Call centers, especially large call centers, are a constant bustle of activity as agents are helping customers in rapid succession with a variety of issues and queries. Managers can have their hands full with keeping track of employees, policies and processes that are subject to change. Remote work has allowed contact centers to be run completely virtually, and this may require more effort to manage and oversee smooth operations.
Managers regularly have to engage in tasks such as hiring and training agents, keeping up morale and motivating agents, scheduling employees, assigning workloads, and making sure all software and technologies are up-to-date and running as they should.
There are several points at which things could go wrong and get off track, which not only hurts the center and employees, but customers as well. It takes effective management to ensure that this does not happen and that customers stay happy and agents continue to be engaged with their work, along with meeting key metrics to achieve business goals.
Call center management involves the way leaders go about managing their center and handling the activities just listed. Thankfully, automation and contact center management software can make a huge difference in a manager’s workday. However, good leadership skills still account for a lot. The tips and best practices laid out in this article will serve to help guide managers in their leadership styles and how they should approach running a successful call center.
What Does a Call Center Do?
A call center, which can also be referred to as a contact center, is the designated department in a company that fields customer service interactions to help them resolve any problems customers may have or answer any questions. This includes helping existing customers, who may have been loyal to the brand for years, or new customers, who might have only shopped with the brand once.
Call centers may also conduct telemarketing and carry out market research for a company. Telemarketing involves cold calling customers and potential customers or reaching out to them via the internet to promote products or services. Market research often involves surveys or interviews, where agents ask a series of questions to gauge customer satisfaction.
While call centers have traditionally helped customers over the phone, many now offer omnichannel options for customers to connect over. Different omnichannel methods include email, webchat, text message (SMS), video chat, and social media. This gives customers the choice to reach out through their preferred channel, which increases customer satisfaction.
With all the different functions and processes going on throughout the day, it is important for managers to stay on track and guide agents and the center to optimal performance.
Best Practices for Managers in the Call Center
No matter what, managers need to focus on staying calm and finding the right solutions, as call centers can be a high-stress environment. This paves the way to building a positive work environment and shows agents that they can come to you for help. It can also play a part in reducing agent turnover. However, there are other practices that can help managers build up their call center, empower agents, and create a great customer experience for all customers.
Here are some of the best practices that you should incorporate if you haven’t already.
- Hire the Right Employees
Agents are the heart of every call center, as they are the ones who are handling customer queries on a daily basis. Even if a company utilizes automation and artificial intelligence to allow customers self-service options, it’s live agents who will take over to handle more complicated issues and troubleshoot when technology may not be working as it should. This means that managers need to hire the right people from the start.
When interviewing and hiring new agents, managers need to look for people who demonstrate a variety of skills such as, adaptability, flexibility, emotional intelligence, good problem-solving, proper communication, great listening skills, and are generally pleasant to talk with. These soft skills make for an ideal candidate who customers will want to interact with. Of course, it always helps if they also have a true passion for customer service and enjoy helping people.
- Provide the Proper Onboarding and Training
Even if managers hire the best employees with all the right skills, new employees will still require training. New hires need to be taught all of the processes that go on in that particular call center and how the manager wants things to be done. Setting expectations from the beginning will help agents know how they should be conducting themselves in the center and with customers. This also gives managers the chance to hone agents’ skills so they can give the best performance.
This is the time for managers to go over call scripts, call center metrics that agents need to meet, and how agents need to handle customers. It also pays off to thoroughly train agents on all contact center software that they will be using so they are familiar with everything from day one. This cuts down on the time agents may need to help customers because they do not know where to find whatever information or tools they need to resolve issues in an efficient manner.
- Regularly Listen to Calls
Managers who do not regularly listen in on their agents’ calls are missing out on a major opportunity to spot issues that need to be corrected and could be causing customer unnecessary frustrations. Listening to calls can highlight areas where agents may lack the knowledge they need to help customers or maybe are not giving very good customer service. For example, if call scripts are used and agents are constantly going off-script then managers will have no way of knowing unless they are listening to calls.
One great quality management tool that managers can implement is automated scorecards, which help automate the process so managers can save time while still ensuring standards are being met. Automated quality assurance scorecards use artificial intelligence to measure agents’ customer service during phone calls. This allows managers to review individual scores and determine if agents are following the proper procedures or if they need guidance.
- Look Towards Metrics and Track KPIs
When it comes to making decisions for the call center, it’s best to look at the data to make informed choices. Data empirically shows what areas need improvement and how productive agents actually are. KPIs, which stands for key performance indicator, are essential for gaining insights into different aspects of the call center. There are several types of KPIs that managers can keep track of depending on what exactly they want to measure.
Managers should definitely be looking at certain KPIs such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, net promoter scores (NPS), average call times, call abandonment rates, and call resolution rates. This is key to any quality assurance strategy, which will help maintain a consistent service and achieve long-term goals. It’s also good to measure how customers view the brand to see what products or services need to be changed.
- Coach Agents for Top Performers
Coaching call center agents is an essential aspect of running a successful call center. Even when agents have received the proper training, it’s still good for them to have meetings with their managers every so often to touch base on how they are doing. Coaching call center agents offers managers the chance to give specific feedback on their performance to give them a sense of what they may need to improve on, or even what they are doing really well.
Constructive criticism is key here, so agents are left feeling motivated to do better rather than deflated. This is also a chance for managers to see who stands out and may be eligible for moving up with future opportunities. Managers should also be open to receiving feedback on how they are performing, and what other possible ways they might be able to support their agents. Implement any new training programs that might be necessary during coaching sessions.
- Listen to Customer Feedback
Customers are actually an invaluable source of information on how well a call center is performing. Collecting customer feedback can inform managers on how satisfied they are and how likely they are to turn to a competitor if they are not happy with the services they are receiving. Reduce customer churn rates this way and bring in more profits for the brand. Gauging customer satisfaction can be done using some of the metrics mentioned above, along with other tactics.
Surveying customers is one of the best ways to get a sense of customer opinions about the brand’s products and services. Surveys can be done over the phone and other channels, if the call center supports them like email, chat, or social media. Focus groups are another option. Customers can offer tips and suggestions on what they would like to see a company do and managers may also get insight on how to get new customers.
- Communicate With Agents Often
Having open communication and dialog with call center agents is vital for creating highly motivated and productive agents. The environment of the call center really sets the tone for how well agents will perform, and this starts with the manager and their ability to create an open atmosphere for communication. Agents should feel safe raising concerns without facing backlash or retaliation for bringing up issues that may be hindering their ability to do their jobs effectively.
This also fosters problem-solving, as agents feel like their ideas are encouraged rather than dismissed. Agents are the ones engaging with customers on a daily basis and see the issues and this gives them a unique perspective to solve problems that customers may be having. All of this can play into coaching sessions, but should not be exclusive to those times. Managers need to always be open to having constructive conversations.
Of course, these are only tips and suggestions for managers to take into account. There are many more aspects that make an effective leader. However, implementing these practices is a good place to start. For all contact center software, check out LiveVox. Cloud-based applications and tools are all easily accessible and allow for automation so managers and agents can focus on creating the best customer experience.