations. As the supervisor is a role that links agents to higher management, his liability is extremely high. Agents should trust their supervisors, and this trust may be built only with the team leader’s participation. Supervisors have to be friends and mentors for the operators, not just the overseers. Being a hands-off leader is a superb choice if you desire to optimize the procedures inside the call center staff and push the employees to be more independent, but the supervisor must be immersed in everything that is going on in the team. 

Even providing reviews for operators can’t be a formal procedure, it should be an honest and direct dialogue between the two individuals with the same targets. To make agents think of you as the mentor, you should avoid distancing yourself from them and pay more attention to internal communication. If you want someone to perceive you as a friend, behave as a friend.

The same is with higher management. If you want to implement some new techniques and tactics in your team, you have to build trustful and clear relations with managers. Make them rely on you - it is the only path to conviction. Managers should think of you as a reliable and wise leader, so they will put more responsibilities on you and open career opportunities. 

Focus on skills improvement

Improving call center manager skills is an essential part of a manager’s job, but first-class leaders look for opportunities to improve the skills of their employees. The reason for such an approach is clear: a call center is a department whose success depends on the work of dozens of different people - agents, technical units, supervisors, and so on. Even though managers are those who set up goals, build strategies and think of paths for improvement, there should always be someone who will implement their indications. 

Investing in the staff is the most profitable investment - people are the vital capital for every company, and the squad’s growth is the firm’s growth.

There are many benefits of investing in team members. Firstly, workers who see you investing in their development, are more willing to put more effort into work. Secondly, permanent training positively affects the team environment and creates an atmosphere of competition. Finally, as the professionalism of the squad rises, rises the company’s outcomes. 

Additionally, when workers see you self-developing from month to month, they would like to look up to you. Keep in mind that no one encourages people to work harder than a live example of self-development. Start from yourself, and others will follow you!

Stay ordinate

Chiefs are people who show how to do things in terms and in the correct direction. If the manager comes late, goes out of deadlines, and pays no attention to tasks that have been set up by himself, workers would pick up the slack from him. As a leader, you have no right to be wrong and share a bad example of behavior and corporate culture. 

Even though it is almost impossible to keep everything in mind and have time for everything, you have to put maximal effort into this. Your employees should see only the best sample of time-management, multitasking, deadline following, being organized, and taking everything under control. 

These skills of a team leader in BPO are irreplaceable because you can’t make agents do what you are not doing. 

Be creative

Linear and old-fashioned approaches don’t work in the customer support industry, it is the fact. No matter if you face employee absenteeism or a mad customer situation, you will never deal with it using standard solutions. The only way out is to think beyond the standards and avoid doing obvious things. 

A true leader always comes with a unique and creative solution, and an ability to create such solutions in time is necessary for every chief. The vital call center manager skills include creative thinking and the capacity to discover new solutions in stressed situations. 

Communicate with subordinates

Yes, we know that every chief is too busy to allocate time for the call center staff. But here lies the most remarkable of possibilities to build a strong team. 

You will never become an authority for the employees if you don’t pay attention to their life, work, mood, and wishes. A person who has never come with a sincere greeting to his subordinates will never be trusted and respected. You should avoid this, and we will tell you how. 

Implement more one-to-one meetings for exchanging thoughts, providing feedback, and training sessions. Greet employees when you come and leave. Always look in the eyes. Use informal and direct language. Ask agents about their wishes and hopes. Let employees criticize you. Organize informal events for employees to let them communicate besides the work. 

What is awaiting you in the leader’s position? 

Now, when we are done with call center manager skills, it is a moment to move to a less pleasant piece of the tale. As you could guess, there is no job in the world where you would face no troubles. But the honest path is to tell all possible problems before the job begins, so you can prepare for challenges. 

Customer service issues can appear at any moment, and it will be your responsibility to tackle them. Permanent customer complaints, poor customer satisfaction, unhappy operators, low discipline, and so on - that’s what awaits you if in short. But to assure that you are ready for any challenge, we will describe all potential problems widely. 

Take angry feedback as a source for development

Nothing can give you more data than an angry customer. Triggers that make people call you and say everything they think of your service are the points of improvement, and every failure - because every angry customer who hasn’t been convinced of the opposite is a failure - is a lesson. 

Use every negative feedback as a source of knowledge about imperfections, mistakes, and areas for improvement. People are the real users of your service and they say what they feel and see. So, if you remove these triggers, the next customer will not come with a complaint. 

Customer complaints are irreplaceable, and they will happen again and again. Don’t take them to heart, because if you do so, your mood and motivation will leave much to be desired. 

Taking part in resolving customer complaints

There will be dissatisfied, angry, and toxic customers. There will be ones who will come with complaints. There will be clients who will say they’re going to leave using your products. And you will also have to talk with such clients.

Agents work under extreme pressure every day. And even if you invest thousands of dollars in their training, there will be some people who will ask for escalating a call and you will become an exact participant in this process. If not do so, you will get low-rated reviews, decreased customer satisfaction, and a poor client experience. 

You can’t avoid skill gaps in an agent’s knowledge, so entering into some conversations is your duty. Client retention is a very significant score, and if you want to save a customer, you must go in and try to convince them. 

That is why we have said that the experience of being an agent is vital for a leader. Anyhow, these situations make you become an operator once more. Even though they wouldn’t be something new for you, every escalated call is different, so your concentration and ability to resolve customer complaints should be a higher priority. 

Improve your flexibility

No one is an ideal professional or individual. Even though you are a decision-maker, this doesn’t mean you should think of yourself as an unmistakable and supreme specialist. Everyone has a right to make mistakes, and the vital skill to avoid making them from time to time is the ability to admit your wrongdoing. 

Being flexible doesn’t mean only recognizing your mistakes. It also concerns workforce management and interpersonal relations. The ability to hear and take into account what the subordinates say is crucial too - sometimes workers can come up with better ideas than yours. 

Flexibility is highly appreciated by both higher management and subordinates because only flexible specialists can find new solutions and approaches - the skill that is irreplaceable in the customer service field. 

Organize regular training sessions

The customer service industry is the field where permanent development of skills - both hard and soft - is essential for achieving goals. All participants in the customer service-providing processes have their own influence on mistakes made. Another factor is that the customer service industry is developing fast, so there is no way to beat competitors apart from investing in training and gaining new skills. 

Call center staff should understand the importance of training sessions and be engaged in this process. This is impossible without putting effort into explaining to them the essence of coaching and its benefits. Your communication skills should be strong to convince agents to put maximum effort into self-development. 

What is even more important, you have to provide agents with feedback about their results. They should feel that training sessions do not pass without a trace. 

Work with employees' mood

What has a similar significance to customer complaints? The complaints and wishes of your subordinates. A motivated staff is the first condition for the overall success and prosperity of the entire customer service department. And you, as a team leader, are the one who is responsible for agents’ morale and motivation. 

Use all knowledge to improve the working experience of the operators. Customized scheduling, informal communication, permanent praising, a system of rewards, and so on can help in building a positive atmosphere and providing strong motivation. 

This approach will also have a positive impact on your reputation among the employees and the quality of the relationship between you and the workers. Don’t lose this chance to increase the rates and become more linked with the agents. 

Eight popular mistakes made by most team leaders-newbies

People, who are new to their position and don’t have experience being team leaders, are more likely to make mistakes than hardened professionals. This is normal because no one of us was born a manager. But the more information you will gather about the responsibilities and duties of your title, the more prepared you will be for future work. At the same time, all possible mistakes in this position have been already made by other managers. According to this, we compiled eight popular mistakes that face almost every team leader. We hope this paragraph will help you to avoid these mistakes and become a high-class manager from the first attempt. 

1. Misconception about the essence of the job

As we have mentioned before, most of the leaders were agents a long time ago. The situation when an agent gets a promotion and becomes a manager isn’t rare. And here happens the first shock - now you are responsible for dozens of various people, and yesterday you were responsible for yourself only. 

Some newbie managers start to take agents’ duties on and do subordinates’ work on their own. It is a big mistake and it is the path to agents’ avoidance of their work, absenteeism, and low motivation. 

The first thing to do is to become acquainted with the team and processes. Managers also need onboarding, and they can get it from other managers who have more experience and know the internal processes ideally. 

2. Ignoring your behavior’s influence 

Operators think of you as of example. All your actions, phrases, decisions, and even style have a powerful influence on all employees. If you love to shout, you may see that workers start to do so. If you prefer to be silent, internal communication between agents will also decrease. If you always come late, they will come late too. If you forget about deadlines, they do the same. 

If you want to have an ideal team, you must become ideal in the fields you want operators to become so. Only when you will be a good example, you can become to await the same from the employees.

3. Forgetting about the feedback

How may you improve operators’ performance? Tell them what they do wrong or what they don’t do. Some managers just set up the KPIs and disappear until the deadlines and goals are violated. When the failure happens, they appear again and start to shout at everyone. Do you see any wise management here? That’s it.  

Others come with feedback when the reviewed situation took place a month ago. What is the impact of feedback provided with a monthly delay? 

Regular feedback providing lets employees see their mistakes, get new knowledge and skills, learn some tips from you, and what is also significant, your relations become stronger because of permanent communication. 

We have written a whole article about the right path of feedback providing, take a look at it here. 

4. Not paying attention to the team

Even the name of the role concerns the importance of spending time with a team. You are a leader and mentor for this group of people and you should become almost native to them. 

Talk more with employees, ask them about things that relate not only to work, organize some informal events, create a reward system, implement one-to-one meetings, and mentor and coaching sessions with you as a teacher. 

Try to collect more information about workers’ wishes and hopes, their needs, motivation points, and other useful info. 

5. Not being hands-off

That is a mistake related to the first one on this list. Some managers want to control everything and they forget about the fundamental principle of wise management - delegating the responsibilities to others. 

No one can allocate time for every process in a company, so it's vital to train employees to take responsibility for themselves. Put more effort into training them to be sure that you can put your duties on them without negative consequences. 

6. Trying to be too familiar 

Yes, we have said that informal communication is great and we aren’t going to take our words back. But the reality is that some managers have gone too far with their friendly communication style and the employees have become to use their familiarity to get rid of their responsibilities and the work itself. Too kind managers can’t be rigid enough to make employees work harder, and they lose their reputation. Just think of it - who would obey the soft-bodied leader? And can such a person be called a leader?

7. Inability to set up the right objectives

You are the person who sets up the goals and controls their achievement. But what if the leader is unable to define the targets? Can the team do it on their own? 

Surely, not. Agents require managers to set KPIs, build strategies, provide analysis, make changes in goals and find new approaches - to be honest, these duties are the leader’s responsibility. If the leader does nothing or sets up false objectives, then agents can’t bring the awaited outcomes. 

To avoid this, remember goal-setting rules: only clear, understandable, with defined terms, and corresponding to operators’ abilities objectives should be set up. 

8. False ideas about team motivation 

Some managers have obvious imagination of their subordinates' motivation - they think that the only thing that empowers them is money. 

Well, it is false. Most of the operators are encouraged to work by other things: praise, suitable schedule, ability to reach team goals, solving people’s problems, and so on. Money is at the end of every agent’s motivation survey’s results. 

The best path to find out what motivates your operators is to ask them directly - by survey or in a live dialogue. 

In summary

To end the writing, let’s make a little conclusion. We have discovered the team leader’s duties and responsibilities, requirements for employment, potential career perspectives, and KPIs. 

In the second section, we have discovered what characteristics are necessary for a successful team leader who is going to grow as a professional and as an individual. 

The third section relates to mistakes that are often done by inexperienced managers, such as role misunderstanding or ignoring feedback provided.

In short, to become a successful call center manager you should have strong communication skills, be friendly (but not too much), provide constructive feedback regularly, set the right goals, pay attention to your employees and spend time with them, and control their training and motivation. 

Eugene Siuch

Content Manager and Copywriter

Focused on customer service measurement and improvement, SaaS marketing and industry insights, and researching different methods of staff motivation and performance management in the field of customer service providing.

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