What is meant by “call center management”?
An obvious question that must be answered. It is a complex of methods, approaches, actions, and determinations that are used by a CEO to manage call center daily operations and upgrade efficiency. Call center management style can be different depending on the boss`s character, preferences and methods. Efficacious and clever management leads to more heightened call center performance, while inefficient supervision can only bring problems, low employee productivity, and agent satisfaction. Successful call center management practices cover such processes as manager and agent training, scheduling, task management, control and monitoring, goal setting, analysis, and implementation of new approaches instead of those which are not working.
What makes a call center successful?
As you could guess, there is no absolute plan or scheme to build an effective contact center. Every team is different, as well as every business and every niche have their dissimilarities. But honestly, there are tips and tricks which can decrease the chance to go in the wrong direction up to 0%. At the same time, developing a highly qualified team that will toil for results and perform at the finest rates is a hard and long operation that needs a leader`s encouragement, concentration, and self-confidence to assemble quick and emphasized decisions. In short, to achieve the success you need three components: a great team, the right contact center solution, and the right call center management tips. Let’s start from the beginning - gathering the team and determination of the roles in it.
Call Center Roles and Responsibilities
As with any department or organization, the contact center has its roles and responsibilities without which it can’t work. There are three roles: agent, supervisor, and manager. Every one of these roles has different functions, dissimilar KPIs, and contact center metrics, but they must work together in balance to achieve the result. If there is not enough cooperation or synergy, or the control functions are performed incorrectly, you will lose new deals and customers one by one. A good team can’t appear from anywhere - qualified and goal-oriented collectives are built by strong, wise, and talented leaders who invest their efforts and time to create a team of a dream. Permanent learning, regular training, one-to-one communication, and a positive work environment are the ways to boost your team - not only by skills but also by their team spirit and motivation. Every role needs its approach, so we will describe them separately from each other, in different paragraphs.
Call Center Supervisors
Every company and every process needs control and monitoring to avoid mistakes and losses. Supervisors, or team leaders, are those who lead, control, and motivate your team of agents. They are responsible for all that is happening inside their teams, which are mostly around 10 agents in one. They look for operators' work and report to other managers about the results. They measure KPIs and entrust agents to achieve the goals which have been set. Another important responsibility is the organization of the onboarding and learning process for newbies. In summary, an ideal supervisor should have such qualities and soft skills as strong communication skills and team-leading, a strong ability to plan and manage tasks for different workers, powerful stress resistance, self-confidence, and the ability to solve issues fast and extinguish conflicts. Their main responsibilities are to control agents` performance, motivate them, make schedules, report to managers, give also positive feedback to operators about their performance, and get escalated calls from agents to solve customer complaints.
Contact Center Managers
As you have already guessed, this role is for heads of departments or heads of supervisors. The key responsibility is to manage the call center work. This means that managers are involved in all call center processes and they are responsible for the results achieved by their subordinates. They build strategies, organize brainstorming sessions, and meetings, motivate and teach team members, make changes in some processes, report to the highest management, and organize the work of the whole contact center. As every leader, successful call center managers skills should include powerful communication, organization, and planning skills, knowledge of all nuances of call center operations, the ability to coach others, skills to foresee and solve problems as fast as possible, and finally they should have their vision and successful call center management style, in which they have to be confident.
These are the people who commit all communication with customers. Their skills and qualifications are the rates that determine the success of all contact centers. They are not only responsible for communicating with a client, but also for solving his issues, satisfying his expectations, and creating his opinion of a brand. As one person said, it costs months to find a customer but to lose him a few seconds will be enough. According to this statement, agents are the people who can convince a customer to cut a deal, but on the other hand, even a little misstep may cost you customer loyalty, and what is more - he can become an opponent to your brand because of his dissatisfaction of your service level. That is why you should monitor your agents` performance very carefully and invest in agent training, and also provide customer contact with managers and team leaders. Agent performance management is a must if it is necessary to avoid trouble.
The fundamental duties of operators are clear enough: take calls, manage inbound calls, process the applications and offer a seamless experience, route customers who are in a queue, perform customer experience surveys, do outbound calls and messages, adhere call scripts, and achieve KPIs which have been set. Call center agents should be emphatic, stress-resistant, communicable, have developed and competent speech, and be ready to learn. This profession suffers from extremely high turnover and professional burnout, so to avoid endless shifts in the team, invest in your agent satisfaction.
Call Center Management Challenges and Solutions
As in any specific industry, our one has its distinctive hardships and challenges which have to be solved to organize resultative work. A contact center is a unit where all processes are about communication, so it needs special approaches to perform in the right way. Nonetheless, some issues are symptomatic and many CEOs are spending years to find solutions. Let’s talk about the most popular problems in contact center management and the ways out.
High Agent Turnover Rate
We have already stated, that in our industry turnover rates are one of the highest in the world. There are many reasons why contact center agents leave their work - unhappy customers, too much routine work, no challenges, unsuitable schedules, etc. The turnover rate is up to 40% while for other industries it is 15% on average. Business spends more than 6000 USD to train one agent, and it is very disgusting when you know that he will leave in less than 2 years. How can you beat this trouble and stop losing money, time, and effort? The answer is in the reasons which motivate call center agents to leave their work. Routine work can be automated with cloud contact center software through different digital channels, and remote or hybrid schedules can improve agent productivity and satisfaction. To avoid burnout train your agents to be more stress-resistant, and what is more essential - talk with them to know all their problems first. Your attention and your involvement are very important for them to feel needed and important. Invest in your agents and they will bring you success.
This problem is linked with the previous one - dissatisfied agents sometimes prefer not to quit, but just to not appear. The permanent absence of some individual agents destroys the work of others because they have to do twice more work and their productivity decreases. As a result - you lose deals, lose leads, lose agents and lose money. But could you imagine that this can be not only an agent`s fault? Problems in management, especially in planning and building schedules can lead to absenteeism of some operators. Maybe, some absents were just a misunderstanding created by poor management? Call center technology offers tools to perform workforce management and control agents' presence, so it is better to start with using smart options. On the other hand, you operators have to feel like a part of a team, so your goal is to create an environment where they will feel comfortable and be engaged in tasks.
Lack of customer satisfaction
Uninformed agents, long queues, reconnection to several operators, no respect for customers' time, and other factors which clients hate are the reason a call center could have poor rates. This leads to toxic and angry behavior of some clients, so your operators will feel depressed. How to avoid this bucket of problems which can run you into big trouble? Firstly, provide your agents with relevant information about the customer via call scripts or using a progressive dialing solution based on cloud contact center software. Organize training and effective onboarding sessions for your workers to make sure they have all the necessary information to provide quality customer service. Implement what-if scenarios to avoid misunderstandings while talking with a customer. Choose the most suitable call center technology that will include all the required instruments to enable operators to achieve a positive customer experience and get happier customers.
Are you sure you are identifying the real problems?
Sometimes you think that all issues are solved, all is going on the right way - but the outcome is still not as profitable as it has been expected. Maybe you have passed by some problems or just haven’t indicated them?
Try to spend some time attending to the recorded calls of agents. Usually, there all problems are hidden. You can do such research for some time while also permitting your operators to solve imperfections in communication. Thus you will have a possibility to see changes in the process and fix all nuances in real-time to achieve the awaited level of client service and achieve customer success.
Some research says that agents spend a quarter of their work time doing nothing. It is an inadmissible luxury to lose 25% of the day. But to be honest, there is no agent's fault at all. Two tools will make operators save their time - call forwarding and automatic dialing software. The first feature makes an agent notified about the call while also keeping him in his workplace. This means the operator will not be able to lose a call even if he does different tasks. Auto dialing will increase agent talking time because of the high speed of passing through the contact list. It also avoids busy signals, robots, and invalid phone numbers to save operator time.
Call Center Management Techniques: best tips and practices
After a long story about problems that face almost every contact center CEO, it is time to talk about tips that can help you to improve call center performance. There are many ways to upgrade your team, their skills, or processes that take place in your work. Some of them can easily boost your productivity and sales rates after implementation. Keep in mind that a call center is a complex organization, so you have to pay attention to every aspect of its functioning. These practices will help you to avoid the problems we have mentioned above and achieve top results. If you want to build a perfect call center - read further and select the methods you need to improve the performance.
Pay more attention to onboarding
The agent onboarding process is a very important challenge, maybe even more than it is in other industries. Contact center employees should get into company culture, lingo, principles, and other information. Make operators feel like a part of the brand, represent it with engagement and understand their mission and importance. Give them access to as many knowledge bases as possible and control the process of learning.
Prioritize Employee Engagement
Unengaged employees can’t provide qualitative customer service, it is the fact. Choose agent engagement as a goal to avoid low productivity and high turnover rate in the future. Engaged operators can process more calls, provide better service, make customers happy and create a good image of your brand. The more engaged is an agent, the more productive he will be. If agent engagement is your priority, you will avoid such problems as operators` absenteeism and burnout, which we have talked about before.
Custom schedules are not bugs, but a feature
We are not in old-gold times when remote work was an exotic thing. If your customer support agents can perform better working from home, offer them such a possibility. It will bring more impact both for the firm and for the reps. Hybrid agent scheduling is also a terrific choice if you want to avoid all remote work issues which can damage the business. Use all opportunities to analyze the scheduling, and if you see that an office-based model creates troubles for call center employees and their productivity, don’t be scared to try remote or hybrid scheduling. Great changes need new approaches, don’t they?
Internal communication is a must
When we are talking about employee satisfaction or engagement, there is no better way to discover it than internal communication. Your agents want to feel needed and they would like to see their opinion heard by higher management. Effective call center managers always look closely at every worker to understand their needs and wants. Don’t refuse your employees the opportunity to ask questions and have a conversation with you. As a result, you will have more information to analyze while they will feel more comfortable and engaged.
Feedback to the agents
And this paragraph is not about critics only. If you want your team members to self-develop, you should show them where they can perform better, but at the same time don’t forget to praise them. Targeted feedback should be detailed, and understandable and it has to cover all aspects of employees` work too. If you will not only criticize, but focus also on things where workers do well, they will be more motivated to do their best. The praise is the best motivation for an agent, and he will do his work better to be praised again.
Analyze the data - then make a decision
Cloud contact center software offers enough features to collect, analyze and use all needed data. This information is the fundamental element in making any decision or change. Do you see that some KPIs aren’t reached? Choose the period, collect data and look for factors that have influenced this issue. First call resolution rate is decreasing? Wait to see the tendency, find out the reasons, and then make a decision - no matter what it will look like. Data is your secret weapon to tackle problems, so use it as often as possible. Considered decisions need time to be made.
We can bet that you have enough managers and supervisors in your call center. But ask yourself - do you have responsibilities, which can be done by someone else? Here is a match. The time that could be spent to find new ideas or upgrade strategies, or provide scalability sometimes is spent to control agents, monitor supervisors' work, plan schedules, and do other things that have to be done by other people. Here is also a great opportunity to boost the skills of your team leaders - let them plan, review KPIs, and create schedules. There is no better training than practice. Spend the time you have saved thanks to delegating responsibilities to find new ways to improve the overall call center performance, not to do routine tasks.
Motivate the team
How to make employees engaged and satisfied? Motivate them! There are so many ways to encourage your team that it is difficult to choose the best ones. You can offer salary bonuses for overperformance, gift gym passes or app subscriptions, organize team buildings or other events, and set free learning sessions. Don’t forget to congratulate your team on their birthdays and other special days. Such activities will help to build a positive environment and atmosphere while your team will be more productive and satisfied. A happy employee is a resultative employee. And yes, it is also a tip to beat terrifying turnover rates.
Try to put yourself in the agent`s place
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Even though you may have no experience being a customer support representative, you should try to put yourself in their place. What would you dislike, if you were one of the agents? What would motivate you to work more devotedly? What would push you to leave or to stay? What would you like to change? As an effective leader, you have enough skills to analyze these issues. This method gives an understanding of how the agents are working and what they like or dislike. Ask yourself - “is the agent`s workplace comfortable enough”? Do you have all the necessary equipment for satisfactory working? The questions will help you to make decisions which will lead to a better atmosphere in the team.
Workflow balance is the way to save money
Small call centers often suffer from their inability to process all calls and requests in the standard working time. That’s why agents work more than other specialists, they feel burned out, tired and dissatisfied. Nonetheless, there is no way to stop meeting the demand, right? The only thing that can help you to find balance is to provide deep analysis. Find out the peak call times when your contact center is the most overloaded to determine when you need more agents online. This data helps to create a flexible schedule and decrease spending by attracting as many agents as you need. Do you have three times rarer calls in the evening? Then there is no need to keep more agents working. You will save money on lower labor costs if you find a workflow balance.
Don’t forget about administrative tasks
Even though there is not enough time to do everything, you should pay attention to administrative tasks to make sure they will be done in the right way and at the right time. It is a fact that these activities are not as interesting and engaging as strategic planning or finding new techniques and methods of business development. Anyway, they are also important. Meetings, training sessions, calculations, documents verification - this is routine, but any work requires that. On the other hand, you will achieve more time management skills if you try to do all tasks, including routine, promptly.
Be on the topic of the business
As a person who is responsible for strategy realization, development, and achievement of the goals (which are also set by you), you should know all about the industry, its news, and tendencies. Never refuse the possibility to boost your knowledge about new features appearing in the field of call center management. Discover news about branding trends, call center metrics measurement, new technologies, and solutions, workforce management, and new approaches.
Technologies are the main investment
Every year new technologies appear. New tools, features, and options are included in the software to make your work easier, more client-oriented, and fast. Cloud contact center software in an extremely fast way pushes classic call center solutions out of the box. Your customers can’t imagine a call center without an IVR system or intelligent routing - that is why good customer service is now impossible without technology. No agent can go through the customer base as fast as the software does. As a contact center leader, you can invest in two things - in people and in software (we are not talking about marketing on this topic). To achieve the best outcome, you should invest in both. Another reason to monitor all news about industry changes is that you need to choose a solution that includes all options which are available on the market - IVRs, IVAs, third-party software integration, ACD, call recording and monitoring functions, real-time dashboards, etc.
Be careful with laws
As a manager, you have a responsibility to know and understand all laws which concern your call center's activity. Contact centers work often in fields where legal regulations are very heavy, such as insurance, health, finances, etc. Be sure that all requirements of the law are met to avoid trouble. A perfect reputation as a law-abiding company will only motivate new customers to choose your service.
To discover more about telemarketing regulations, go to this article.
Don't be afraid to change and shuffle new methods
No technique is necessary or ideal, as well as no method is awful and unable to be implemented. Some techniques work for some companies, while other firms try to use them and get no impact. Where is a single and ideal approach? Which methods can bring results, and which aren’t working? There is no simple answer. You should understand that understand, that every business is different and every team has its unique features. To achieve all goals and permanent development of the company, try to do a short analysis every 3-4 months. Ask yourself, which techniques are working and which are not. Where do you see things that should be changed? What method from the list in this article can suit you? When you will have questions, try to implement new approaches one by one - your team should have time to adapt. There is no bad idea in changing some things every few months - the secret of success is that successful managers are always seeking new solutions and prefer continuous improvement of all processes. Only an experiment can show you what will the result look like. Look for other software, different call center management practices, and the different types and styles of management and you will find a hitch. To make this job easier, we can help you to find a suitable solution - cloud-based call center software from VoIPTime, which will help you to achieve higher rates and make more sales in the nearest time!